Unauthorised subcontracting causes all kinds of problems in a garment supply chain. Companies that use product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions can streamline product development and eliminate the risk of human error in supply chain management – but is it possible to ensure that suppliers are playing fair?
Subcontracting and secondary supply chains
While PLM systems hold huge archives of information, they don’t necessarily hold any power in complex garment supply chains. Used alone, PLM systems cannot guarantee that a final article will actually meet its given specifications, as no authority is in place forcing manufacturers to use pre-approved suppliers.
Subcontracting often occurs when a retailer’s primary suppliers are under pressure to meet challenging deadlines, or simply wanting to cut costs by contracting out jobs to smaller, unauthorised facilities. In order to guarantee supply chain transparency, companies need to monitor all sourcing and production, and every factory and supplier involved. Factory audits play a big part in assessing a supply chain’s capacity and quality standards, but garment retailers still need to ensure that production is being kept in-house.
Secondary supply chain links such as the ordering of trims and packaging can be particularly difficult to trace, and in many cases supply chain control stops once an order is placed.
The evolution of PLM systems
PLM software shows a virtual ‘paper trail’ of any product. A clothing design is uploaded on to a PLM system, then every step in the supply chain is recorded, from approval and samples to sourcing and production. PLM software improves efficiencies across product development, reducing material costs, production times and unwanted inventory write-offs.
PLM solutions only emerged at the start of the millennium, so it’s easy to see why many players in the apparel industry haven’t yet perfected their use of these systems. While PLM software promises incredible return on investment for garment retailers, initial implementation can take a significant amount of time and money. Software providers therefore created “out-of-the-box” (OOTB) PLM systems, sold ready-for-use. An apparel-specific OOTB PLM system will be structured to fit within the average garment retailer’s supply chain, and Apparel recently argued that there is no true one-size-fits-all solution, though for their low cost a preconfigured PLM solution is a good starting point.
CIMdata recently stated that after several years of double digit growth, PLM investments dropped to 4.8%in 2013. Some analysts argue that companies need “time to digest” their PLM purchases from recent years and develop truly effective PLM strategies. Apparel suggests that the growing popularity of OOTB PLM systems may cause a market shift from PLM installation to PLM integration, with garment retailers getting to grips with their solution and looking to trace the complete supply chain from concept to creation.
How Segura works
Segura’s production tracking platform can connect the dots, enforcing what PLM software suggests and helping to achieve an ethical and transparent supply chain. Once a bill of materials for a garment is recorded by a retailer’s existing PLM solution, the data feed can be transferred directly across to Segura’s software, closing the production loop.
Segura’s Asset Manager enables retailers to integrate any existing product specification databases with the Production Tracking system, in order to control entire workflows for the specification and approval of new or changed products. Retailers can even import artwork files into the system to ensure precise consistency among different suppliers.
Purchase orders will then automatically populate supplier orders throughout the supply chain via Segura Order Manager, complying with specifications held within the Asset Manager. This prevents employees from having to sift through bills of materials and place individual orders, cutting the risk of human error. Segura’s framework also requires orders to be placed within a database of authorised contacts, meaning that no rogue suppliers ever enter the supply chain. Order Manager even gathers quotes on a retailer’s behalf, promoting competition between suppliers to locate the best price, performance and quality.
Original publish date 04/09/2014