Modernising an Apparel Brand

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The Short of it…

A powerhouse apparel company, owning several major brands and wholesaling goods to major retailers, suffered from ramifications of growth. Having grown through acquisition, the client also acquired one too many processes.

The client turned to TPC asking for help in creating a streamlined product development process that would be used company wide. Using our knowledge of emerging technologies in the retail industry, we created a vision for our client on how their multiple processes could ideally become one. Using that vision, we produced a Proof of Concept showing them how 3D digital technology and integrated processes could unify and enhance their concept to launch capabilities.

The Long Story

The Client Issue

Growth through acquisition can create giant companies. The client, a multibillion dollar apparel industry leader, achieved massive growth with this very strategy. With growth comes the accompanying pains, and the client realised that every company it acquired came with a new Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) process. Soon, after acquiring three companies, the client was running several different PLM protocols throughout the company. The issues related to operating without a standard process were many. The client couldn’t look at data across its different departments, as each unit operated under different parameters. The lack of commonality between groups hurt the company and hurt efficiency.

Challenges

With the client’s unique issue came several challenges that TPC was tasked with solving:

  • Standardise and provide a common environment for rapid onboarding of new companies.
  • Create a future operating model incorporating emerging technologies that set a single, company-wide standard.
  • Show the client how emerging 3D design and merchandising technology could improve their process.

TPC’s Work

When TPC was approached with the client’s issue (which is not unique to the client), we sat down and created an entire vision for how the client’s processes could be consolidated into one platform and how they could be improved via 3D technology. We went through each of their processes and picked out what worked and what didn’t. We also interviewed key employees to see what types of changes the company could support, and what infrastructure would need to be created to facilitate that change. The resulting vision we created was a hit.

Then came the next step – proving our vision. We decided to create a Proof of Concept around one aspect of the Product Lifecycle Management process – Prototyping. Why start with prototyping? We found that this was the aspect of process improvement that could potentially bring the most value to the client.

Before TPC entered the picture, the client’s prototyping phase was antiquated and resembled the process of many of its industry counterparts. A designer would sketch an outfit with specifications and send that off to the factory, often in a different country. Six weeks later, the factory would return a sample based on the designer’s sketch and specs. Because a sketch can only bring so much life to a design, changes were made and sent back to the factory. Six weeks later, an updated sample reached the designer’s hands. This cycle would go on ad nauseam until the sample came back perfect. This process hurts companies who need to release apparel that is on trend. The weeks that it can take to get the perfect sample – the one that matches the designer’s vision – may result in a perfect sample with no buyer because the design became outdated in the time in took to perfect.

TPC also worked to create one platform from which this new operating model could work. The single platform would serve to eliminate the company’s overarching problems that came from being an umbrella to an abundance of processes. With this single platform model, the organisation could continue to bring in new companies, migrate them to one platform, and eliminate the growing pains that previously came from having one process too many.

The Proof of Concept

TPC’s mission was twofold – show the client how 3D imaging could revolutionise their prototype process and how a single platform could house their company processes. Instead of weeks and weeks of exchanging designs and samples, TPC showed the client how a perfect sample could be produced in a 3-5 days via 3D imaging, not the typical 2-4 weeks. With this process, TPC projected that first approvals would increase by 80%. TPC identified 3D software for the client that used a virtual “sewing room” where a 3D garment could be stitched together and things like cut, colour, and draping could be changed and perfected with a simple click.

These 3D technologies wouldn’t just massively eliminate the time between design and sample; they also would help the client achieve “virtual validation.” Instead of pouring time and money into a brand new apparel collection that had never been seen by retailers (and still had a chance of being rejected after completion), 3D technology would allow the client to bring virtual samples to retailers, who could then
approve those samples before their manufacture.

The Proof of Concept showed the client that these 3D sample garments were actionable. It illustrated how a virtual sample created within 48 hours would work just as well as a tangible sample created in 2 months. Not only would this sample work just as well, but it would reduce the time spent going through product changes by up to 50%. We also proved that not only could 3D technology create actionable virtual samples, but that same technology and accompanying process could be scaled across the entire company.

TPC created the entire framework for this single, unified process within the Proof of Concept. Not only did we outline, manage, and execute this brand new process, we justified exactly why this new process was necessary to the client’s success.

Encompassing this 3D process was TPC’s single platform, that would help the company scale 3D prototyping across all their different brand entities. Additionally, the new platform would merge multiple processes into one and contribute to the seamless onboarding of new acquisitions. By having this common platform, the company would be able to set new standards for operating and managing the product creation processes.

Future Plans

The programme we created within the Proof of Concept is being executed as we speak. In helping our client create a new, unified process, we have also helped to breathe life into a very traditional company. 200+ employees are feeling the impact of our work with the client, and the excitement of incorporating TPC’s suggested technologies is palpable. Our Proof of Concept will help to give the client the knowledge and confidence to make decisions that incorporate the use of emerging 3D technologies within their current business model. TPC’s heritage lies in the juxtaposition between retail, product development, and emerging technologies and we have been able to use that knowledge to successfully position our clients for growing success in an ever-changing, always competitive market.