Circular Knit Launches Large-Diameter Seamless Services

Circular Knit Services, which for more than 20 years has been developing sample quantities of fine gauge single-knits for apparel companies, has added wide-diameter seamless development to the list of services it provides to the industry

On a recent visit to the company's 3,000-square-foot Fort Mill, SC, headquarters, Apparel saw Circular Knit's 26-cut wide-diameter seamless knitting machine in action.

Owners Thomas and Susan Miles say they believe theirs is the only wide-diameter seamless knitting machine in the Western Hemisphere. As such, they say, the company provides a very unique opportunity for U.S.-based companies wishing to explore development possibilities in this area. Most seamless development to date has been in smaller-diameter items, such as ladies' lingerie.

In addition to offering wide-diameter seamless development services for companies that may be interested in creating their own lines, Circular Knit is developing its own brand of wide-diameter seamless wear, including men's athletic wear, such as cycle shorts, and maternity wear.

The company is no stranger to partnering with large apparel companies in design development. It offers extremely quick turnaround of single-knit fabrics, allowing apparel retailers and brands to quickly make decisions about fabric designs and knits early in the design stage, before going into production offshore.

Circular Knit, whose customers include Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, interprets designs from drawings, CAD layouts, wovens or other knit constructions and turns them around in one week or less, says Thomas Miles.

Additionally, the company develops its own fabric designs for the apparel market, offering an extensive selection of 28-cut knitted designs that are available to apparel companies along with complete construction and yarn specifications.

These prototypes, usually one-half yard to one yard in length, are critical tools for both the production and merchandising departments, speeding the approval process for the former, and for the latter, providing an actual product in hand around which to develop stories and merchandising plans, says Susan Miles.

She adds that the company offers an extremely high level of customer service, state-of-the-art computerized electronic equipment, and a vast yarn inventory.

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Lectra Launches Education Partnership Program
Lectra has launched a new worldwide education program aimed at schools and universities that train the future professionals of the fashion industry.

The new program is designed to ensure that fashion institutions remain on the cutting edge of technology, promote exchanges with Lectra experts and offer students the opportunity to gain practical business experience.

As part of the partnership, Lectra is offering the use of its applied technologies and expertise to the curricula at more than 660 fashiondedicated institutions around the world.

In addition to the opportunity to use Lectra software, students can benefit from internships with the company's R&D, marketing or solutions experts teams, either in their home countries or abroad. They may also participate in seminars and receive sponsorship support for their end-ofstudy projects.

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Gerber Shares Case Studies, New Products
Gerber Technology attracted hundreds of its clients to Chicago this past September for its annual software user conference.

Among the highlights of the event were case study presentations from clients who are using Gerber's WebPDM and rolling out its relatively new Fashion Lifecycle Management (FLM) application for PLM.

Carhartt's Christa Parsons described how her company has leveraged a WebPDM plug-in from Singletree Technologies to track activities across its product development organization and give managers company-wide greater visibility into development status.

The plug-in, called Request Tracker, has enabled Carhartt to eliminate "a tremendous amount of paperwork and time wasted," Parsons said. Sharing a theme common among other presenters at the conference, she said Carhartt previously relied on a myriad of Excel spreadsheets to track product development data.

Carhartt went live with Gerber's WebPDM in mid-2006 and has more than 200 users on the system across multiple locations. Request Tracker gives the company an easy way to quickly generate status reports from WebPDM on key product development milestones, such as lab dip approvals, sample requests and sample fabric order placement, she noted.

In another presentation, Ric Lara, president of the consulting firm HOKURA, shared the path that his client Mervyns took to implement product development technology. After being spun off from Target, Mervyns successfully installed WebPDM internally and with 400 business partners globally within a five-month window. To set the stage for such an aggressive rollout timetable, Mervyns selected only the most essential product development activities it needed to track, and spent considerable effort to understand and define its business process model and supply chain model, he noted.

With this significant commitment to planning prior to the installation of the software itself, Mervyns was able to configure WebPDM appropriately out of the gate and ramp up quickly.

In new product demonstrations, Gerber showcased its alliances with not only Singletree but also ecVision. Thomas Ng, CEO of ecVision, described how his firm's solutions integrate with Gerber's software to offer end-to-end visibility into planning, development, reservation of product capacity, sourcing, ordering and shipping. ecVision has enhanced its solution to accommodate today's more complex orders, such as the need to drop-ship orders and to ship portions of the same order to hit different delivery dates and locations, Ng said.

