With the apparel industry deeply entrenched in global sourcing, technology is increasingly viewed as a competitive advantage. Tabletop exhibits at Apparel's 2005 Tech Conference will showcase some of the latest advancements.
The offshore movement to Asia, Central America and other destinations has brought to focus new challenges -- and the subsequent development of new high-tech tools -- for achieving greater efficiencies and accelerating speed to market.
Industry suppliers of technology and other solutions have responded to this trend with an array of new developments, many of which will be demonstrated on Nov. 10 at Apparel's Tech Conference in New York, NY.
Traditional methods of communication, for example, are now being eclipsed by the pursuit of better ways to collaborate online, accelerate fashion design via digital samples and improve the exchange of those files across the globe to reduce other costs, such as for shipping. Accordingly, the apparel industry is embracing technological advances such as emerging PDM/PLM solutions, improved color management products and new 3-D technologies.
Here is an overview of these types of solutions and more that will be featured at the Tech Conference by the following companies, which are sponsors of the event.
3i Infotech, an India-based provider of information technology products and outsourcing services, is showcasing two of its newest offerings for the apparel industry: a line planning application and a quality audit product. The line planning software enables the user to create an overall corporate plan, determine assortments and compare unit and dollar projections with those from previous years. "It allows you to plan your design and merchandising processes right up front, and in the fashion world that is critical," commented Vincent Candela, 3i Infotech's vice president of fashion technology, who is based in the company's Edison, NJ, office. Candela said the solution integrates with other product development software, including Gerber Technology's WebPDM solution. The quality audit solution is designed to be portable and can be used with either a web-based computer, a personal digital assistant (PDA) or a tablet PC. For more information: www.3i-infotech.com.
AlvaProducts, a New York-based company specializing in visualization technology solutions, will unveil several new developments both on the mannequin side of its business and on the supply chain front. With regard to its forms, AlvaProducts will showcase its AlvaForm Signature Series and AlvaForm Standard Series. Commenting on the Signature Series, CEO Janice Wang said: "We are working with some of the top fit models in the apparel industry and creating mannequins with their shape and measurement. We are doing this for companies that do not have enough volume to customize forms, but want mannequins of particular fit models." The Standard Series, which Wang said is particularly popular in the children's area, enables companies to get mannequins quickly without customization while also allowing their supply bases to purchase the same forms. With regard to its supply chain tool, the company will showcase its AlvaBlock service, which aims to aid brands in their reinvention by providing new patterns, CAD specs, nested grades and samples for their vendors, said Wang. AlvaProducts will also discuss its AlvaTraining service. "We work with the brands who have created a new AlvaForm to train the vendors and identify the key aspects of fit that the brand wants to clarify," Wang explained. For more information: www.alvaproducts.com.
Blue Fox Porini, the subsidiary of Blue Fox Enterprises N.V., will provide an overview of its industry-specific software solutions, designed to optimize forecasting, merchandise planning, product development, sales and order management, production planning, sourcing and supply chain management. In conjunction with CAD/CAM provider Blue Fox NedGraphics, a sister company through a recently completed merger, the two firms have joined forces to provide an integrated end-to-end solution, according to Kirk Feldman of Blue Fox Porini. Feldman said the company would discuss with Tech Conference attendees how they could maximize selling with visual communications. For instance, apparel companies can create a retail proposition with a 3-D virtual model and then communicate that design to store teams in the form of planograms, he noted. Feldman said Blue Fox Porini also would discuss the use of business intelligence tools to improve visibility and results. "Attendees can learn how they can more effectively set priorities, monitor and motivate performance improvements, gain insight to hidden issues and act quickly on critical needs," Feldman said. "Whether an executive is managing sales, product lifecycle or supply chain activities, business intelligence improves results." For more information: www.porini.us.
