SUPPLY ON DEMAND: As quota systems ease up around the world, new markets for American goods open every year. To keep those new customers happy, manufacturing companies need to be on the cutting edge of technology, including Quick Response, electronic data interchange, and faster and more efficient manufacturing technology.
That was the message from some apparel executives at the American Apparel Manufacturers Association's annual meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week.
One of the key components of global growth is replenishment technology, according to Jeff Kernodle, vice president for replenishment for the Wrangler denim brand, which is a division of VF Corp.
"We believe the winners in the apparel business globally will be the ones who find a better way to supply consumers the products they want, when they want them and at a price they are willing to pay," said Kernodle.
Kernodle said that before quota protections vanish in 2005, all U.S. apparel firms should try to adopt Quick Response management and manufacturing techniques.
QR will help manufacturers achieve reductions in product development and delivery times, reduce inventory while increasing turns, improve fill rates and help insure they make products that retailers and consumers will buy.
In the late Eighties, Kernodle oversaw a complete revamping of Wrangler's manufacturing and delivery systems. A key aspect of this was the adoption of Electronic Data Interchange, a computer link between the company, its suppliers and retailers. But Kernodle said such links are meaningless unless a firm and its business partners are willing to make basic changes in the way they work.
For example, he noted that Wrangler's piece goods suppliers receive up-to-the-minute order requirements. The suppliers attach bar codes and defect tags on every bolt of fabric, "which allows us to cut the fabrics as soon as they are delivered."
By utilizing EDI--which not only has up-to-date sales data, but sales forecasts--Kernodle said Wrangler can better manage its production schedules. At the same time, this enables Wrangler to better serve its retail customers, keeping their inventories as well as those at textile suppliers to a minimum.
In addition, Wrangler is able to provide retailers with advance shipment notices and deliver small orders that are floor-ready within four days of receiving an order. By utilizing retailers' sales data, Kernodle said his firm can be in sync with consumer-retailer demand.
By using Computer Assisted Design systems, Wrangler can produce and ship new products to stores within weeks of an order, rather than the three-month wait that had been usual. Overall, he said the implementation of QR by Wrangler, its suppliers and customers has brought good results. "A 40 percent increase in retail sales often is seen in the first year, and we have been able to double inventory turns," he said. On average, he added, excess inventories are cut 35 percent.
With the World Trade Organization's 10-year quota phaseout under way, foreign apparel producers will eventually have easy and unlimited access to the U.S. market, Kernodle said. As a result, domestic manufacturers cannot afford to wait to revamp their operations.
"I really feel that those companies who do not move quickly to implement QR will be left behind and may cease to exist," he said.
Norman Johnsen, J.C. Penney's QR manager, told AAMA members that AMTEX, a research partnership between the apparel industry and the federal government, is working on projects that will allow even closer ties between companies throughout the entire textile-apparel-retail chain. The research will "greatly reduce the lead times as we know them today, allow us to make decisions more quickly and in a more cost-efficient manner, and improve our competitiveness," he said.
In addition, Johnsen said AMTEX researchers are developing systems that will enable apparel manufacturers to produce garments more quickly and at lower cost. For example, one new system will cut 200 inches of fabric per second, while another will inspect fabric, detect flaws and cut around them, a step that "could save hundreds of millions of dollars" annually for domestic apparel firms."
Another project, expected to be tested later this year, involves producing a computer chip that will encode a garment's manufacturing history and pricing data. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice. AMTEX hopes to get prices down to about $1 per chip, said Johnsen, with further price reductions as the chips are mass-produced.
"By using these chips, it will be possible to keep better track of inventories and products," said Johnsen. "It will also provide protection against theft and counterfeiting."NEW BLU: Italian designer Anna Molinari and her daughter, Rossella Tarabini, are joining the crowd on the denim bandwagon. The company will start producing a line of denim and related sportswear called Blugirl, starting with the spring/summer 1996 season.
Molinari will oversee the new label, but Blugirl will be designed and managed by Tarabini.
"We wanted to widen the production to lively, humorous and feminine clothes for young women between 15 and 35, who can't afford the Anna Molinari or the Blumarine collections," said Tarabini. Anna Molinari is the designer's signature line, while Blumarine is the diffusion label.
Blugirl will be manufactured in Molinari's factory, called Blufin, and will be priced 45 percent below the signature line. Blugirl will be shown to buyers in July 1995. Tarabini declined to make sales projections.
The first collection will include some 120 pieces, with denim looks accounting for half, and related looks such as T-shirts and twinsets making up the rest. Fabrics other than denim will include cotton mousseline and viscose crepes, in colors such as dark and light blue and red.
And Tarabini noted that she's not using the light blue stonewashed denim that's prevalent today. Instead, she said she likes the very dark blue denim, "the denim that was popular in the Fifties."

ELECTRONIC SHOWROOM: Now buyers can look at manufacturers' newest offerings without even leaving their offices.
Joseph Joseph, president of the 20 VIM apparel stores in the New York area, is chief executive officer of a new company called ERIC Worldwide. ERIC, which stands for Electronic Retail Image Catalog, is an on-line apparel catalog service targeted to retailers. For an annual fee of $4,000, manufacturers will be able to have images of as many as 200 items from their lines included on ERIC.
Retailers will be able to subscribe to the service from their computers and will be able to call up styles either by apparel category or by manufacturer.
Currently, the group is mostly New York manufacturers and includes a mix of denim and sportswear firms.
In addition to being an on-line service, Joseph said that the company is producing a CD-ROM catalog which will be mailed out to 12,500 stores later this spring.
Right now, Joseph said, 40 vendors have signed contracts to be part of the new service, and 213 other manufacturers have filled out applications. New vendors are allowed six free months to try out the service, he said.JOU JOU PHONE HOME: Jou Jou is counting on teenagers' addiction to the telephone to sell jeans during the crucial back-to-school.
The junior denim and sportswear company, based in New York, is offering a gift-with-purchase of a slim black phone for home use. The jeans wholesale for $17.50 and come with an additional sixth pocket on the leg for carrying the phone, or another item, said John Dransfield, Jou Jou's design director.
Ads touting the promotion will run in the fall issues of Seventeen and Mademoiselle magazines.
"Cosmetic companies do giveaways all the time, so why not try it for apparel?" said Bob Acampora, executive vice president of sales.

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