Alden Halpern, president and CEO of 4WHATITSWORTH, a branded and private label apparel manufacturer, doesn't hesitate when asked. "The most important benefit [of our new sourcing solution] is that it keeps our contractors honest. It keeps people doing what they say they're going to do. There's no way around it. If they're going to lie . they're going to be found out within a week."
Halpern is talking about the company's recent implementation of New Generation Computing Inc.'s e-SPS Web-based software, which has enabled the company to automate its global production network. 4WHATITSWORTH can manage product development, distribute product specifications and receive real-time updates on the status of its apparel production, which has improved quality and reduced costs, he explains.
From a time-efficiency perspective, Halpern identifies its most important feature as the ability to put tech packs - specifications for new styles and requests for bids - on the Internet.
"In the past I would have to get samples, do tons of paperwork, and send that individual package to 20 different factories around the world. Today, I put one set up on the Internet, and they all download it. In addition [to the time and money savings,] now I have them bidding against each other, and my pricing has been coming down," he remarks.
Privately held 4WHATITSWORTH manufactures brands including Tyte (denim sportswear), Beau Dawson (missy contemporary) and the soon-to-break Duplex (better, basics-driven juniors), which are sold in department and specialty stores including Macy's, Gadzooks, Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe, Nordstrom, Dillard's and Marshall Field's. It also manufactures private label goods for companies including Kohl's and JCPenney.
Prior to installation of e-SPS, the company was running 20 Excel spreadsheets, none of which integrated with each other, nor with the company's apparel management software, Halpern notes. Just 50 percent up and running as of press time, 4WHATITSWORTH is already realizing benefits, says Halpern. "We have factories in China reporting in daily," he says. Moreover, the company is using the software in a "very unique way," in that it has given access to several of its private label accounts to enable them to track their own goods.
"In this day and age . it's very reassuring [for retailers to] track and see their own goods," he explains. "[Typically], you don't want [your buyers] to see everything. On the other hand, times are changing. They want to know that the goods were actually cut . are coming . [and] are on time. . [Seeing that information] is a tremendous security for them, and it makes them feel really strong about giving us more business."
In terms of quality control, QA personnel now conduct factory inspections and upload reports into the system via laptops - soon to be touchpads - which are available immediately at headquarters in Los Angeles, says Halpern. (Much of the company's production comes from five factories, three in China and one each in Vietnam and Cambodia, all of which produce exclusively for 4WHATITSWORTH. It also uses facilities in Russia, Jordan and Kenya.) Indeed, the solution kept business humming during SARS, when the L.A. team couldn't travel to Asia. "We didn't miss a beat . We were getting first-hand information literally every morning."
Halpern delights in the fact that all he needs now is a laptop to keep in touch with 100 percent of his company's production. While his is one of the smaller companies using e-SPS, Halpern notes that the software's scalability is of great advantage to his rapidly growing company, which is seeing expansion of both its branded and private label business. The company shipped $2 million in goods in May, $4 million in June, and hit $6 million in July. "And we are growing daily," he concludes.