Coats Digital’s Managing Director, Kunal Kapur, on the Importance of Fashion Supply Chain Digitization and Future Plans
by Coats Digital
1. Why software solutions are critical for today’s businesses, especially for those operating in the textile and garment sector?
The Covid pandemic literally rammed home the fact that fashion brands, sourcing houses and manufacturers needed to adopt digital processes quickly – if they stood any chance of surviving an increasingly complex and uncertain future.
It was clear that the industry needed greater collaboration and data connectivity between design, development and production partners to provide the full visibility and accountability required to not only manage the potentially short-term disruption of the pandemic, but also enable it to become more resilient, agile, efficient and sustainable in the future to meet the growing expectations of a more demanding consumer and investor.
Although the disruption caused directly by the pandemic may have begun to recede, we are now witnessing the negative impacts of geo-political risks, energy crises, high and rising inflation, high surplus stock levels, and continuing global supply chain disruption.
Evidence increasingly suggests that all players in the fashion supply chain will be unlikely to successfully navigate this consistently changing landscape or meet the exacting expectations of a more demanding consumer, if they don’t invest – and continue to invest – in technology and digitisation programmes that will help to mitigate the challenges ahead.
As a result, fashion supply chain digitization of the fashion industry continues to advance at break-neck speed. New solutions are evolving fast and existing technologies are being consistently enhanced to ensure that brands and manufacturers can solve critical pain points together quickly – and seamlessly.
2. The textile-garment supply chain is very complex, with various operations carried out in multiple countries. How do Coats Digital’s software solutions help in overcoming supply chain problems?
Supply chain visibility has become increasingly important for brands and manufacturers across all categories as global supplier networks become more complex, and in some cases, operationally siloed.
The Covid pandemic was undoubtedly the catalyst which focused brands’ attention towards the supply chain – it exposed the truth around the lack of visibility and transparency down the supply chain, which ultimately resulted in a massive failure to effectively utilise the parts of the supply chain that were up and running – even at the most basic operational level!
In terms of recovery, brands have been very focused around how to get the level of data and visibility they need to support delivery against fluctuating consumer demand, and potential further supply disruption! This has driven brands to assess the current digital backbone of their existing supplier base, and rationalise accordingly – with the priority being basic operational level digital collaboration, such as: capacity availability and utilisation; existing order fulfilment; material availability and location; manufacturing capabilities and transport infrastructure, etc.
Our goal is to quickly establish a valued ecosystem of superior, connected solutions that provide the real-time data insights and transparency that the fashion supply chain increasingly needs to deliver real growth, more efficient operations and meaningful sustainable practices across all its global concerns. Our eco-system of market leading solutions supports design and development; fabric optimisation; method-time-cost optimisation, production planning and control, and shopfloor execution. These solutions continue to deliver significant ROI to our customers and ensure that their business processes are robust, enabling them to adapt and withstand any market dynamics that evolve in the future. Our customer success is paramount.
3. Which are the critical areas that need to be addressed in a fashion supply chain, if a brand wants to deliver optimal performance?
Most supply chain companies are experiencing different stages of their digitization journey. Brands and manufactures have responded with varying degrees of urgency to address ongoing supply chain challenges around speed, cost, customisation, order complexity, innovation and transparency.
In terms of systems, many garment manufacturers face the major challenge of disjointed systems and far too many gaps in the process, that are currently filled by manual documents such as Excel and emails etc. – to be able to effectively cope with changing consumer demands. The only way to achieve true speed and efficiency is to eliminate these manual disconnects from the business process and ensure proper procedures are in place that provide true visibility and greater collaboration across departments.
The reality is, that modern apparel companies will require at least four or more best-of-breed solutions to meet changing consumer demands for faster, shorter run, high-style-variation fashion if they want to compete in an increasingly volatile global trading environment.
Ultimately, each business needs to look at its end-to-end processes and their buyers’ needs to identify where they have the greatest pain – and then quickly ascertain where the potential for immediate improvement is greatest.
