Textile Supply Chain has been highly influenced by four important features of Information Technology; these features are: Information integration, Planning synchronisation, Workflow coordination and new business models. It is also come across that these IT applications facilitate the execution of several theories of supply chain management, like constant refilling, vendor administered refilling, planned postponement etc.
Taken in order, the first three stages stand for ascending degrees of harmony and balanced interaction among supply chain members ending up into completely new techniques of organising business in the fourth phase.
Sharing of Information
Information makes mention of the sharing among members of the supply chain. This takes in any type of information that could affect the actions and performance of other members of the supply chain. This method generally transfers demand data, inventory status, capacity plans, production schedules, promotion plans, electronic fund transfers (EFT) for payments, status reports and shipment schedules.
Bar coding and Electronic data interchange (EDI) are the main information providing in this phase. Bar coding allows all-inclusive recording of business data in electronic frame. In turn, this data is transferred electronically from computer to computer among organisations, in a standardised layout through EDI system. Consequently, the communicated data are counted, tracked, analysed, and applied by computers to transform into relevant information for decisions. EDI specifically substitutes more traditional transfer of documents such as mail, telephone and even fax. Speedy transmission is possible through EDI-reduced order cycle variability, one of the major agents, which accelerates inventory in the supply chain.
Naygard International, a global apparel producer of US, with sales surpassing $ 300 million, copes with its supplies from fabric suppliers to retailer using EDI-built links triggered throughout its network. This EDI-built network helps the company in maintaining closer relations and immediate reaction in a global, fluctuating demand and supply atmosphere with its suppliers and customers, who are geographically spread from US, Korea, Japan, Europe and Indonesia. The company inserts inventory-data in electronic form through bar coding and transfer these ‘digitised information’ across its global network through EDI.
To connect design affiliated information with supplier through Internet linkages is another instance of information integration. Standardisation of software devices and the fast dropping costs of servers allow the smaller manufacturer and retailer to share latest designs evolved through CAD/CAM packages with the fabric manufacturers established in other parts of the world. Product design and manufacturing data can be transferred through the Internet to a distant factory so that manufacturing might take place.
Synchronisation of Planning
Planning synchronisation speaks of combined design and accomplishment of plans for product introduction, predicting and refilling. Planning synchronisation, explains how the information shared by the previous phase is to be utilised. By reciprocal coherence, members in a supply chain have their order achievement plans integrated through this phase of IT, so that competent refilling are possible to satisfy the demand of end user.
Within the company, several software devices such as MRP, MRP – II, APSS, MES ease harmonisation of planning between various operative silos. Evolution of combined and well-integrated ERP systems redefines the functions and conversions in quality of information sharing. Material Requirement Planning (MRP) system initiated using computer databases to amass lead times and order quantity. It applies logic to execute Bill of Material (BOM) eruptions to help in outlining orders across time-phased preferences in a distinct manufacturing atmosphere.
As a logical broadening of MRP system, Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP – II) system is developed to deal with the entire manufacturing operation. This typically incorporates machine loading and scheduling in addition to planning of material requirement. It helps the mechanism to assess the usefulness of a production agenda under a given set of deadlines.
Due to classified database, computational logic with high processing power of computers, MRP and MRP – II are quite best-selling and add visibility into the areas earlier unseen. But with the evolution of multipoint-manufacturing, final assembly activities and packaging, vast material allocation requirements in an inconstant global surrounding, it has become essential to separate systems such as Distribution Requirement Planning (DRP). Moreover, textile producers require a structure that can simultaneously explain both capacity and material constraints and immediately spreads the effects of problems in both backward and forward direction through out the supply chain. The Advance Planning and Scheduling (APSS) catch both material focus of MRP and short horizon rapid response scheduling power of MRP – II.
However, though APSS and ERP systems allow textile companies to plan and to operate their resources, they do not serve the real-time input and actionable information required to respond to a continuously fluctuating supply chain. In the beginning, ERP has primary constraints like data-centric execution focus, poor flexibility and one-dimensional planning, and important up-front investment as well.
Milliken, a foremost textile company in US and founder of quick response concept, works with various clothing suppliers and leading department stores to electronically gather POS data from the department stores to synchronise their ordering and manufacturing plans. Internet technology helps Milliken in spelling out their business ideals to advance the comprehensive enterprise performance. Consequently, Milliken was able to minimise the lead-time from order receipt at her textile plants to final clothing receipt at the department stores from 18 weeks to 3 weeks.
This section of IT-interaction enhances the worth of textile supply chain by integrating supply chain operations within the company and across the organisations after collaborating with vendors and customers based on shared forecasts. This is an indication of a new progress of IT applications in line with inter-organisation communication.
This Internet allows companies to take their alliance one-step further, by coordination, integration and even automation of serious business processes. Activities like procurement, order fulfilment, engineering change, design optimisation, and financial exchanges can be put under the tag of Workflow coordination. The outcomes are cost-effective, quick and unfailing supply chain functions.
