Integrated Manufacturing Systems

Emerald Article: Quick response in the textile-apparel industry and the support of information technologies Cipriano Forza, Andrea Vinelli

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Quick response in the textile-apparel industry and the support of information technologies Cipriano Forza. but these orders are based on forecasts – both in terms of volume. six or eight months in advance. among other things. in particular the lack of widespread and consolidated company applications. of meetings that have taken place in Quick response strategy The strategic importance of QR A significant reduction in forecasting errors is the basic assumption which moulds QR strategy As the name itself implies. This improvement can be translated into an increase in company competitiveness and. organizational and contextual conditions relevant for QR? The paper aims at finding some answers to these questions. for the final consumer. on the considerations and experience of privileged operators in the sector. Andrea Vinelli Institute of Management and Engineering. and of managers of leading companies belonging to the various links in the textile-apparel chain. it can also have the effect of a reduction in prices. or. brings about changes both within the company (such as modifications to the organization or the production technologies) and outside it (such as an evolution in relations with the chain partners. Italy Underlines the importance of quick response strategy in the textile-apparel industry chain and presents some considerations concerning the organizational. In QR strategy. – which have to be far in advance of the actual events forecast. The success of QR initiatives. By now. management and technological conditions necessary for the achievement of this strategy . and highlights what changes have been made and the advantages gained. It is clear that – no matter how refined and correct the planning stage was – in a turbulent context. After presenting the significance and strategic importance of QR. stock breaks and merchandise sold as sale goods[3]. response times in the chain mean that the distributor has to make orders four. point of sales technology (POS) the only elements necessary in order to obtain QR? If not. in fact. the probabilities that these forecasts are an accurate photograph of reality as it is evolving are very low. Benetton and Coin. aim of QR can be considered the compression of response times by the various actors in the chain. Examines the conditions and elements which make quick response possible in the chain. in the production context). the conditions and the elements which make quick response possible in the chain are also examined. However. and on the other. the textile-apparel chain works in response to orders from the distributors. apparel and retailing companies such as Marzotto. product mix. The cost results are high costs of stock maintenance. Concludes that quick response is a timebased strategy which requires greater collaboration along the whole textile-apparel chain. some questions naturally emerge: what are the advantages? What kind of information is actually exchanged between the various actors implementing QR? Are electronic data interchange (EDI).2]. demand segmentation. Provides examples of the utilization of telecommunications in the textile-apparel industry. timespans involved. The findings of the paper are a result. An analysis of the role played by information technology in the interaction between the actors in the chain then follows. when a company in the textileapparel chain considers the possibility of adopting these technologies in order to obtain QR. etc. At the moment. Vicenza. Given the innovative nature of the problems analysed. the main . more generally. Levi Strauss Italia. Introduction This article intends to underline the importance of quick response strategy in the textile-apparel industry chain and also present some considerations concerning the organizational. the paper provides examples of the utilization of telecommunications in the textile-apparel industry. Quick response (QR) strategy acts on the single phases/activities throughout the entire chain – right from the producers of yarn up to the sales outlets – with the aim of reducing the time spans that elapse from the textile design stage to the purchasing of the garments by the final consumer. University of Padova. Analyses the role played by information technology in the interaction between the actors in the chain. Finally. the course of the last two years with the managers of leading textile. what are the other technological. time compression is seen as a goal on the one hand. bar codes. the research methodology used is based on first-hand knowledge. Traditionally. this operative system is firmly rooted in the culture of the companies in this Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 © MCB University Press [ISSN 0957-6061] [ 125 ] . management and technological conditions necessary for its achievement. as an instrument for the improvement of company performance in terms of efficiency and the level of service offered. and highlights what changes have been made and the advantages gained. in fact. Information technologies and telecommunications constitute one of the means which can be exploited by textile-apparel companies for the improvement of time performance[1.