4. What are the various solutions that Coats Digital offers to various brands and manufacturers?
Five years ago, GSD and FastReact were acquired alongside other leading solutions to become the core of Coats Digital and to deliver a unique, new, robust, multi-faceted ecosystem of best-in-class technologies that enables brands and manufacturers to step up their digital agendas quickly and solve their critical pain points seamlessly.
With the acquisition of these leading software solutions, we can offer a rare combination of industry depth and technology expertise to make a real difference in addressing key pain points across the supply chain – not just specific, select areas – but those that help eradicate key problems from plan to pack – that the industry has been contending with for years.
The industry knows FastReact and GSD as being the go-to solutions for solving planning and costing areas in the supply chain.
Now called FastReactPlan – our production planning software supports a faster, more reliable order confirmation process and production plan which is optimised for delivery, efficiency and speed. Indeed – our customers are generally realizing a reduction in lead times of up to 30%, improvements in OTDP between 10-30%, and around a 10% increase in productivity – simply by implementing this one business-critical solution.
GSDCost remains the de-facto international standard for establishing accurate method-time-cost benchmarks – but as with all our acquisitions, we are continuing to develop and enhance functionality so that we continue to offer added value. We recently developed a Fair Wage Tool for GSDCost, for example, in partnership with the Fair Wage Network, so that manufacturers can effortlessly factor in fair wages in their countries of operation to order quotes, which we hope will be instrumental in helping to not only meet impending new global compliance legislation, but also increasing consumer expectations around sustainability and ethical working practices.
We have continued to build on this fantastic heritage, by adding and again, enhancing, a unique fabric optimisation solution, FastReactFabric, which offers an effective way to maximise fabric utilisation and reduce waste by accurately estimating fabric consumption at the buying and cutting stages. With between 70-80% of fashion manufacturing investment down to fabric costs, this solution offers a sure-fire way to significantly reduce costs and unnecessary fabric wastage in one swoop.
My role is to continue our growth and innovation mindset by expanding our portfolio into relevant new areas and continuing to forge key strategic partnerships such as the one we have with Res.Q – which provides robust, digitised shop floor execution and control solutions – in the bid to create one business, one organisation, one culture and one strategy.
5. Sustainability is the in-thing today. To what extent can software solutions help the textile and fashion industry to go sustainable?
There is no doubt that industry-wide digitization will play an absolutely crucial role in the facilitation of truly accountable and meaningful sustainability actions.
A new focus on people, planet – and performance – has highlighted that consumers, governments and all industry corporations are increasingly being held to account for what and where they buy; what and where they produce – and the net impacts their actions have on the world. The fashion industry has a lot to redress here.
The only way to prove that meaningful steps are being taken to drive a more sustainable path – will be through the evidence of data – and data cannot be properly harvested without the systemisation and automation of core products and processes across the apparel and footwear supply chains.
6. Today, machinery, technology and software are highly intertwined. Your comment?
It is clear that the industry needs greater collaboration and data connectivity between design, development and production partners to provide the full visibility, transparency, accountability required to become more resilient, agile, efficient and sustainable in the future to meet the growing expectations of a more demanding consumer and investor.
We need technology companies to collaborate more effectively with all areas of the fashion supply chain to create an infinite-loop ecosystem of solutions that provide transparency for all, foster fashion supply chain digitisation, and promote fair wages for all and a more sustainable supply chain.
Stakeholders are demanding sustainability throughout the supply chain. Businesses must consequently invest in digital tools to create circular supply chains. Cross-sector collaboration is the vital key to making the ‘digital thread’ of traceability a standard practice.
A new focus on people, planet – and not just profit – has also highlighted that consumers, governments and all industry corporations are increasingly being held to account for what and where they buy; what and where they produce – and the net impacts their actions have on the world. The fashion industry has a lot to redress here. The only way to prove that meaningful steps are being taken to take a more sustainable path – will be through the evidence of data – and data cannot be properly harvested without the systemisation and automation of core products and processes across the apparel and footwear supply chains.
