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Information Competitive Advantage

Speed, cost reductions, increased productivity and increasing communication demands drive supply chain management investment.

Supply Chain Management TW Special Report Information = Competitive Advantage Speed, cost reductions, increased productivity and increasing communication demands drive supply chain management investment. Better management of the supply chain echoes throughout the textile industry as a critical strategy for future success. Even as difficult times have pressured budgets for investment in information technology (IT), both interest in and implementation of supply chain systems continues to be a necessary leap in order to satisfy customer demands for information, squeeze internal cost and improve communications globally. 

In his paper Principles of Supply Chain Management, James L. Lovejoy, Textile Clothing Technology Corp. ([TC]2), points to Robert B. Hanfields Introduction to Supply Chain Management for the definition: The supply chain encompasses all activities associated with the flow and transformation of goods from the raw materials stage, through to the end user as well as the associated information flows. Supply chain management is the integration of these activities through improved supply chain relationships, to achieve a competitive advantage.The Demand Activated Manufacturing Architecture (DAMA) project, which ran from 1994 to 2001, proved the need for and effectiveness of collaborative efforts throughout the supply chain. The models created and simulators available through the [TC]2 program leave little room for argument. As Lovejoy states: The DAMA researchers proposed that if cooperative business management could be agreed upon among the companies in the softgoods supply chain, a higher degree of synchronization would occur. With more synchronization, the time from raw materials to consumer in a supply chain such as the mens nylon supplex parka, could be reduced by 50 precent. This would place the decision making of what to manufacture closer to the consumers decision of what to buy and all participants would benefit.And benefit they do as manufacturers continue to target solutions. Suppliers in the software solutions arena range in size and scope, offering a dizzying array of very specific solutions many directly targeting textiles and apparel. SAP, JOMAR Softcorp International, Sunrise Technologies Inc., Datatex S.A. and others have presented varying degrees of solutions for supply chain management (SCM). Industry-specific issues such as color management have been pursued by eWarna.com and Datacolor (See Streamlining Color Management, TW, this issue). Vendors such as Lion Brothers Co. Inc., Intentia, Justwin Technologies Inc. and New Generation Computing Inc. continue to target the apparel market.The challenges of SCM are far from being a textile-only issue. As Jon Surmacz, CIO magazine, recently reported: [A]ccording to Boston-based AMR Research, 20 percent of 509 companies surveyed will implement SCM applications within the next year. Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) reported that they are currently using at least one SCM module.Order and inventory management applications are the most popular, while supply chain network design applications ranked low, according to the report. Gerald McNerney, senior analyst at AMR, says companies are focusing on tracking orders and moving them through the supply chain. Theres been a shift in where the market is going. Weve seen people buying very strategic planning applications, McNerney says. Theyve moved on to the execution suite: warehousing, transportation and order management. The idea that people want to automate their segments and add productivity is a key driver, McNerney says, but it also works in tandem with the cost-reduction aspect.The report predicts that by 2004, spending on SCM and customer management applications, as a percentage of the overall IT budget, will grow while ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] spending will shrink slightly.Last year, Textile Industries profiled Valdese Weavers and its SAP installation (See Valdese Weavers ERP Success Story, TI, May 2001). Knitter Alba-Waldensians upgrade with iWork Software and Talbots recent investment in Avery Dennisons InfoChain Express, profiled below, illustrate the variety of needs and suppliers solutions available. TalbotsandInfoChain ExpressHingham, Mass.-based Talbots, a specialty retailer of womens classic apparel and accessories, has gone live with Avery Dennison InfoChain Express as its global solution for scan and pack, providing order integrity and timely delivery through Advanced Ship Notice.Talbots is an international specialty retailer and cataloger of womens classic apparel, shoes and accessories. The company currently operates 838 stores 449 Talbots Misses stores, 215 Talbots Petites stores, 41 Talbots AccessoriesandShoes stores, 62 Talbots Kids stores, 47 Talbots Woman stores, and 24 Talbots Outlet stores. In 2001, its catalog operation circulated approximately 57 million catalogs worldwide. 
Talbots is using InfoChain Express to automate and integrate its global supply chain and to ensure 100-percent vendor compliance as it relates to scan and pack. The system provides a global platform on which Talbots communicates and interacts automatically and seamlessly with its supply chain partners, including factories and vendors. InfoChain Express provides exceptional business benefits and ROI [return on investment] to Talbots, stated Ali Ho Clemens, vice president and general manager of Avery Dennison InfoChain Express. Our strength in professional services and our global presence ensure successful rollout of InfoChain Express to Talbots supplier base worldwide. Thats why Talbots, as well as many other leading retailers and brand owners, have adopted InfoChain Express as their exclusive global collaborative supply chain management and vendor compliance/solution provider.Avery Dennison InfoChain Express is a division of Avery Dennison Retail Information Services, Greensboro, N.C. Avery Dennisons broad product offering includes Web-based SCM solutions, service bureaus, in-house imprinting systems and software, fully and partially preprinted tags, labels and label forms, sequential bar code tags and labels, electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags and labels, fastener products and consulting services. Major markets include retail, apparel, softlines and hardgoods.  