by means of a collaborative vision in which all the actors are ready to exchange – in an interdependent way – information concerning sales. Benefits and advantages of QR The strategic advantages deriving from the application of QR. however. the distribution – operate by seeking to acquire maximum efficiency. it does not favour an overall vision of the chain. Moreover. are numerous. It is considerations of this type that have been the catalyst for the complete rethink to which the operation logic of the textileapparel sector has been subjected in the last few years and which can be summarized as the quick response approach. it contradicts the growing importance given to aspects of customer service. short-term forecasting. The examples of the above are experiences common to all of us in our role as customers in the sector. Second. by offering the right product in the right place at the right time. in that it is based on up-to-date sales information. Third. are firmly established. the succession of these events. but on a different mixed logic in which certain production phases can be based on reliable. and garments and finally. as well as the compression of overall lead time.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 sector. as has now been shown in several different company contexts. the proactive role of the final customer. First. We do not always manage to find what we actually need. orders and stocks[1. and only very rarely does what we are offered derive from our precise and specific requests. QR is a Figure 1 The actors in the textile apparel chain [ 126 ] . has had a strengthening effect on this whole operative system. seems on the whole to contradict two important characteristics of presentday competitive strategy . because it decreases. In the light of what has been said. in a QR approach. textiles. and which emphasizes the collaboration between all the members of this chain. or better still to exhaust customer demand by making it possible for the customer to decide what he/she wants. such as trade fairs. This operational mode of the chain. to the point where the times and events which regulate the normal functioning of the chain. the reduced overall risk is shared in a different and more homogeneous way between all the individual players. the whole value chain system[5] no longer operates on the basis of a logic which hinges on orders from a downstream player well in advance of the event (see final distributor).2]. when this is defined as a value chain system. time-based competitive strategy which focuses on the time compression of the value operative chains. exhibitions. In fact. individual subsystems – the production of yarn. QR is an extension of the JIT philosophy in that it is applied to the entire operative chain system. On the other hand. With advance orders of six months or more. the adoption of QR makes it possible to achieve a considerable improvement in the “…We do not always manage to find what we actually need. and only very rarely does what we are offered derive from our precise and specific requests…” Second. the presentation of collections and sample collections. in their rigid temporal sequence. this operational mode of the chain also implies a very unhomogeneous and unbalanced distribution of the risks between the actors which is to the disadvantage of the final distributor. from the textile producer to the final customer (see Figure 1). it clearly emerges that first the application of QR strategies produces an overall fall in entrepreneurial risk along the whole chain. but. The functionality of the chain is based on the optimization of operations at a local level with each individual actor acting in a totally independent way Each of the . the sum of individual efficiency maximums does not correspond to the maximum efficiency of the whole system (see productivity paradox[4]). it becomes slightly ridiculous to hope to satisfy the expectations of the final customer completely. due to the fact that decisions can be taken much closer to the event. when it does not actually negate it.

requests for reassortment. Even if there is not a completely vertically integrated cycle. QR between Milliken (textiles). Penney (retail distribution) for the production and distribution of clothing has brought about a 59 per cent increase in sales. In terms of specific company realities. a 90 per cent increase in the warehouse turnover. In 1994 Marzotto Group exceeded 1. material availability. management. The companies which constitute the group cover many phases of the transformation cycle of the natural fibres (wool. or rather as an excellent scheduling system which “keeps production in line” with distribution. The order management cycle in relation to every individual actor in the chain – in the characteristic phases of collection.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 level of service at the sales outlet (see final customer in the chain) without compromising the variety of products offered. the relations with telecommunication support can be classified in a sliding scale from the traditional types of relation in which only the order is exchanged to the more advanced ones. Or again. In particular. QR between Burlington (fabric). textiles and clothing. stock. waste and opportunity costs. the order management cycle seems to be a fundamental process in which the need for information integration between actors involved – both upstream and downstream – in the value operative chain system is growing. placing it among the major producers in the world in the textile-apparel chain. Levi Strauss Italia. In fact. completeness and reliability of the information transmitted.). regarding both input and output. Oxford (garments) and J. • exchange of administrative documents (invoices. To cite some specific examples. it can guarantee the full satisfaction of customer expectations. More specifically. elaboration. in fact. wool and cotton) and for every segment of the chain (yarn. in terms of service and personalization. delivery notes. For every type of fibre produced (linen. Where QR has been achieved between textile producers. for example. Seminole (clothing) and Wal Mart (retail distribution) when applied to the production of trousers. has meant a 31 per cent increase in sales and a 30 per cent reduction in stocks.). once it is working at capacity. clothing manufacturers and distributors. and • exchange of information of a commercial and logistic type (price lists. Tables I-IV show some examples of how these telecommunication systems/services are used by leading textile. despatch and payment – represents a set of operations in which significant benefits are produced by the use of telecommunications. etc. In a long-term prospect. sales levels. timeliness. apparel and retailing companies such as Marzotto. the concrete results have been an increase in sales up to 50 per cent…” Thus. “…Where QR has been achieved between textile producers. textiles and clothing). and in which the new telecommunication services are beginning to be used effectively . linen and cotton) from raw materials to the finished article. produced increases in the ROA of around 7-12 per cent for the distributors and of 6-13 per cent for the producers. The Marzotto Group operates in three different businesses: yarn. transmission. etc. The latter are characterized by high levels of reciprocal services. Kurt Salmon Associates calculate that the adoption of QR. the activities are organized as completely autonomous and independent businesses. in the face of the growing variety and variability of customer expectations and preferences – which imply ever wider product ranges which are offered to an ever more segmented clientèle – paradoxically only the “made-to-order” garment will simultaneously be able to satisfy the two above-mentioned requirements. clothing manufacturers and distributors. in terms of elimination of risk. the integration which is made possible by telecommunications produces. because only part of the upstream process output is used internally in the downstream processes. QR can be seen as an efficient information system. the information exchanged electronically concerns: • product order.400 million US dollars. Benetton and Coin. There are several studies available today which emphasize the advantages deriving from the application of QR strategies. and on the other. there is nevertheless strong Information technologies and telecommunications in the textileapparel industry The role and support of information technologies and telecommunications The new information technologies represent a fundamental support in company [ 127 ] . and a 50 per cent decrease in forecasting error[2]. with an increase in sales at retail levels of 20-40 per cent. an overall picture in real time of the different activities of the various actors which are interested in the same operative process. On the one hand. preparation. the concrete results have been an increase in sales up to 50 per cent together with a simultaneous drop in the maintenance of stocks which is estimated at between 20 and 40 per cent[6]. maximum efficiency.C.

