Digitalization is the integration of digital technologies into manufacturing processes. Each process that can be digitized in order to fundamentally transform the functioning of business, is being made to go through this advanced process. Ernst and Young, a global business consulting firm, dubs digitalization as “a step change even greater than the internet. The winners will act now and build a strategic advantage that leaves their counterparts wondering what happens.”
Anchored by the concept of Industry 4.0, some front runners of the apparel and fashion industry have already been walking on the path of digitalization while some others are still taking their first step. The buzzword of today is definitely the reality of tomorrow. But one needs to understood the reasons of this wave swamping the stakeholders of fashion and apparel industry across the world to be able to even appreciate the process.
Lectra, a leader in integrated technology solutions, organized a press conference at the recently concluded CISMA where it highlighted the trends driving the needs of fashion and apparel industry. Céline Choussy Bedouet, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Lectra and Andreas A. Kim, General Manager for Greater China, Lectra were the key note speakers at the conference. Andreas highlighted the younger generation of today, the millennials, who are driving the needs of the fashion industry and also emphasized on all developments today being market-driven and consumer-driven.
Celine briefed about the key enablers of Industry 4.0 in today’s world to remain in the game. “It is a need of today because of the scarcity of skilled labour and the constantly increasing needs of customization. Using Industry 4.0 compatible technologies, factories will be much more efficient and agile to deliver right products at the right price,” explained Céline.
It will also help factories to sustain in the competition. Besides, the necessity to innovate requires integration of the concept with design and manufacturing processes. Industry 4.0 is creating a new organization of factories’ ecosystems. Increasingly flexible with optimized resources, factories are propelling a new digitalized product lifecycle development process that will benefit consumers.
The importance of digitization is enhanced by a swarming generation which can be seen tapping on their mobile phones and finding solutions for almost everything digitally. This is the generation which comprises the largest chunk of consumers of fashion, today. Carrying a unique identity, these millennials do not settle for anything regular, but are the fashion influencers. These two billion millennials are predicted to account for 40% of all retail sales by 2020. Without doubt, the lifestyle and the needs of this generation influence the direction of fashion. And, the fashion needs of this young generation differ big time from previous generations.
Picking from the rack is old school for them, they need everything personalized and with a perfect fit giving them a unique style and enhancing their fashion quotient. Preferring quality over quantity, these youngsters want an ultimate brick-and-mortar and online experience. They won’t wait a month to buy a dress, but would like to instantly buy it. “Fashion’s new definition deciphered by them is FAD – Faster, Accessible and Different,” says Andreas. Looking at the demographics, a major proportion of this generation, that is, 86% of these people aged from 17-27 are in emerging countries.
Andreas also pointed out that e-commerce is another area which has eased the shopping experience. According to Euromonitor report, the online retail sales in China alone increased from 3.5% in 2011 to 21% in 2013. Céline further explained how the needs of millennials can be satisfied. “The apparel manufacturers need to be more efficient and productive. That’s why they need to invest in digitalization of product development and manufacturing processes to meet the demands of making faster, new products and in ways the consumers want to receive them,” she added.
Another step of evolution to satiate the personalization needs of millennials is ‘made-to-measure’. With advanced technology, digitization and automated solutions, the mass production of MTM model, or the concept of mass customization is now able to cover global customers. “Industry 4.0 will help fashion manufacturers combine different types of production models like mass production, mass customization and made-to-measure, enabling in profitable, large-scale personalized production with increased operational efficiency,” said Céline.
Overall connectivity and seamless flow of data between different stages of value chain ensures transparency among the chain. According to Mckinsey, a global consulting firm, the fourth industrial revolution is disrupting the value chain and requiring companies to rethink their way of doing business. Industry 4.0 in apparel industry reflects an interactive environment where it is possible to incorporate individual customer needs.
Following these trends, Andreas highlighted Lectra’s role in digital transformation. He informed, “Lectra’s mission is to empower brands, retailers and manufacturers by facilitating digital transformation, from design to product development and production with the help of its portfolio of innovative solutions and services.”
He also discussed about various solutions empowering apparel manufacturers to be Industry 4.0 ready such as Vector iQ, SaaS and Lectra Fashion PLM 4.0. Lectra Vector iQ series was introduced last year with two models – Vector Fashion iQ50 and Vector Fashion iQ80. These cutting solutions are equipped with more than 100 of sensors to collect data which can later be analyzed to provide insights to customers and support their growth.
To assist in the adoption of new technology by manufacturers, Lectra will introduce a subscription based model called SaaS (Software as a Service) in 2018 that lowers the cost of entry for manufacturers who are still not ready to make big investments..This software can be purchased on a subscription basis, or paid for according to usage. Updates and upgrades will be managed by the software provider.