Information technology allows Wrangler and Wal-Mart to practice workflow coordination to improve their business in highly inconstant apparel market. The daily sale of Wal-Mart’s Wrangler jeans is 1, 00, 000 pairs. Wrangler copes with this requirement through Vendor Managed Replenishment or VMR, to unceasingly pile up Wal-Mart’s store, by capturing all 100, 000 of these sales transactions from several Wal-Mart shops through web-facilitated communication. Then Wrangler categorises these real demand-data by style, size, fabric and colour to refill Wal-Mart’s inventory, the level of which is pre-decided by both parties after reassessing history of sales by product and buying how of clientele. Thus, supplier (Wrangler) can better serve the retailer (Wal-Mart) after finding the underlying cause of exact selling current and keeping the best inventory at retailer’s racks. Advanced fill-rate and higher customer fulfilment are the major results from this IT-participation.
New Business Models
This phase not only improves supply chain efficiency but also allows partners within supply chain to redefine logistics flows, so that the roles and responsibilities of members may change to develop newer business policies. A supply-network mutually generates new products, pursues mass customisation, and enters new markets and customer sections. New rules of the supply chain game come up as a result of integration nourished by the Internet.
Since textile supply chain grows into more closely associated with greater coordination regarding time and resources, Internet reciprocates with textile business with greater degree. New rules of the supply chain game come forth as a result of business innovation sustained by the Internet.
This phase marks information modelling, data-analysis and decision-making concerning the various textile production processes as evolved by researchers at the College of Textiles. Computer integrated manufacturing, design of supply chain systems, knitting data model, enterprise modelling are some of the fields travelled in this stage. To confirm good fit into business process, applications of these information models make necessary anticipatory attempt, far beyond that needed to classify and categorise data.
Data Mining and Data Warehousing
This application of IT (in the textile industry) has primarily given attention to the recognition of data necessities and analysis of data to find the advantages of the several data components for process supervision and command. Data mining is the automatic extraction of patterns of information from historical data, allowing companies to concentrate on the most significant features of their business. On the other hand, data warehousing is an archive of data. These set of methods have focused on filtering and coordinating the data to make decisions.
The information structures evolved over the past thirty years have been thoroughly technology based, while decision-making continued to be a human thinking process. The worse thing is that as business has developed more complicated and the system can produce growing size of information, the discerning power of the user to choose and understand the ‘right’ information is extended to the limit. This inspires expansion of information engineering attitude in textile. This tool can be described as a method for bringing out ‘meaning’ in information to allow the knowledge needed by the user to take a ‘right’ decision. Thus, information engineering can be looked at as a crossing point for technology-based data trapping, processing systems, and human-based decision-making structures. The intention of information engineering is to basically enhance the decision-effectiveness in textile manufacturing by creating a new and proficient decision-making system using the Data-to-Decision Cycle model.
E-commerce primarily consists of B2B and B2C commerce. Business to Consumer or B2C commerce is the direct selling of merchandise to consumers through Internet. While Business-to-Business marketplace can be defined as neutral Internet-based intermediaries that focus on specific industry verticals or specific business processes, host electronic marketplaces, and use various market-making mechanisms to mediate any-to-any transactions among businesses. B2B appears much more promising than B2C and sets to far exceed B2C financially. It is expected that more than 25 percent of all business-to-business purchases will be carried out over the Internet by 2004.
Express evolution of Internet technology brought it in to being. Electronic commerce also enables textile mills to correspond directly with internationally based buyers of wholesale fabrics. For instance, Phoenix Textiles, US-based buyer and distributor of textiles, employs the Internet to buy its fabrics from mills around the world. Then, through its website, Phoenix Textiles sells to individuals and small and medium-sized companies as well as large corporate bodies. The company banks on the Internet to refill its inventory as needed.
The textile-retail panorama has been transformed with many ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers putting an Internet shopping-component into their offering. Enter ‘click-and-mortar’ heavyweights Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Barnes and Noble, to name just a few. With the allocation and storehousing infrastructure in place, these retailers have an upper hand over their ‘brick-and-mortar’ counterparts.
As a result of going online, ‘click-and-mortar’ retailers have altered the path of their supply chain policy. They store high volume products with constant demand in local warehouses, while low-volume products are stored up centrally for online buying. The low-volume products have extremely volatile demand levels and thus need high levels of safety stock. Combined stocking in this case effectively mitigates ambiguities by accumulating demand across geographical place and thus minimises inventory levels.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, swimmingly includes this e-retailing in their supply chain through electronically empowered stock-refilling. This surpasses fill-rate and satisfies customers; these two things are essential in surviving today’s uncertain market. It has been at the foreground of stock refilling, giving buyers more than a 98-per cent opportunity of finding a full range of selection. Wal-Mart uses Retail Link, a software system that gives vendors in-vogue gateway to point-of-sale price and bulk information; moreover, emphasises Wal-Mart’s inventory positions and predicts future requirements.
Moreover, manufacturers and retailers prefer a direct course to consumers by closely examining individual customer’s likings, habits, and buying patterns. Now retailers do not wait for consumers to come to their stores, but they (retailers) send consumers target e-mails and offer deals too good to refuse. Quick and effective transfer of point-of-sale data through web-empowered technology makes this ‘automatic customer replenishing’ feasible as retailers begin to restore consumers’ closets, instead of their warehouses.
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