size. completed order consignment. messages. new customers. content: article colour. accounting information. information requests. variation of active customers. invoices. messages Levi Strauss Italia: transmission and order and invoice acceptance Levi Strauss Italia: messages and commercial information. commission invoices Marzotto: order collection Levi Strauss Italia: sales per article size. replacement orders. state of order advancement. customer credit situation. packaging list (number of boxes. colour instructions (for garments ordered in grey yarn) From: Agent To: Company (production) Table IV Telecommunication links between in-house distribution and customers/agents From: Agent To: Company (distribution point) Benetton: copy of orders Levi Strauss Italia: replacement orders both for the present season and for the future one.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 Table I Telecommunication links with suppliers From: Company (production) To: Suppliers From: Suppliers To: Company (production) From: Suppliers To: Company (distribution point) Benetton: operative instructions for customer product packaging Levi Strauss Italia: orders Benetton: packing list per article-customer-boxes Levi Strauss Italia: electronic packing list Table II Telecommunication links with design and manufacturing process From: Design/industrialization To: Company (production) Benetton: “Boxes”: that is. article files. price lists. modification of bar code catalogue Marzotto: warehouse loading slips. relative production order). request to point labels for contract workers Marzotto: despatch lists for invoicing Benetton: orders. article data. packing lists. etc. invoices to subsidiary companies Levi Strauss Italia: order advancement state. general stock situation. order confirmation. updating of product register. price lists.) Marzotto: product technical data Table III Telecommunication links between production and the distribution network From: Company (production) To: Company (distribution point) Benetton: customer data. availability of merchandise at sales point Marzotto: work order production advancement Benetton: despatch advancement. label printing. inventory adjustments. copies of customer invoices Levi Strauss Italia: monthly need over 12 months. data for preparation of invoices and commission From: Customer/sales point To: Company (distribution point) From: Company (distribution point) To: Organized distribution From: Company (distribution point) To: Agent [ 128 ] . order situation (state of advancement per order/article). production advancement check. knowing product cut and size (from the pattern design system to the development of the size. customer despatch slips From: Company (production) To: Agent From: Company (production) To: Customer/sales point From: Company (distribution point) To: Company (production) Benetton: customer files. daily take. production order per size.

