MCNAUGHTON’S CAD CODDLES KOHL’S
Byline: Andree Conrad
NEW YORK — McNaughton Apparel Group is better serving its major accounts while reducing costs, thanks to computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies.
Among its clients is Kohl’s, the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer with whom McNaughton generates more than 10 percent of its $400 million in annual sales, according to McNaughton design director Pamed Leresche.
By being able to ramp up production to four to eight collections a month, with six to 14 pieces each, multiplied by any number of color palettes, McNaughton is helping Kohl’s create merchandise intensity at its stores to increase turns and sales per square foot. And that helps beef up McNaughton’s bottom line.
According to Leresche, McNaughton began upgrading its product development and cloth-cutting systems five years ago to achieve more consistent quality. “We took out the existing CAD system, which was difficult to use, and installed U4ia, a computer-assisted design program, as well as Lectra pattern making, marker making and cutters, and Ai for specs communication.”
Lectra Systems, which acquired U4ia, is based in Marietta, Ga. Applied Intranet Technologies, in Camden, Maine, has been acquired by Freeborders, San Francisco.
Leresche said that not only did quality go up, but savings were substantial. Her department, which had been spending “way over $1 million in outside art” and service bureaus, currently spends only $300,000 annually for those purposes.
“We can do all our own colors. Forget the old system [of manually coloring each sketch]. Once we create the palettes, we can get 10 colorways off a single sketch. It used to cost $75 to $125 for each colorway and $100 to $300 for repeats. [Repeats are programs that seamlessly build print patterns to infinity.] Now we can do them ourselves on the system in no time, and send them [to mills and contractors] on disks.”
Colorways are fabric designs rendered in a variety of colors for testing and approval. A few CAD applications, including the one used by McNaughton, can convert colorway files to run looms.
Designers often consult with mills about repeats, and this process has been simplified by the new solution. For example, if a designer can’t work out a problem with a bias plaid in the current collection, the file is e-mailed to the mill, which might be in Korea, and “the next day we have our answer and move on,” Leresche said.
The electronic files then feed into actual production runs. “We use CAD completely. They engrave from what we send over.”
Leresche said that where yarn-dyed fabrics are concerned, the yarn itself is used for approval on conceptual boards. “You have the group at a glance. It’s a great merchandising tool.”
At McNaughton, the uses of CAD don’t stop with design, or with quality-control people who check the palette against samples received. CAD also is used for the company’s “mapper,” or merchandising assistance program books, shipped every three months.
“The mapper is entirely done in CAD,” said Leresche. “We give a file to the printer with everything that’s new and hot, from fabrics to accessories. The designers get to illustrate everything down to the hoop earrings for the four-month cycle.”