Gerber also demonstrated new features of FLM version 5.2, including more robust security features, translation tables available in Polish and Spanish and an image plug-in that reduces the number of steps required to import an image. FLM 5.2 also includes many more filtering options for searching for colors, styles and raw materials data.

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Nokona Taps Zweave for PLM

The Nokona Baseball Factory, an 81-year-old maker of baseball gloves that is expanding into apparel and other product categories, has selected Zweave technology for PLM.

The company was recently acquired by new investors, and has ambitious goals for growth in the baseball sector of the sporting goods marketplace. The Texas-based firm is working on a major rebranding initiative, complete with the rollout of a new brand logo.

Part of its growth strategy involves a big push into the apparel category on two fronts: 1) licensed lifestyle sportswear, activewear and team wear; and 2) protective wear.

On the licensed apparel front, a number of new lines are being developed by a separate company, Nokona Brand Apparel, led by founder and managing partner Joshua Fink. His company is working to launch products under the Nokona Sport, Nokona Lifestyle and Nokona Team umbrellas.

Its protective wear is being developed in partnership with Farrell Sports, known for its patented protective padding, which combines moisture management with the ability to absorb impact energy at twice the level of traditional foam padding. Nokona recently obtained the exclusive worldwide rights to use Farrell's padding in the baseball protective wear category

Nokona also is expanding into new hard lines product categories, including baseball bats.

Jerry O'Connor, vice president of sales and marketing, says Nokona realizes that innovation in product development - namely bringing fresh new ideas and products that offer great value to retailers - is the key to success.

As such, the company recognized in February of this year that it needed a PLM system to really "accelerate and push down the gas pedal" on its many new product development activities and to enable ongoing new product invention into the future.

After searching for PLM solutions online and participating in online demos with vendors, in September Nokona decided to sign with Zweave. O'Connor says other systems were too "bland and generic" or so complex that they would require three years to implement. Nokona was impressed by the best practices built into Zweave's technology, and Zweave's success in working with the U.S. military on PLM, he said.

As part of its PLM rollout, Nokona will be connecting its headquarters and factory in Nocona, TX, with its sales and marketing headquarters in Lexington, MA, and with many outside partners, including the Farrell product development team and Nokona contractors in China, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the United States. The company's marketing agency also will be looped into PLM, as it is playing a key role in ensuring that the company's brand message (all the way down to the color palettes, stitching and lacing of its new products) is consistent and on target.

With 100 new SKUs in the pipeline, and a deadline for samples to be ready by April of next year, Nokona is counting on getting PLM up and rolling right away. The firm's product development "needs to be synchronized like a marching band," says O'Connor.

Stay tuned for follow-up coverage of Nokona's PLM implementation in future issues of Apparel.

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TradeStone Releases Factory Footprint Compliance Tool
TradeStone Software has announced that customers, including the large U.K.-based catalog company J D Williams, have gone live with the TradeStone Factory Footprint, its new quality and social compliance tool.

Factory Footprint enables retailers to ensure that products and the factories that produce them are safe and conform to specific development guidelines. It also assures that vendors are meeting the social, legal and ethical high standards set up by each retailer and wholesaler to guarantee that all goods are compliant and tested for safe delivery.

The tool gives retailers enhanced visibility into supplier factory operations, which minimizes the risks associated with product safety, regulatory compliance and potentially late deliveries, said Sue Welch, CEO, TradeStone. It also allows retailers to set up vendor and factory compliance inspections, schedule audits automatically, track product testing results and reschedule key tests based on those results.

What's particularly unique about the Factory Footprint, Welch told Apparel, is the fact that it is so interwoven with the business process. Typically, compliance processes take place outside the normal product development and sourcing environment, she says.

"The frustration that the merchants, buyers, design and sourcing teams have is that they get pretty far down the path, and then find out that there is a problem or a potential problem [with the supplier]. By the time they get too far down the path, their options are limited."

As a tool embedded in the design process, Factory Footprint opens up options for the apparel company, and also notifies the suppliers of what they need to do so that they can participate in collaborating and bidding on that particular item, she adds.

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OptiTex Launches Marketing Campaign for New Version of Flagship Software
OptiTex, developer of 2D 3D CAD/CAM solutions for sewn products and other related industries, is investing approximately $300,000 to organize distribution events and conventions surrounding the launch of Version 10 of its flagship software.

Within the framework of the campaign, senior executives from the company as well as prominent distributors will participate in the events at various locations worldwide, including in Belgium, Singapore and Colombia.

The new Version 10 of OptiTex software incorporates a wide range of 3D developments and tools.

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