The product offered is closely tied to style and seasonal factors (80 per cent of sales). it seems that the effects of IT on the evolution of the textile-apparel industry are not easily forseeable. the product mix responds to the needs and expectations of the customer in more targeted and precise way . Italy The Group’s consolidated rev. and the advertising campaign. The “optimal” order is suggested to the shopkeeper (who then is responsible for accepting or modifying it) on the basis of the information about sales in that shop and in comparison with the sales in other similar sales points. In such a widespread situation. European sales are over 1. the possibility to communicate between the various units was one of the priority requirements in the definition of the information systems. Coin operates 40 stores directly while a further 40 franchise operations are located throughout Italy The Group’s consolidated revenues in . but perfumes. whenever there are stock leftovers which are needed by another shop. integration from the logistical point of view is sought. which were sold through 8. adopting IT reduces internal co-ordination and control costs. This could favour the adoption of a more hierarchical organizational model. The above examples suggest that knowledge of the sales data in real time allows the clothing manufacturing companies first to find out which product is doing best. The Benetton Group is a world-class company in the design. This vital need has made Levi a pioneering company in the area of EDI. and only a minimum part (20 per cent of sales) has the characteristics of continuity in the selections. In the course of 1994 the company prepared almost 5. Levi’s European general offices are in Brussels – which controls European production of the “core business” (denim. The headquarters are at Ponzano Veneto. is a multinational organization operating in the casual clothing sector targeting primarily youth. to know the stock situation in all the shops and to suggest exchange of merchandise between shops. Information technology makes it easier to communicate. and on the other. Production plants are located in several European countries. and therefore to find out market tendencies in an aggregated way Second. the sales data are used to suggest to the shopkeeper what to order. In the light of what has been said. Italy is one of the top four branches in the world. (Benetton. On the one hand.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 integration. 1994 exceeded 860 million US dollars. Treviso. thus favouring the move [ 129 ] . Both the definition of the items for each collection. Eighty per cent of production is carried out by outside contractors who are linked to Benetton through relationships that have been established over the years. The Group marketing philosophy is founded on the early recognition of increasingly personalized customer requirements which are met by a “shop within a shop” strategy Current . office to “know” the shop. Telecommunication services and value operative system integration From the examples and analysis above. women and children. manufacture and distribution of apparel for men. Every sales and distribution outlet is responsible for following the local market. The invoices of the Italian branch exceed 380 million US dollars with sales of over 10 million garments. it becomes clear that improvements are possible in terms of the service offered: on the one hand. Benetton produced more than 80 million items of clothing in 1994. share information and respond quickly to shifts in demand. both jeans and tops) – and sales locations and distribution in most European countries.000 people are employed for a total sales of over six thousand million US dollars in 1994.700 million US dollars for about 60 million garments sold. The Coin Group is one of the largest Italian retail distributors in the non-food sector.238 points of sale in more than 100 countries. 0-12). A total of about 35. or at least one which is vertically structured.000 models for its various collections. transaction costs are also reduced. Nevertheless. Third. Sisley. commercial distribution and planning and control of the production by outside contractors are all co-ordinated centrally . The stores in Benetton’s sales network are managed by independent entrepreneurs who sell the company’s products. home furnishings and household goods in general are also present. Levi Strauss & Co. enues in 1994 exceeded 1. These came from its 35 factories which have been set up all over the world. Market presence is carefully controlled by strategically differentiating the products sold in each segment.800 million US dollars and generated a net profit of 140 million US dollars. it is clear that telecommunication links assume an important role[7] in communication between operative value chains of the actors in the chain. In terms of units sold and invoiced. This figure makes Levi the world’s largest clothing business. it allows the head . that is. the risk of stock breaks or lack of merchandise for the shelves is reduced to a minimum. as well as all possible synergies in the various production phases. In addition. above all in terms of organizational culture. commodities are for the most part clothing. On the other. The head offices are in San Francisco.

which has always been based on supply and replacement orders. thus overriding the traditional communicative sequence between players in the chain. time and costs[16]. manufacturers’ response times are too long and require advance ordering of three to six months. where they have been installed. both operative and strategic. The sales data which are collected and transmitted from the POS systems. At the moment. accurate and bidirectional flow of information to and from all the partners in the chain (see Figure 2). The electronic integration of production and purchasing with suppliers offers significant advantages in relation to stability. “…production-distribution-customer integration permits the reduction of outflow uncertainty and variability and makes it possible to achieve greater response speed…” With this approach. QR is much more than this. A commonplace to avoid is to reduce the conception of QR strategy to the mere improvement of the order cycle due to the use of EDI and to other communication technologies. although it remains obvious that – no matter how refined and correct the design phase was – in the end it is the fashion that makes the market. completely incompatible with the present response times of the majority of garment producers. This reality is easy to understand when one compares the times