Fashion Avenue Knits Embraces PLM to Boost Quality

Retailers have long followed the business mantra, "location, location, location." For manufacturers, however, the focus is "product, product, product." To ensure that customer satisfaction remains its top priority, Fashion Avenue Sweater Knits added supply chain management (SCM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems to improve efficiency and better service its customers.

New York City-based Fashion Avenue Sweater Knits, an importer of quality children's and women's apparel, is a privately-held company that supplies merchandise to retailers, including Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Macy's, Belk and dressbarn. Regardless of the brands they choose, all shoppers are in search of value and quality. "Consumers have many options, and they are much more aware of different product types," said Austin Mallis, the manufacturer's vice president of operations. "This forces us to ensure our product will satisfy the consumer."

However, due to the rising costs of production, suppliers industrywide are hard-pressed to improve efficiencies enterprise-wide without sacrificing quality and value. For Fashion Avenue, the first step to achieving this goal was to focus on how its merchandise is created. After careful evaluation, the company shifted its focus to "eliminating non-essential responsibilities from the creative team and passing that work up or down stream," he explained.

One area that needed immediate attention was internal collaboration. Historically, the company relied on manual, repetitive processes that made workload control and collaboration a constant struggle. "Processes were unique to individuals rather than to departments or the organization, as a whole," said Mallis. "Workloads could not be managed, and we had no tools to understand where we stood on specific styles or orders."

At the core of this issue was the company's inability to share data in a seamless, effective manner due to its disparate lines of business. Operating in these silos made information requests difficult, and forced users to conduct laborious, time-consuming research to acquire data needed to make business decisions. Fashion Avenue began exploring how to "open up these company walls and make the data available for all to search," he explained.

This required the company to deploy a technology solution that would encourage collaboration among its design and production teams, and deliver end-to-end visibility to all users.

"We wanted associates to focus on their day-to-day responsibilities and not get caught up in data-gathering projects," Mallis said. "We also needed a technology provider that understood our business, and the challenges we would face incorporating a solution into our day-to-day business processes."

After more evaluation, Fashion Avenue was drawn to NGC. The vendor's PLM/SCM tool presents a single, collaborative platform that standardizes all PLM and SCM processes so Fashion Avenue can capture all production, quality control and supply chain operations data, and deliver end-toend visibility.

The solution is a web-based platform that supports an entire suite of solutions, and allows dedicated users to access, input and track data as it is entered. Workflow calendars and exception management tools ensure accountability throughout design and production processes, allowing users to stay on
top of current, future and past due deadlines and improve task management.

"It follows workflow department by department, and information is electronically passed along throughout the company, a process that was previously unavailable," Mallis said. Since implementing the software in January 2012, Fashion Avenue has transitioned part of its email system into the PLM using the solution's collaboration tools, Mallis said. "This has been a big win because the user can access relevant information in the same platform the conversation is occurring, rather than multi-task across two or three locations, such as the web, Outlook or Excel."

This process has reduced the volume of email and daily information requests by 40 percent, impacting the company's overall efficiency.

The solution has also improved operations across Fashion Avenue's Shanghai office. "By eliminating public spreadsheet updates, we reduced a large amount of down time and setup," he said.

Fashion Avenue has also integrated vendors into the process, a move that allows them to access development information, and log conversation in the collaboration tool. "These companies will begin to share production responsibilities for the first time during our fall 2014 production cycle," he

While there have been many benefits over the past two years, Mallis is most impressed by how the solution has simplified business processes. "Prior to PLM, we had many different processes in place to achieve the same goal," he explained. "By eliminating these different processes, we can now more easily find issues and propose solutions. I like to keep operations as basic as possible. This implementation allowed us to achieve this."

Overall, the software has delivered a measurable return on investment by streamlining workflow and improving collaboration, creating better task management, and supporting faster speed-to-market: all areas that help to decrease product development time.

"PLM and SCM are most effective when integrated in an end-to-end process," said Mallis. "For us to be successful, we need software that takes us from start to finish in the product lifecycle. NGC's solution allows us to do that."

The company continues to evaluate how to best utilize its data, and drive future successes. As the solution helps the company break down barriers between departments, it also supports Fashion Avenue's future growth and direction. "PLM provides a platform for continuous improvement," Mallis added. "We're always listening to the needs of our users to understand what they're trying to accomplish. PLM has helped us establish a more creative, collaborative environment where we can continually challenge ourselves to do better and accomplish those goals."

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