Why digital transformation is critical for successful apparel manufacturers

(Source: supplied)

Current market uncertainty is fuelling the already fierce competition among apparel manufacturers, forcing them to step up their efforts to survive in the industry. The intense competition is driving manufacturers to enhance customer service and build stronger relationships with their clients, through innovation, speed and competitive costing. 

Today, all these are possible with digital transformation. 

Centric Software, in partnership with CSP (the representative of Optitex in Vietnam), recently hosted a seminar themed Adapting to Shifting Demands with Tech-driven Solutions for the Garment Industry in Hanoi. Guest speakers were Tran Ngoc Minh Tri, SEA operational excellence manager at Decathlon Vietnam; Alex Luu, commercial director of Centric Software; Ji Fei, vice GM of Xinlin Group; and Nguyen Thi Minh Tho, sales director of CSP. 

While our previous feature tapped into the challenges and solutions for manufacturers and retailers to cope with sourcing challenges in a changing market, this article will feature insights from experts on the importance of digital transformation and integration in the apparel and textile industry. 

Quicker response equals higher competitiveness 

Alex Luu, commercial director of Centric Software, who has about 13 years of experience working in the industry, said digital transformation gained popularity in Vietnam in 2020 when Covid-19 travel restrictions forced buyers to connect with manufacturers through emails and phone calls instead of carrying out buying trips. However, the adoption of digitalisation began way before the pandemic with leading brands, including Crocs, Under Armour and Fila, using Centric Software’s market-leading Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution to streamline their product development and sourcing processes, ultimately transforming the way they work with their suppliers.

In Vietnam, major local manufacturers including Biti’s, Scavi and Nha Be Garment also partnered with Centric to digitally transform their businesses to gain competitive advantage. Recently, sports retail giant Decathlon chose Centric as its technology partner to boost digital transformation and innovation. 

“In an unstable economic climate, apparel orders decline dramatically as no brands want to keep excessively large inventories in the US and Europe,” Luu said. “For this reason, buyers usually choose manufacturers who can swiftly adapt and respond to the changing specifications or material requirements of their clients.”

According to Luu, about 10 years ago, buyers and sourcing offices often handled the product development stage, while factories sourced raw materials, cut, sewed and sent their products to clients. However, customers are now beginning to request manufacturers develop their items using 3D platforms, including Optitex. The popularity and demand for 3D platforms not only require factories to invest in specialised teams but also necessitate collaboration between manufacturers and their clients throughout the supply chain. 

“Buyers will appreciate the value-added service because suppliers can develop them to meet their needs and exceed their expectations,” said Tho. “The clients will be more likely to close the deal quicker.” 

“We organise the data and enter it into the PLM system once the 3D portion is completed,” added Tri. “How can we get consistent and reliable information when big companies have numerous offices spread across multiple locations? The digital system will assist businesses to move in that direction.”

Meanwhile, Luu said consumer awareness and concerns about sustainability are driving demand for transparency, forcing brands to disclose accurate information about their supply chains. He added in the future, brands will require manufacturers to be more proactive and provide services such as R&D and sourcing materials that align with their sustainability goals. Manufacturers who have these capabilities set up will have the upper hand. 

Proper implementation of software to optimise the result

Tho said although digitalisation helps manufacturers further connect with their buyers, proper implementation of digital software is crucial. Without proper implementation, manufacturers may struggle to fully harness its benefits. 

“Businesses must focus on cyber security as well. When making the shift to digitisation, all of that vital data, including output, quality status, product orders, raw materials, product standards, profit ratio, and revenue, are put online and could be at risk of being compromised.”

Tri also warned of the risk of data loss during the transition if it is handled carefully, or if the IT department needs to be clearer about the integration process. Misalignment between programs created in-house and the external software businesses need to integrate can lead to inefficiencies and setbacks in the digital transformation journey. 

Thus, he says, organisations must have a well-defined IT department that can effectively communicate and align the desired process with the actual implementation, ensuring a smooth transition and successful digital transformation. Equally important is choosing the right technology partner who understands the company’s needs and has a good track record of seamlessly integrating and implementing digital solutions. 

Centric has led hundreds of businesses to implementation success through its experienced teams and innovative Agile Deployment methodology, which results in a rapid implementation preserved across future system upgrades and enhancements. 

In order to optimise product development processes for retailers, brands, and manufacturers in the consumer products business, Centric Software developed the concept of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, which connects all activities and product data in a centralised platform. It facilitates faster time to market, cost optimisation, more innovation, and improved oversight of the many processes involved in product design and delivery by manufacturers. There are more than 12,500 brands and manufacturers using Centric Software’s solutions. 

Silicon Valley-based Centric Software provides an innovative product concept to launch platform for retailers, brands and manufacturers of all sizes and segments of the consumer goods industry including fashion, footwear, luxury, outdoor, consumer electronics, cosmetics & personal care and food & beverage. Centric solutions enable digital transformation to achieve strategic and operational goals such as orchestrating and executing a competitive retail and product strategy, increasing agility, speeding time to market and getting closer to consumers resulting in maximised revenues and margins. 
More than 12,800 brands, retailers and manufacturers use Centric Software’s solutions to future-proof their business. Learn more by getting your copy of Centric’s free whitepaper “7 Brands & Retailers Embrace Digital Transformation for Sustainable Growth”. Download here.