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Optimizing Apparel Manufacturing

Benetton enlists the aid of Datatex to consolidate servers to optimize information system.

TW Special Report

O limpias S.p.A., the Italy-based manufacturing organization of the Benetton Group, has completed the consolidation of 10 servers to optimize its information technology (IT) structure by leveraging existing skills and resources, and standardizing applications and data.

Today, the Italy-based Benetton Group S.p.A. is present in more than 120 countries around the world. With apparel production at its core, it is a group with a strong Italian character and its style, design expertise and passion are clearly seen in its brands - the casual United Colors of Benetton, the more fashion-oriented Sisley, Playlife leisurewear and Killer Loop streetwear. The group produces around 110 million garments every year.

Olimpias operates 12 plants in Italy, with 2,000 employees and a turnover of more than 300 million. Its most important customer is Benetton; however, 30 percent of its output is sold to companies outside of the group - proof of Olimpias' production quality and level of customer care.

Its organizational structure to reach these targets is complete - product design, product engineering, and marketing and sales. The production can be marketed at any level of the bill of material and of the production cycle - yarn, gray fabric or finished fabric.

Olimpias handles all production steps from yarn to finished fabric - yarns, weaved and knitted fabrics, printed fabrics, and dyeing and washing operations.

The company recently enlisted Switzerland-based Datatex AG, a leader in enterprise resource planning for the apparel and textile industry, to upgrade its IT infrastructure. Mario Pillon, chief information officer, Olimpias, recently gave his view of the consolidation project.

Mario Pillon, chief information officer, Olimpias

Datatex: What's the primary goal of your project with Datatex?
Pillon: The deployment of the Datatex solution in 12 Olimpias plants drove significant benefit to our company - enhanced efficiency, measured by the inventory levels, and reduced time to market. Moreover, the Datatex solution was the tool to align to a single organization model. The 12 plants previously worked with different structures.

However, our group was not satisfied with the reached level of standardization and information sharing. Therefore, we launched this project to gather together all resources and to integrate the data. The project was feasible because every plant was using the same information system functions, in spite of different manufacturing activity.

Datatex: What are the main phases of your project?
Pillon: The project goal is to concentrate physically and logistically all the production supporting applications. The target is a unique information system providing services to all the plants, fully fitting the specific requirements of every manufacturing unit and guaranteeing a correct interface with the departmental applications.

The first phase was the migration of every plant information system to the iSeries installed in Ponzano Veneto. Of course it was not a simple removal. We took advantage of this activity to enhance the level of use of the Datatex solution in all those plants that had implemented a subset of the available functions.

The second phase is focused on the “logical” consolidation of the information system. For example, we will have a single bill of material, used by the Olimpias' plants producing yarns and by those manufacturing fabric. Therefore, the article code of the yarn has no need to be changed when it is delivered to the plant using it.

Datatex: Can Olimpias be viewed as a single, integrated plant?
Pillon: Yes, but in order to understand the project size and complexity, it is useful to remember that the project concerns companies acquired through the years, located in 10 different places, each of them with a significant use of third-party manufacturing operations. The starting point was 10 Datatex solutions installed in 10 different locations to support a total of 330 workstations.

Datatex: Usually, for a complex project, the hottest item is the respect of the time budget. What about you?
Pillon: Olimpias management was strongly committed to the project and gave it the highest priority. Therefore, the plant managers forgot the fear of “losing” their own information system and were involved by the top management to evaluate and reach the big benefits for the whole group.

From the operational point of view, we created a team with Olimpias system engineers and Datatex project leaders. The pace was the consolidation of a plant information system every three months.

Datatex: Any main direction or idea to make the project feasible?
Pillon: First of all, we worked to fit the specific requirements of each plant. We are becoming a “virtual” single vertical plant without imposing changes to the structure and guaranteeing the application functions already implemented by each plant. Moreover, the project preliminary phase was the creation of analysis standard and of implementation and development standards. These tools shortened the implementation time and made uniform and consistent the work of the whole group.

November 2005