7. Are your software solutions compatible with all apparel manufacturing machinery? If not, how does it work independently?
Unlike many of our competitors, Coats Digital’s software solutions are not exclusive to any makes or models of manufacturing machinery that some hardware / software vendors insist on. This is the key reason that we can comprehensively support our customers throughout their digital transformation journeys.
Our Plan to Pack suite of manufacturing software solutions can operate agnostically with most of the manufacturing machinery makes that are around today. In a nutshell, our software solutions sit alongside manufacturing machinery very effectively and we have a variety of flexible integration methods to exchange data which mitigates the risk of incompatibility. For customers interested in building up a 360-degree view of production quality from the factory floor, for example, our Res.Q Shopfloor Management tool can quickly help transition any factory to a smart factory.
8. Technology will continue to innovate. How at Coats Digital do you keep track of the latest innovation and incorporate the same in your solutions?
Coats Digital is the software business of Coats Group – the world’s leading industrial thread company and a trusted industry player. We have been providing innovative, business critical software solutions for over 25 years, and Coats Group has been servicing the apparel & footwear industry for over 250 years. Our experience, innovation and heritage in the industry extend beyond what other businesses can offer.
Coats unparalleled global customer base connects us with thousands of customers, and as a result, our wonderful global teams really do truly understand the challenges and opportunities faced by our industry on a global scale.
We receive and review regular feedback from our customers to ensure that we are responsive to changes in process, usability and system adoption. We also have an extensive technology partner network affording us both access and collaboration opportunities relating to industry and tech innovations so that we always stay ahead of the curve.
9. For an apparel company that wants to invest in Coats Digital’s software solutions, what are the minimum requirements (in terms of infrastructure and other physical requirements) that it should have?
Most of our offerings are available as a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, so all potential customers need is access to a simple web browser whether from a mobile device or traditional computer.
Apparel manufacturing is a complex process that starts well before our customers cut and sew. We always recommend to potential customers that want to start or enhance their digital transformation journeys with Coats Digital, that they work with us closely so we can fully understand their business. Ultimately, we need to fully ascertain where a customer’s main challenges and bottlenecks are to ensure successful projects that deliver real results.
Digital transformation is proving to be a vital prerequisite in order to survive and thrive in such a fast-changing and competitive industry environment. It is only through this global transformation that the fashion industry will be able to become more efficient, more sustainable and meet increasing customer expectations around fair wages and good working practices.
10. What are the future plans at Coats Digital?
Coats Digital is a completely unique business that we are very proud of. We are really excited about the future of Coats Digital, since our main competitive edge derives from the 250 years of domain knowledge from the Coats Group, as well as our technical expertise through our gold standard products. We have big plans for Coats Digital and our key focus areas for the short/ medium terms include the areas of innovation, talent development, customer partnerships and new product launches. These four areas will provide the key impetus for our 2023/2024 growth plans.
Firstly with regards innovation, we will continue to think ahead for our customers, so that we build innovative features into our products incorporating AI, whenever possible.
Investment in our people is the cornerstone of any technology business, and we will also continue to invest heavily in the training and development of our teams, so that we retain our edge as true experts in the fashion supply chain. By consistently providing our teams with exposure to different situations, customers and new benchmarking exercises, we will ensure our practices remain the very best across the industry.
We have a new, revamped and joined-up ‘Go To Market’ strategy this year to ensure we get closer to all our customers. Various customer-facing teams within our commercial, customer support, customer success and solutions consulting teams, for example, are working harder than ever before to connect with customers in more meaningful ways. Moreover, through our recently launched ‘Customer Connect’ programme our engineering and implementation teams will also be spending quality time with customers, so they can fully understand their needs and can receive valuable, real time feedback on our products & services.
We are making a big move towards cloud based computing and new, ground-breaking SaaS products that will significantly fuel our growth, so we will be very busy this year with a number of industry-changing product launches that will incorporate AI and consolidate various best-in-breed products together, so that information can flow even more seamlessly and provide greater insights to customers.
This article was first published in Fibre2Fashion in March 2023.
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