Alba-WaldensianandiWorkFounded in 1901, Alba-Waldensian Inc. has grown into a multi-facility company manufacturing knitted intimate apparel and medical specialty products both domestically and internationally. The company owns and operates three domestic manufacturing facilities: one in Rockwood, Tenn., and two in Valdese, N.C., where the corporate offices are located. Alba-Waldensian is a division of Tefron, a global leader in the manufacture of seamless intimate apparel sold by specialty retailers including Victorias Secret, The Gap and Banana Republic.Its no secret that cost reduction and increased productivity are key to survival in todays tightened markets, said Bill Neill, director of information technologies, Alba-Waldensian. The charge is always to do more with less, and do it quicker and cheaper.Having recently upgraded to the latest automated data collection (ADC) solution from iWork Software, Alba-Waldensian is purportedly enjoying a product flow as seamless as the knit material it makes all in a project that was equally seamless, taking just 27 days from start to go-live. Alba-Waldensian was looking for the right product to upgrade its current data collection software an earlier generation data collection product from iWork. Although the company had been happy with the iWork product, it conducted a field survey of many radio frequency (RF) data collection solution providers, including iWork ADC, before making its choice.We wanted guaranteed transaction delivery, real-time update capability and a solution that offered continued plant operations in the event of a communications interrupt between the corporate frame and the plant servers, said Neill. We found none that could provide all that, plus the high level of off-the-shelf integration into our ERP system as iWork ADC. The high level of ability to integrate is due to the patented integration technology of the iWork Business Integration Suite that is installed as part of every iWork ADC implementation.According to Neill, the solution implemented by iWork allows Alba-Waldensian to move materials faster through the production line, with less manpower and with better inventory and cost control at each step in the production process. In addition to the obvious cost savings, the increased flow of goods has reduced staging inventories and aided in increasing on-time shipments and decreasing vendor compliance issues and charge-backs, said Neill.The project was a comprehensive hardware and software upgrade. In addition to installing iWork ADC to upgrade the companys data collection system, iWork created a data flow that fed the information from the WIP system Satellite Plus, which had no direct transaction interface to BPCS, into iWork ADC for posting to BPCS.Speeding Up TransactionsProviding Alba-Waldensian with real-time data collection capability, the iWork technology speeds up transaction and linking time and guarantees transaction delivery, all creating time savings that significantly tighten the production cycle.With our old system, everything ran on the RF unit or terminal, which in our case was pretty old and very slow, said Neill. For example, in printing shipping labels, the transaction accesses the database multiple times, and that data has to travel to the terminal and back. In iWork ADC, you scan the label you want to print and all the work happens on the server where the data is stored. From our testing, this saves almost three seconds on every label. At an average of 1,000 labels a day, iWork is saving us one hour a day, or 30 production hours monthly, said Neill, who also noted the increase in the speed of the transactions has resulted in visibly greater productivity of shop floor employees, who can now move product even faster. 
Alba-Waldensian has gained even more time savings with iWork ADC in the process of initial table downloads. With the existing system, it takes [more than] 14 hours to download and synchronize the tables from the AS/400, said Neill. With iWork ADC, this process takes about two hours, and iWork is introducing a new process that is about three times faster than this.Neill noted that the scripting language used in iWork ADC to create the transactions has been significantly enhanced over the earlier version. In addition to being more user-friendly, you can do more powerful queries, accessing more data faster, he said.And because linking between transactions and events takes place on the iWork ADC server instead of the RF gun, transaction delivery is guaranteed, even in the event the RF loses connection. The iWork solution allows users to log back on to a different gun or terminal and restore the session right where it left off, with no data loss, said Neill. This is key, since the ability to practice internal just-in-time delivery of work from work center to work center requires 100 percent transaction processing. iWork ADC allows product to flow without having to build a staging inventory at work centers to accommodate transaction timing, tightening our production cycle and reducing both our WIP and raw inventory.Previously, transactions could be performed only using an RF gun or designated PC terminal. With iWork ADC, shop floor transactions now can be performed on any PC on Alba-Waldensians network that is equipped with an Internet connection and Web browser Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher. With the old system, everyone had to get out of the system before changes in transactions could be downloaded from the RF guns or terminal, said Neill. Today, the change is made, the user goes back to the main menu, and the change takes effect as soon as the transaction is started, all without any disruption to anyone using the system.  Alba-Waldensian's FutureIn light of the early success of the iWork implementation, Alba-Waldensian is already looking to extend use of the iWork solution in the future. We are considering a cyclical inventory project utilizing iWork ADC capabilities, and are also using iWork consultants as an external source of expertise for our communications, networking and applications inventory, said Neill.According to Neill, previous bad experiences with other IT projects had created an atmosphere of considerable concern that the ROI would not justify the cost or effort of implementation, and that critical funds might be better spent elsewhere.On the iWork project, a good project plan coupled with excellent technical support during the implementation resulted in not just on-time, on-budget performance, but also yielded several operational improvements that were not initially anticipated, said Neill, citing a task that formerly required three man-hours a day, which was reduced to 12 minutes per day as a result of the implementation.We learned firsthand that the proper technology, when coupled with expert consulting and capable implementers, can meet and exceed project goals. December 2002