Cognis, a Germany-based supplier of specialty chemicals, is showing two recently developed technologies: Skintex and Cyclofresh, both marketed under Cognis' "Active Textiles" label. Skintex enables high-tech microcapsules to be built directly into fabric for clothing worn next to the skin. It releases ingredients that impart skin-caring, cooling or revitalizing properties, and is ideal for activewear, underwear and other close-fitting garments, the company reported. "The imagination is the only thing that limits what you can use from an encapsulation perspective," said Brian Francois, business manager of Cognis, based at its Charlotte, NC, office. "You can [incorporate] relaxing aroma therapies into apparel designed for the yoga market for example," he said. "We're also working on a mosquito-repellent chemistry for garments such as those used in camping." The Cyclofresh technology enables manufacturers to impregnate textiles with fragrance molecules. It is particularly suited for odor management in athletic wear, Francois said. For more information: www.cognis.com.
Computer Generated Solutions (CGS), a provider of technology, systems integration, software training and managed services worldwide, will highlight the 5.0 version of its BlueCherry Enterprise suite of software products designed for the sewn products industry. The BlueCherry suite, which was updated to 5.0 in February, consists of multi-platform ERP, supply chain management (SCM) and sales automation systems designed for apparel manufacturers, distributors and retailers. There are modules for accounting, PLM, warehouse and logistics management, web-based collaborative sourcing, retail merchandise planning and business intelligence. "The 5.0 release is a fully internationalized product," said Anne Carracino, marketing director of CGS. "BlueCherry is the product suite that gives the client a single-vendor option for all of their information technology needs." For more information: www.cgsinc.com.
Cotton Incorporated, carrying on its not-for-profit mission to promote the use of cotton throughout the consumer population, will be highlighting a couple of new fabric technologies along with a recently developed educational CD-ROM series covering different textile processes. The range of topics covered in its first CD release includes knitting, dyeing and finishing, weaving and the basics of yarn manufacturing. "It's a service we're providing that we know offers great value, compared with what you would have to pay elsewhere for the information," said Dennis Horstman, Cotton Incorporated's senior director of brand marketing. Additional CDs to be released will cover the topics of quality and denim construction. Denim will also be highlighted by Cotton Incorporated as it touts a water-repellent innovation. Known as "Storm Denim," this technology is partially directed toward skiers and the growing surf market, according to Horstman. Also at the Tech Conference, the firm will be presenting its "Tough Cotton" finish. Horstman said Tough Cotton "drastically improves the tear and tensile strength of the fabric" compared with other finishes that erode those qualities. "This new blending still preserves the great hand and wrinkle-resist properties [of cotton] but yet increases the strength of the fabric itself," Horstman said. For more information: www.cottoninc.com.
Datacolor is featuring two software products and another solution designed to improve the color management process. The company will highlight Datacolor ENVISION, visualization software created to offer on-screen product simulations to eliminate the transportation of physical samples. It also will demonstrate Datacolor TRACK, a color communication tool that interacts with standard e-mail clients, including Microsoft Outlook, and is designed to more effectively monitor, organize and expedite approval of digital samples. Datacolor also will showcase its new Datacolor CONDITIONER cabinet, designed to house and protect samples and other articles from color change, particularly in environments where varying temperature and humidity are problematic. "It can be difficult to control those temperature levels at dye mills and labs, many of which are now in developing countries," commented Liz Walker, Datacolor's director of worldwide marketing communications. "It's much easier to use this conditioner. Our overall message is to create awareness that there are all these tools available that can help streamline these processes and manage one of the most difficult challenges out there, which is color." For more information: www.datacolor.com.
Demand Management, provider of the Demand Solutions supply chain forecasting, demand planning and replenishment system, is highlighting three of its offerings, including its Demand Solutions Sales & Operations Planning product (DS S&P), Demand Solutions Forecast Management (DS FM) and DS Stores, which uses POS analysis to enable store-level forecasting, modeling and replenishment. John Mayer, director of sales for Demand Management, said the three products cover the spectrum of the supply chain and are designed to enhance forecasting, especially considering the changing industry conditions created by globalization, such as long lead times. "We're selling the idea of branded companies' collaborating more with their manufacturers and, in turn, the raw materials suppliers to those manufacturers, so there is more visibility from one end of the supply chain to the other," Mayer said. For more information: www.demandsolutions.com.