involved with fashion/seasonal products: the use of electronic methods for the automatic transmission of information would not have significant advantages in the textile-apparel sector as it is structured today. the electronic integration of the design function with the production phases of suppliers (i. In order to compress the timespans between the various phases of the value operative chains. or rather a precise. but also the production systems. in fact. The volume and mix flexibility which could be requested by the market is. and supply relations. As has been said. but they cannot help to remedy the situation. The first concerns the realization of what is known as the information pipeline. the length of which is typically several months. but also deep-seated and radical changes in the design and production logics and the times involved typical to this chain. if the forecasts and assortment decided on turned out to be very distant from customer expectations. both as regards quantity and price. or information flows in general. production-distribu. as previously stated. network solutions or forms of value-adding partnership[9-11]. and implies not only investments in technologies/telecommunications. The achievement of QR The areas for intervention The growing relevance. The value-adding partnership emphasizes the collaboration and co-operation relations between players. contributes to the growing integration between the different value-operative chains[12-15]. The innovation introduced by QR is linked to the attempt to speed up the physical and information flow in both directions. of information technologies and telecommunications in the textile-apparel sector should not lead to false conclusions.e. since it operates six months in advance. make it possible to find out in real time how the sales are going. The establishment of new relations within the chain. every upstream player) and with customers (every downstream player) has positive effects on the improvement of quality and the reduction of costs. is the distributor able to assess how the situation is really evolving and how “good” those choices made so many months ago actually were.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 towards production decentralization and the market[8]. Thanks to the use of telecommunication technologies/services. the information exchanged acquires greater value compared [ 130 ] . but their adoption does not necessarily imply the achievement of QR. reliability and flow quality at entry Finally. Only when the seasonal campaign has started and the market gives the first signs of response. In particular. three relevant areas for modification are: information exchange. This therefore explains the need to modify not only the order management system. the product. information technologies have a fundamental role in the realization of QR strategy. the adoption of technologies and telecommunications produces positive effects on numerous performance areas such as quality. based on the telecommunication exchange of information. and a time reduction of a few days (three to four) through the adoption of EDI would not be significant. thus obtaining the co-ordination and economies of scale associated with large integrated companies and the flexibility and low overhead typical of small companies[11]. and the production and supply cycle. The diffusion of IT seems also to facilitate co-operative organizational models. tion-customer integration permits the reduction of outflow uncertainty and variability and makes it possible to achieve greater response speed[17]. in order to compress the time needed in the transformation phases.

The risk. price reduction or sale promotion. do not have an MRP system. Therefore the real supply response times for yarns and textiles impede the replenishment of fashion articles in times acceptable to the market. emerges as a formidable competitive weapon. Fashion articles must be available on the shelves with minimum error as regards both quantity as well as range. as has already been shown in the electronics and car industries. that the exchange must be extended to all the actors in the chain. above all clothing manufacturers. Second. carrying out QR is more difficult for fashion products compared to basic or continuing products. presented at a level which is suitable for aggregation. is to incur a significant incidence of “lost sales” on potential sales because of inventory depletion or. other conditions being equal. less out-of-date. Figure 3 highlights that fashion articles have a useful selling period very much lower Figure 3 Different shelf-life for different products than that for basic or seasonal articles. so its shelf-life decreases. The increasing importance and the diffusion of EDI standards makes a partnership founded on information exchange technologically possible. supplied through an electronic support and in a standard form. In fact. Several studies have shown that as the fashion element of the product increases. it is generally too risky even for producers to stock yarns and textiles. It should be emphasized. It can thus be understood how QR offers the maximum advantage in the case of fashion products. however. many small-to-medium companies. Nevertheless. Even today.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 Figure 2 Information pipeline in the operative chain system to traditional situations because it tends to be more integrated into the decisional process. in the case of fashion products. The adoption of QR requires changes in the manufacturing planning and control systems (MCPS). because the procurement times for yarns and textiles are much longer. This latter result. The other two areas needing modification in order to put QR strategy into practice concern operations regarding the product and the production and supply cycle. Greater speed of transformation and different methods of supply call for greater rationalization starting from the design phase. the speeding up of the design cycle can also be achieved. This is doubly important since. and is more accurate and reliable. it becomes necessary for every player in the chain to be provided with an information system. bearing in mind the tendency today for there to be a larger number of collections. computer-based systems must be designed in an integrated manner to accelerate planning and support manufacturing and distribution along the [ 131 ] . in fact. In the first place. in the event of not selling. It is important to remember that the shelflife of clothing products depends greatly on their fashion content. together with the speeding up of the order cycle.

