Solutions to the many challenges of shortening the concept-to-consumer apparel cycle will be explored by some of the industry's leading suppliers at Tech Conference 2003.
This article, which is part one of Apparel's two-part preview to Tech Conference 2003, touches on issues and opportunities in design, development and retailing for apparel and soft goods firms and retailers. The perspectives shared in this article are those of sponsors of the conference, which is co-produced by Apparel and [TC]2, a leading research, development and demonstration organization and producer of the Size USA national size survey. (See "About the Event" for more conference background and information.)
What do these sponsors, who include leading suppliers of everything from software to logistics services to thread, see as the key challenges and opportunities in design, development and retailing? By and large, they all point to the same theme: Shortening time to market in an increasingly complex and demanding apparel marketplace.
The communication of design-related information can be among the most difficult of hurdles. Dr. Kenneth Wang, founder of Alva Products, stresses that it is creative talent that fuels an apparel company's success with consumers, yet it can be so difficult to quickly and accurately convey a designer's ideas around the world, so that his or her concept is truly understood by those producing that crucial sample garment.
To address this challenge, Alva Products will be demonstrating a full working model of its Alva Garment Visualization System (GVS) at Tech Conference. The GVS is designed to enable apparel companies to create and transmit to their sample-making partners (whether they are located in another state or around the world) images of their products on specially developed dress forms. A common annotation tool allows all of the parties involved in sample making to interactively share comments and information needed to perfect the sample, electronically.
Karen Gaskins, director, strategic accounts, of Datacolor, also points to the importance of the designer's vision in driving success with consumers, and to the need to improve communication between design and development departments. "Getting those two parts of the organization to communicate well with one another, so they can assure that what they design is what is developed, [is a big challenge]," Gaskins notes.
Datacolor will be showing its Color Integrated Management System (CIMS), for managing color from design through production. In addition, the firm will demonstrate its ColorTools QC software and its ColorRite technology, which is integrated with Lectra's U4ia design software. The integration of these solutions, which will be discussed by both Datacolor and Lectra at the conference, enables designers to see true, calibrated colors on screen as they design, says Gaskins.
The importance of color issues in shortening cycle time also is on the radar of conference sponsor American & Efird (A&E). In addition to discussing its Anesyst business-to-business order management system, A&E will be sharing news about its use of the eWarna Color Communication System for QR color approval and color communication with vendors. Kenneth L. Sandow, vice president of market development for A&E, points to "robust communications systems" for color selection and approval as among some of the greatest advancements in technology for the industry. These communications systems also are being used to ensure the "right trim is in the right place at the right time" and that "[there is an] availability of technical information to help overcome the quality issues that must be overcome to maintain 'brand integrity' with the consumer."
Related to achieving the product shape and size consistency that is so important to brand integrity, Shapely Shadow will address how 3-D body scan data can be used to produce a "reliable, repeatable, symmetrical dress form made of lightweight material," says Ilona Foyer, president. Shapely Shadow got its start in building dress forms for apparel brands and retailers based on body scans of the firms' fit models. Now the company also can build the forms by creating custom "virtual fit models," based on manipulation of a database of body shapes and sizes, she explains. "The important information we will share is that the information from Size USA can be converted into a dress form and made available to all [an apparel firms'] vendors overseas," she says.
By developing and deploying Shapely Shadow's unique dress forms to their global production sources, apparel firms help ensure that "they get their product to market faster, therefore increasing sales," and that "their products will fit their clients with consistency, therefore producing brand loyalty and repeat business," Foyer says. She adds that within the next year, Shapely Shadow will provide clients with the ability to transition their 3-D scan data into a flat pattern of the dress form that can be interfaced with pattern making software.
Cotton Incorporated also will discuss how its product offerings are designed to fit the needs of apparel businesses that must achieve consistency in product development and production processes spread globally. "All of our fabric development is done with a commercial format, and we supply not only an actual swatch of the fabric but all of the technical details and specs to replicate the fabric anywhere in the world," says Dennis Horstmann, director of brand marketing. "This gives a company not only a unique fabric development, but it also speeds the process by eliminating all the initial development issues."
Solutions and strategies for maintaining brand integrity and speeding development will underscore several other presentations and technology displays at Tech Conference. In addition to discussing and demonstrating how color management can not only streamline development but also relate to brand image, Lectra will explore new directions and technologies in visual merchandising, says Jill Simmons, vice president, strategic business development, apparel and footwear.
"With the advent of more and more quick change in terms of the retail environment, i.e. having to deliver once a month or every two weeks in order to keep product fresh and to drive people into the retail space, that necessarily drives a lot more time into that merchandising process," Simmons says.
Yet even as apparel firms and retailers strive to keep fresh fashion on the racks and shelves, their lead times are increasing in many cases as they move more production and sourcing to production locales further away from the U.S. market. Demand Management, supplier of Demand Solutions planning and forecasting software, will be sharing with Tech Conference attendees how its IT suite can help them more accurately plan their merchandise mix to avoid costly stock-out situations, says John Mayer, director of sales for apparel and soft lines.
Gerber Technology also will be focusing on solutions to help apparel firms and retailers streamline their processes and operate efficiently in a global supply chain. Gerber will showcase the newest generation of its AccuMarkT pattern design, grading and marker making software. In particular, the firm will highlight how AccuMark Version 8 will be fully integrated with the Browzwear V-StitcherT solution for "true-to-life" 3-D visualization of 2-D patterns. V-Stitcher enables apparel developers to visualize designs quickly and efficiently, reducing the need for rounds of samples, notes Stephen Lovass, executive director of product management and marketing.