Freeborders, a San Francisco-based provider of sourcing-related technology solutions designed specifically to meet needs associated with China's growing supply chain, will discuss the latest version of its product lifecycle management suite, built for apparel retailers. Among the featured modules in the new release of Freeborders PLM is FB Source, a manufacturer data management and supply chain collaboration application with features designed to facilitate selection of suppliers, communication of order requirements and negotiation of costs and terms. "We've developed the product with a strong eye for what it takes for an apparel brand, retailer or manufacturer to successfully source raw materials in Asia," said Freeborders marketing manager Leland Cheuk. Freeborders developed much of its PLM suite in Asia, and has established a technology center in Shenzhen, China, he said. For more information: www.freeborders.com.
Geac, a PLM solutions provider, will discuss how product lifecycle management can be used to better manage sourcing, improve efficiencies and ensure tighter control over apparel collections. Geac will demonstrate its Quest PLM suite, featuring tools that include "Collaborative Sourcing" and "Advanced Collection Planning." "It can be a complex task to keep track of the size of a collection when development is moving so fast," said Mark Mandrano, account manager for Geac Apparel North America. "Having the correct product, color and price combinations can be even more complicated as you're striving to improve time to market. The possibilities for controlling these areas increase dramatically with Advanced Collection Planning," he said. Mandrano said visitors to Geac's tabletop display will be provided with case studies and learn how the Quest PLM technology can enhance their best practices. He noted that the Geac solution draws on 15 years of development with apparel, footwear and softlines retailers. Other products under the Quest PLM suite assist the user with design, specification, workflow calendar management, web-based collaboration, retail space management, collection planning and sales force automation, he noted. For more information: www.geac.com.
Gerber Technology will highlight its WebPDM solution, recently updated to version 5.0, and its AccuMark apparel CAD design suite, according to the company's public relations specialist, Cheryl Tuttle. The newest version of Gerber's WebPDM, launched in March, is designed to facilitate communication and accelerate product development by connecting design, engineering, costing and manufacturing information through a centralized database of product-related information. This information can be accessed via a web browser running on the client PC. Tuttle said the new version offers a more graphical and intuitive browser interface for easier use as well as the capability to collaborate in real-time between internal offices, vendors and suppliers. AccuMark software is designed to optimize pattern design, grading and marker making and nesting in the apparel, transportation interiors, furniture and industrial fabrics industries. It contains grading and seam allowance tools and other features intended to meet the industry's changing needs. For more information: www.gerbertechnology.com.
Lectra, a global provider of technology solutions and services for textiles, leather and other soft materials companies, will be showcasing its full range of design solutions developed for the fashion and apparel industry, according to the company's marketing director Thomas McKay. Among the featured products will be GalleryWeb, its web-enabled PDM/PLM solution. "It integrates all of Lectra's business software solutions, managing the entire product lifecycle, from collection planning through adjustment, via the product design and development phases," McKay said. He added that Lectra would be offering the latest information about its other products that aid in the product creation, production and delivery of fashion and apparel. Among them are Modaris, Diamino, Mikalis, PrimaVision and Kaledo Style. "Lectra has introduced new versions of Modaris and Diamino recently," McKay said, noting that the upgrades "incorporate many user-friendly and process-oriented features that speed up the pattern and marker-making process, allowing customers to develop more products faster and with significant overhead savings." For more information: www.lectra.com.
MatrixOne is highlighting its trademarked MatrixOne Accelerator for Apparel Design and Development. The PLM solution provides industry data models and schema, predefined work processes and reports, as well as role-based user interfaces in order to speed deployment and ease user adoption, the company reported. The company said that the offering, made commercially available in May, is built on top of MatrixOne's PLM platform and business process applications to provide scalability and flexibility to keep pace with the changing business environment of the apparel industry. The solution also offers library management capabilities for organizing information such as colors, fabrics, trim, build instructions and other elements to assist in reuse, standardization, collaboration and access control across the enterprise. Capabilities for product design and planning, product costing and strategic sourcing also are included. For more information: www.matrixone.com.