the principal technological component is UPS. 2 Unitary production systems (UPS) which are more suitable for the upper part of a range and small batches[21]. a process of technological and cultural transformation is in [ 132 ] . manufacturing and production times. Technological variables QR aims to speed up all the processes of the textile-apparel chain and not only the process of order management completion. the dyeing systems in the textile sector. for example. The time cycle is one day on average. and with a notable reduction in employee absenteeism[23]. overall production increases by approximately 10-15 per cent with about a 40 per cent saving in occupied space.20]. and is based on total quality control and worker involvement. precise shopfloor control techniques. Research by the Apparel Research Committee has shown that modular production reduces waiting time by about 800 times compared to traditional production in functional departments. will force the manufacturers to rethink the operative logics and the use of the dyeing machines that are employed today To . on the other hand. time and quality Early antici. openness to the downstream players who are directly interested in the order status.21]. methods and time employed in the planning and production of yarn. should guarantee more frequent re-planning. In a general sense. According to many experts. costs and require huge changes both inside the company and in company relations with its partners and with the environment in which it operates. This means that during the design process people should be included who are involved not only in different company functions. this requires not only the reduction in order management times but also in design[24]. in the USA many companies are investing a great deal in the application of new dyeing and weaving methods and in the use of CAD-CAM. which are characterized by strong seasonal and variable demand. The most appropriate solution requires cell modular type production systems. for example. the object is to reduce the reorder response time as far as possible. fabrics and clothing phases are needed. QR also requires the attainment of flexible production methods on the part of the clothing companies. The nature of the garment being manufactured has a great influence on the setting up of the most appropriate VAM system. by trying. and. In addition to this. current dyeing and printing processes represent bottlenecks in the realization of the physical pipeline required by QR. VAM requires a new work organization. based on the multifunctionality and motivation of production cell workers[20. The types of flexible production which can be adopted are the following: 1 Modular production (or cells) where a group of multifunctional operators are responsible for the entire assembly or subassembly of a garment[19. it seems that the realization of QR will require innovation in the planning and scheduling systems. In the area of design. The American Apparel Manufacturing Association has recognized in value added management (VAM). sum up. radical changes in the logics.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 chain. For basic product lines. to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new design technologies (CADCAE). but also in different companies[18]. and the introduction of more flexible systems for garment production. and thus to combine the easy availability of fabrics and materials with the preferences of the different market segments that they will serve. The conditions and constraints for QR It is undeniable that the introduction of QR can produce enormous advantages and/or improvement opportunities for the companies in the textile-apparel sector. where it is important to minimize the capital invested in semi-finished supplies. The various MPCS system packages. VAM uses both modular production techniques and unit production systems. To intervene on the phases correlated to the physical flow essentially concerns the possibility to develop the “right” product for the “right” market segments. pation of problems and constraints. to some extent. but greater organizational and cultural investment[21]. even considering the diversity of business environments. with the minimum amount of chemical waste and with special fabrics. the integration of design with production also produces advantages in terms of costs. Nevertheless. Therefore. For fashion lines. it is therefore necessary to analyse certain conditions and/or constraints both internal and external to the company These conditions have very high . and increased satisfaction of customer needs are achieved through the pursuit of interfunctional design. To obtain QR. which require lower financial commitment. the managerial approach to reduce waste and increase the percentage of production time which generates value[22]. availability of adequate forecasting models. for QR initiatives to be successful. It is probable that the need to operate with small batches.

and to redefine traditional roles. In fact. This change in production launching criteria becomes possible if the variety of yarns and/or fabrics is reduced and the information coming from phases downstream is used effectively If applied. without excess stock in the warehouse. both of managers and researchers who have seen and studied the introduction of information/telecommunication technologies. developed and transferred to machines for the printing of fabrics. technological innovation as a substitution factor). including some types of weaving that are impossible with traditional methods. telecommunications have reduced the importance of the “middle manager” in the area of external relations. on anticipated orders and not only “to order”. whenever the type of product desired allows this. in the fairly near future. where the use of interactive telecommunication systems coincides with the reduction of external sales personnel. without diminishing the creativity of the designer. but also for more complex decisions. since they have to process the information and have direct control over operations (see technological innovation as a transformation/role-enriching factor). Certain companies have highlighted the fact that the adoption of telecommunication services both requires and causes organizational changes. Nowadays. by locating warehouses in upstream phases. allowing shorter delivery times. it also seems certain that. Fabric delivery time can be dropped from the typical 120 days of fibre dyeing to 30 days using piece dyeing and to 60 days using yarn dyeing. they affect the whole organization of the company It is the view . all the phases of the transformation process from fibre into fabric. An even larger cultural jump is that of the growing importance of the ability to industrialize the product. It is also noteworthy that possible forecasting errors in the upstream phase are less serious than those downstream since the products are more fungible. fewer personnel are needed in order to achieve information exchanges in commercial-productive interaction (cf. so that useful support is gained for routine decision making. but also technical systems. A good example of this (it is in an advanced experimental stage) is the simulation of clothing test. Whenever the adoption of these communication technologies is accompanied by the necessary organizational changes – at all possible levels of action – and is properly integrated with the existing information system. or better still. This reduces the