Gerber also will demonstrate new capabilities of Version 4.1 of its WebPDM product development solution. Sabrena McBride, director of software product management for Gerber, says V 4.1 marks a major milestone for WebPDM's Web-based browser capabilities, with many usability improvements, from batch processing to printing of spec packs. The new version also includes a new "Retail Import Cost Sheet," for comparing pricing across different countries and by factory.
New solutions for costing also will be offered at the conference by Methods Workshop, which released Version 8.0 of its Quick Tru-Cost program in mid-July. The program has been enhanced with 14 new fields that have evolved the tool from a pre-production labor costing product to a full-costing solution, says John Stern, president of Methods Workshop. Quick Tru-Cost can accommodate costing of fabrics, findings, sundries, hangtags, packaging, freight, duties - "the whole nine yards," says Stern.
Yet he emphasizes that the enhancements haven't changed the initial focus of the solution, which is pre-production labor costing. Vocalizing a theme expressed by most Tech Conference sponsors, Stern stresses: "All of our opportunities for reducing the entire supply chain are going to be in pre-production, without question. . The cycle is just too darn long right now."
Using Web-based solutions to communicate and shorten cycle time will be a focus for conference sponsor ICICI Infotech. Vincent Candela, vice president of fashion technology for the firm, estimates that apparel companies may spend 50 percent or more of their time trying to communicate. If trading partners could establish more Web-based links to enable real-time collaboration between their businesses, the time savings would be "huge," Candela stresses.
ICICI Infotech's key messages at the conference will be about reducing the development cycle and streamlining the supply chain, Candela says. The firm will be showcasing three new products, including ICICI Product Tracking, ICICI Line Planning and ICICI Quality Audit (look for more details on the latter in next month's issue). The Product Tracking solution is a Web-based event management software that can be used to track everything from fabric and color level approvals to work in process (WIP) to scan/pack operations and generation of advance ship notices (ASNs), says Candela. The Line Planning application has a spreadsheet interface (i.e., offering user friendliness to those accustomed to working in programs such as Excel), but feeds data to and from a Sequel server database and can accommodate images to help merchandisers visualize the makeup of a line in their planning.
Kathleen DesMarteau is editor in chief, Jordan Speer is senior editor and Tracy Haisley is associate editor of Apparel.
Editor's Note: Part 2 of Apparel's preview to Tech Conference 2003 will focus on issues and technological solutions related to manufacturing, sourcing, logistics and transportation.
What Does Color Really Cost You? Presented by Datacolor
Where the Mills Meet the Market - Digital Color Communication Presented by Datacolor
Bringing the Pieces Together: Technology Solutions for the Apparel Industry Presented by FedEx
The Impact of Emerging Technologies on Your Product Development Lifecycle Presented by Gerber Technology
Color My World Consistently: The Value of Color Management in "Creative" Workflows Presented by Lectra
Building Brand Image: Using Virtual Visual Merchandising & Space Planning Solutions Presented by Lectra
Manufacturing of Dress Forms from 3-D Cloud Point Data Presented by Shapely Shadow
Scanning the Human Form and Manipulating 3-D Data to Achieve Desired Specifications and Shape Presented by Shapely Shadow
SizeUSA - Learnings from the Data Presented by [TC]2
3-D Apparel Product Development Presented by [TC]2
The Importance of Cycle Time in a Full Package Environment Presented by [TC]2
Initiatives in Body Scanning Presented by [TC]2
Editor's Note: Visit the Tech Conference 2003 section of www.apparelmag.com and see next month's issue for more details about each of these sessions.>
About the Event What: Tech Conference 2003 is a one-day event featuring a series of educational sessions that focus on five primary areas: design and development; manufacturing; information technology; sourcing/logistics/transportation; and retailing. Tabletop technology displays and demonstrations, including tours of [TC]2's Digital Zone, will be staged simultaneously, offering hands-on application insight.
When: Nov. 13, 2003
Where: Raleigh, NC - [TC]2 Research and Technology Center
Who: Open to executives and professionals of apparel and soft goods firms and retailers. Registration first-come, first-served.
Cost: Conference sessions and lunch are free to registered attendees.
Produced in Partnership by: Apparel Magazine and [TC]2, the Textile/Clothing Technology Corp.
Sponsored by*: Gold sponsors: Datacolor, FedEx, Gerber Technology Inc., Lectra and Shapely Shadow. Silver sponsors: Alva Products, American & Efird Inc., Asheboro Elastics, Cotton Incorporated, Demand Management, ICICI Infotech, Methods Workshop and QuestaWeb Inc.
Online Tech Showcase: Apparel has produced an online resource to complement Tech Conference 2003. Apparel's Online Tech Showcase will be accessible on www.apparelmag.com through December, offering technology news, feature stories and the "Product Showrooms" section, a categorized guide to vendors and products.
All-Star Awards Celebration: The evening of Tech Conference, Apparel will host a special event honoring All-Star Award-winning apparel and soft goods businesses. To be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Sheraton Raleigh Capital Center Hotel, the All-Star event includes cocktails, dinner and the awards ceremony. Pre-registration is available via www.apparelmag.com. Tickets for the All-Star Dinner are $150 per person or $1,000 for a table of eight. Apparel will share a portion of the proceeds with [TC]2 for the benefit of its industry initiatives. For ticket information, contact Kathleen Horton, 800-241-9034, ext. 5590; email@example.com.
For More Information: To attend: Register online at www.apparelmag.com, or contact Kathleen Horton, 800-241-9034/ 770-291-5590; firstname.lastname@example.org. To sponsor: Contact Jackie Ellen, 800-845-8820/803-771-7500, ext. 3026; email@example.com, or Susan Black, ext. 3020; firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Sponsors as of press time.