NSB, a provider of enterprise-wide client/server software and services designed to help retailers manage their supply chains, automate transaction processing and track orders, is featuring its Connected Retailer Sourcing and Product Development Solution. Powered by Momentis, the tool is designed to streamline the sourcing process by centralizing workflow management and enhancing collaboration with a retailer's vendors. "We help retailers look at their entire business and not just their own silos," said Victoria Rose, director of sales for NSB's Enterprise Business Unit. "We're giving the retailer a view of the world at each step in that internal supply chain so not only can design people see what's happening but so can the people on the retail floor who see that design and how it impacts an assortment plan and what it means to their open-to-buy dollars." For more information: www.nsbgroup.com.
Optitex, a developer of open architecture 2-D and 3-D CAD/CAM software for fashion design, will offer information about soon-to-be-released updates to its product line. The updates, which affect all of its products, are scheduled to debut this winter, according to president Yoram Burg. Burg said a main benefit to the new Version 10 release of Optitex's Windows-based software programs is that it facilitates a smaller file size structure. Files are up to 10 times smaller. "We developed a whole new algorithm for compression, which allows for the smaller files," he said. "That's significant when a fashion company has a few hundred files they want to send in one shot. Some bandwidth problems are emerging, especially when you work with China," he said. "We feel we have addressed that in terms of file size." Burg emphasized that the new version "offers the ability to seamlessly work with external applications such as PLM, ERP and PDM," through API/COM and XML interfaces. He said the Optitex display at the Tech Conference would also offer a sneak preview into the company's new animation capabilities for its 3D Runway software. For more information: www.optitex.com.
PTC will provide an overview of its FlexPLM product, focusing on the process associated with product lifecycle management, said Matthew Austin of the Needham, MA-based firm. "We want to discuss the breadth of activities that the process entails as well as discuss who really participates in that," Austin said. "If you want to get away from acronyms, this is truly about collaborative product design and development. "Our focus is to show that PLM in its richest definition allows designers to design and managers to manage. At [the Tech Conference at] FIT, where you've got a lot of bright designers spreading their wings, our message there will be that they should be allowed to focus on design and development, rather then getting bogged down in product line management." Austin noted that PTC has specialized in PLM solutions in several verticals for more than 20 years. "Footwear and apparel have their own set of dynamics that have equally complex iterations, if not more complex, than some of those other verticals," he said. "That is something we intend to discuss." For more information: www.ptc.com.
Shapely Shadow, with headquarters in Malibu, CA, will offer information about new versions of its patented RealForms mannequin products. According to founder and president Ilona Foyer, the company will be unveiling two enhanced dress forms. The forms are made using new proprietary chemicals to meet different, emerging sets of requirements. One form replicates movement and swelling effects of the breasts region, said Foyer, and has been developed to meet the needs of designers of such garments as lingerie and swimsuits. The other product, while offering fewer movement but better retention properties, is designed to guarantee improved quality control via better collaboration with overseas vendors, she said. "We came out with our silicone product a year ago, and that's been very well received," said Foyer. "But the industry approached us with these different issues, and we're really excited with what we're now able to offer to address them." Shapely Shadow also will be discussing some of its new technological developments on the post-production front. Among them is its "FastFit" 3-D communication tool. FastFit creator Roxy Starr said the technology facilitates corrections prior to a first submit of a sample. She said the technology is made possible in part through several alliances that Shapely Shadow is forging with other companies. For more information: www.shapelyshadow.com.
Sky IT Group, a provider of business intelligence solutions for the apparel industry, is offering information about its recently released Fashion Avenue Dashboard solution (also known as Fashion Dash). The company announced availability of the web-based corporate reporting dashboard solution in September. Sky IT Group president and CEO Jay Hakami said Fashion Avenue Dashboard enables quick analysis of business activity, with drill-down capabilities. "The information provided in real-time reports can replace mountains of paper that would require hours of analysis and integration, only to become out-of-date within minutes," Hakami said. "Senior apparel executives view their data based on predefined parameters and criteria they have chosen. The information can be sorted and viewed over the web or sent to such devices as a Blackberry." Hakami added that rules could be established in order to trigger an alert on a certain event requiring immediate attention. "Fashion Dashboard lets apparel manufacturers and their customers access information on demand to drive business decisions and improve the bottom line," said Hakami. For more information: www.skyitgroup.com.