global value of warehouses and increases their fungibility. thus making it necessary to define new professional figures. Organizational variables The internal company conditions which are most binding in the process of adopting QR seem to of the cultural-organizational type. the designs) will be transferred from the design stations directly to the production stations. The weaver and the producer of yarn must operate systematically and “according to forecast”. dyeing can be done in the advanced production phases. it is firmly established that good results can be obtained by the adoption of information technologies and telecommunications. reducing both the risks of unsold stock and the need to resort to clearance sales. A further condition for the application of QR is better understanding of the colouring processes and a stricter control of all its aspects on the part of textile chemists. and the dyeing and printing phases present the biggest opportunities for innovation in the face of the growing environmental constraints[26]. In quantitative terms. changes in the typical methods of the decision-making process occur.e. To shorten the dyeing process lead time. In fact. If. Moreover. these two . The work on new methods of dyeing and weaving and on CAD-CAM systems is particularly interesting in that it makes it possible to respond more quickly both for continuative products and for fashion products[25]. In addition to the technological adjustment of the dyeing equipment. faster access to greater quantities of [ 133 ] . The new dyeing and weaving plants allow greater flexibility as regards the type of fabric and the designs that can be produced. which is carried out using instruments based on the theory of elastic deformation. a radical change is imposed on the modes of operation and in the distribution of risks between the various actors in the supply chain. digital designs will be exchangeable between machines all over the world and the projects (i. The influence of this is very relevant in marketing. that this adoption modifies the whole work process. they have reinforced the role of managers in the head office. however.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 progress which is modifying the way in which designs are conceived. The production systems also need changing in order to adapt to the response times required by QR. management attitudes and company roles: in short. actions permit a reduction in forecasting risk. These changes due to the introduction of new technologies do not only affect operational procedures.

through centralized and co-ordinated elaboration between the various company functions. etc. even if this is still only at a perceptive level. Nevertheless. affiliation between sales outlets through licensing and franchising. limited authorization for access to personnel. As far as the role of information technologies is concerned. The achievement of an interactive information exchange between the textile manufacturer. there is considerable difficulty in defining de jure standards or in achieving de facto standards which can be universally useful. There is also the fear that other outside organizations could gain access to confidential data. often made. As far as the distribution counterpart is concerned. and should know what benefits can be obtained as well as the size of the investment. In particular. and should know what benefits can be obtained as well as the size of the investment…” It can thus be stated that an indispensable condition for the successful adoption of telecommunication services is that management should be properly informed on the subject of EDI. As regards this last aspect of the problem. in fact. which have been catalysed and caused by information-telecommunication exchanges. the growth of structures and logics which are correlated to so-called “modern commerce” (large-scale distribution. purchasing groups. the “technical” objections that are most responsible for the inertia and resistance to change. however. “…management should be properly informed on the subject of EDI. above all. which demonstrates that the establishment of information exchanges through telecommunication is made easier when the partners have good organizational capacities and the perception of both the problematic aspects and the current state of competitiveness between them and/or when one of the partners has a guiding role. This simple statement encapsulates the complexity of a change which needs the determination and involvement of all the partners if it is to become reality . mention should be made of Editex which represents a very important initiative towards greater definition and standardization in the textile-apparel industry . in many of the companies analysed: de facto standards cannot develop because of the lack of diffusion of EDI.and inter-company activities. It is not. Still on the subject of the external context. there are several technical solutions which already exist and ensure a full guarantee as regards the above-mentioned problems: EDI systems constructed in order to prevent direct contact between computers in different companies. the garment manufacturer and the distributor means that information coming from the downstream phases of the operative chain can be dealt with in real time. There is the feeling that a widespread use of telecommunications makes information exchanges unsafe in that they can easily be intercepted and manipulated. so that the problem of “bounded rationality” is reduced. perception of what the applications and potential of telecommunications might be. Company experience demonstrates the contrary: that the adoption of telecommunication services favours and indeed requires greater integration in both intra. This contradicts the statement. of the most appropriate purchasing and sales strategies in terms of each single reference for each customer. The examples cited refer.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 information is obtained and. but it is often only latent in small-sized companies of which there are many in the very fragmented textile-apparel sector. to telecommunication links between manufacturers and distributors of a “privileged” type. the managers in mediumto large-size manufacturers which have invested in these technologies seem now to have a broader vision of telecommunications and its potential. and EDI cannot develop because of the lack of standardization. adjustment of laws as regards the legal status of documents that are transmitted electronically. this “information park” can be adapted to the information needs of the decision maker. and also that data are less controllable as regards authorization and the legality of documents that are transmitted. Context variables The establishment of new relations between players in the chain. that the obstacles to the diffusion of telecommunication services also originate from the reduction in interpersonal contact. data encoding. organized distribution.) should aid the overcoming of the organizational and cultural barrier which still today presents obstacles to information integration. but rather fear of the impact on the roles and the company functions that has been discussed above. etc. as far as the prerequisites or the constraints concerning the technical adoption of both EDI and bar coding of references and packages. and the limited and/or distorted [ 134 ] . is basic to the achievement of QR. for EDI the rather limited diffusion seems to derive from a vicious circle.