[TC]2, a member-driven not-for-profit organization offering technology-oriented research and consulting products and services for the apparel and soft goods industries, will offer the latest information about its flagship 3-D scanner and 3-D body scanning software, according to Karen Davis, the company's marketing communications coordinator. The organization's 3-D Body Scanner scans the human body in less than six seconds to produce a 3-D "body model" for use in applications including custom fitting of apparel, apparel size standards development and
3-D product development for apparel and automotive seating. [TC]2 also will offer information about the short-cycle manufacturing and digital product development demonstrations it offers at its Cary, NC, headquarters, as well as its 2006 calendar of training and education classes. For more information: www.tc2.com.
TradeCard, a financial supply chain services provider, said it will present information on how the apparel, footwear and retail industries are now capable of creating increasingly collaborative supply ecosystems and more integrated physical and financial supply chains. Manlio Carrelli, the firm's director of product marketing, said: "Attendees will discover how TradeCard's 1,400 members use [its] approach to improve cost of goods, operational efficiency and cash flow performance. Real-world case studies will also be available." TradeCard also will feature the latest enhancement to its web-based financial supply chain platform, known as automated chargeback management. "This capability helps retailers, brands and manufacturers to collaborate on and solve the thorniest chargeback issues," Carrelli said. For more information: www.tradecard.com.
TUKAtech, a Los Angeles-based provider of CAD/CAM and other automated systems for apparel manufacturers, will present information about how its solutions, including TUKAweb.com and its TUKAcenters, are designed to reduce time to market. The firm also will focus on how its solutions can help firms ensure the correct fit. TUKAtech will highlight its partnership with FedEx and FedEx Kinkos as it demonstrates how an apparel company can reduce its product development cycle through this strategic alliance. Paul Clarke, TUKAtech's vice president of operations, said the company also will relate how, through the use of TUKAtech solutions, apparel companies can replicate some of the product development processes of the automotive industry. "The automotive industry is an example of logistics and collaboration at its finest," Clarke commented. "Without the same type of seamless communication, the apparel business cannot survive." For more information: www.tukatech.com.
UGS, a provider of PLM software and services with headquarters in Plano, TX, will highlight its Teamcenter 2005 offering. According to the company's director of business development Jerome Johnson, the array of solutions under the Teamcenter suite varies widely according to customer needs, ranging in scope from data management to web-based collaboration, project management and sourcing. "Whatever the case, if you're a retailer or in the development side of the business, making sure you have an [IT] environment that enables your supply chain to communicate with you is so critical, especially as that supply chain moves to Asia," said Johnson. "That is top-of-mind for so many firms right now. "While so much collaboration has been done with faxes and e-mails, we're seeing the need for an environment for real-time collaboration to happen where and when it needs to happen." Johnson said UGS will convey benefits of effective product lifecycle management and how it can be a particular ally in developing "on-trend" garments in a shorter timeframe. "There's still a sense within the industry of what areas of the product development process can be impacted by PLM technology," he said. "We're getting to a point now where those who have been on the sidelines in terms of PLM are starting to embrace it and move forward on it."
MICHAEL D. COLE is a contributing author for Apparel.
Editor's Note: This "Event Outlook" features information available as of press time. There may be additional products on display at the live event. Please visit the 2005 Tech Conference section at www.apparelmag.com for the most up-to-date listing of the event's sponsors and links to their web sites. The Online Tech Showcase section of the site will feature more on all sponsors' products.
For More Information
Full Conference Agenda:
Visit 2005 Tech Conference section under "Events" at www.apparelmag.com or http://www.apparelmag.com/conferences/ Tech/TC05.shtml
Event Outlook, Part 1
"Tech Conference to Cover PLM, Color Management, More"
See Apparel's October 2005 print edition or visit www.apparelmag.com and see the "Past Issues" section (to access, click on "More" under "Current Issue")