(Eds). relations with the final customers. 6 Haworth. but not easy. flexible-modular systems for garment production. 1990. [ 135 ] . “International competitiveness. Belgium. precision and certainty in data transfer. C. 500-10. “Quick response in soft lines”. Industrial Engineering and Management Press.M. pp. as well as an in-depth analysis of current processes. D. can be summarized as follows. T. Poupart. January 1989. R. seasonal. both within and without the company An illustration of this can be found . Even though ultimately QR must be the common aim towards which all the companies in the chain should work. in Lessard. Electronic Trading in Distribution Executive Conference. and comparing them with the new operative modalities which are becoming more widespread with the introduction of these new technologies into companies[28].. Edosomwan. and the expectations and habits of the customers. if one considers the numerousness and diversity of the actors involved – in their aims. and Smith. from the yarn manufacturer. where the relations between telecommunications and integration strategies reinforce each other (cf... (Eds). M. and new design systems in the garment and textile sectors[27]. The adoption of information technologies and telecommunications brings advantages such as the reduction of document transfer times between companies. R. fashion). independently of their role or the product they produce or distribute in the chain (basic/continuative. innovative systems for textile dyeing. the fabric manufacturer. “A contingency model of EDI’s impact on industry sectors”. both demands and favours the full use of telecommunications. 4 Sink. in terms of the variety of products offered. NY.L.. Vol. operative methods. Irwin.S. This is possible. In order to achieve this very difficult aim. 3 Frazier.. one aim of company planning must be to find a new system which modifies its activities and its traditional way of performing these activities. QR is a time-based strategy which requires greater collaboration along the whole textileapparel chain. and Hout. 3. 1 No. serious business process re-engineering is necessary. New York. 1990. However. R. and Sink. IL. 1993. Journal of Strategic Information Systems. R. D. 42-9.. “virtuous circle”). and if the adoption process is to be successful it has to overcome the “friction” inherent to every process of change.. in terms of creating links between the various activities and decisions. it can be said that the operative strategy of QR could use the opportunities offered by modern technologies to redesign the processes of the entire textile-garment chain. Dordrecht. New Information Technology and Industrial Change: The Italian Case. Thus. Discount Merchandiser. 1988. J. the application of QR today seems to be easier in the case of basic/continuative products. La Hulpe. and roles within the chain – and the complex “culture” of the textile-clothing sector. such as the definition of planning and scheduling systems integrated downstream.E.. Norcross. 1980. To sum up. the choices and behaviour of the guiding companies within the chain seem to be fundamental. D. 9 Locke. in that it is a strategy that makes it possible to increase company competitiveness. J. The technological and organizational impact which this produces is enormous. “Quick response in textile”. pp. Competitive Strategy. C. Napoli. New York.Cipriano Forza and Andrea Vinelli Quick response in the textileapparel industry and the support of information technologies Integrated Manufacturing Systems 8/3 [1997] 125–136 Concluding observations The results of this study. as has been shown through the examples presented here.D. C.G. NY. GA. D. the garment manufacturer through to the distributor. purchasing procedures. 143-51. Homewood.A. in Sumanth. prerequisites and constraints. 2 Blackburn. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. since the obstacles to overcome in order to achieve competitiveness through quick response are numerous. 5 Porter. and Antonelli. Time Based Competition. J. 1994. and the elimination of document insertion time in company information systems. such as information technologies and telecommunications using the bar code and scanner systems. The Free Press. 1991. The Free Press.M.J. 8 Antonelli. Productivity and Quality Management Frontiers. The operative integration of the players in the chain.S. and Antonelli. J. but also through the innovative management of the “physical flow”. Editoriale Scientifica. a key requirement in QR. and an increase in reliability. Hence. technological change and organizational innovation: strategy and structure of the Italian apparel industry in the 1980s”. Managing the Globalisation of Business. QR strategy is achieved not only through the support of innovative technologies oriented to the management of the “information flow”. which has analysed QR strategy and the role played by information technology and telematics in the realization of this. “Performance linkages: understanding the role of planning measurement and evaluation in large scale organizational change”.. 1990. G. The complexity of the process of change is also very high because of the necessary acceptance of a series of conditions. Competing Against Time.. 7 Clarke. References 1 Stalk.

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