There is one thing that the pandemic COVID-19 seems to have changed in business – the traditional approach of doing it. The digital solutions have become even more significant than ever and it’s imperative for factories to see a complete integration of processes within the entire manufacturing supply chain instead of deploying technologies (especially software) as individual projects in different areas of the factory without having them connected/integrated altogether. Datatex, a leader in innovative ERP technology, has seen ups and downs in this tough time, but has emerged strongly with its strong business model, on-point technology, strong customer base, and willingness to provide support to its clients from remote locations.
Apparel Resources gets in conversation with Ronnie Hagin, Group CEO, Datatex, to know how the company is defying odds to see normalcy in its business now.
What changes do you see in the apparel industry post-pandemic? What will be the ‘new normal’ for the entire apparel supply chain?
Ronnie: This is a very difficult question, as the virus is still here, restrictions are consistently in force, and no global exit plan is available. I believe supply chains will become shorter, meaning less links to reduce dependency, so we will see more manufacturers creating their own brands, and more cut and sew will be integrated with the textile products. The textile manufacturers will start cut and sew, and also cut and sew manufacturers will start producing textiles. These trends started before I had a feeling that things will take a faster turn as risks are becoming bigger (see order cancellations) and margins are becoming smaller.
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Has Datatex been impacted due to pandemic? What were your efforts to defy odds like COVID-19?
Ronnie: Of course, like the entire textile industry which we serve, we too have been largely affected. Our interesting position of being global gave us the opportunity to observe and experience the different ways Governments managed the situation, helped the industry (or did not), and helped businesses like us to serve the industry. Differences are huge but aggregation of all allowed Datatex to continue supporting our customers whose production never stopped, to support customers who had to change overnight to producing PPE, to start implementation at new customers and also to continue with our development efforts making sure our products are in the front line of technology supporting all new requirements of the industry.
Datatex is very proud not to have let even one team member go, and to have maintained our staff, making sure we come out of the crisis stronger than we came in.
Needless to say, the web nature of our products allowed us to seamlessly execute these activities from our offices or home offices, with customers at home or at site.
Please highlight the role of digitisation of supply chain in the new reality. Why the adoption of digital technologies has become more significant than ever?
Ronnie: Digitisation of the industry has been at the top of our objective priority in the past years, so we are the right partner at the right time allowing customers to expedite these processes. With business being conducted from far, meetings over the net and some executives working far from the manufacturing sites, this is essential.
Companies need to make sure that shop floor transactions are digital and are in the main ERP in real time accessible to all authorised remote users.
Supply chain nodes such as customers, suppliers, commission work suppliers, converters must all have access to systems in order to manage the processes with minimum face-to-face interactions, making a stronger need for fast, condensed and accurate information to be available.
And once done, the most important benefit of digitisation is the ability to process the information planned and collected to apply sophisticated optimisation and AI models in order to improve customer service and bottom line. Datatex has invested time and resources to get our customers to that point with remarkable results.
How can Industry 4.0 concept be integrated to ERP in order to help virtualise production process? How strong is Datatex in this?
Ronnie: The process of integrating IoT and Industry 4.0 is a must for any ERP to function effectively. Schedules need to be updated with real results in real time; and stock availability, allowing schedules to be run based on actual information is needed.
Real-time shop floor information is essential as well as seamless; connectivity both with customers and suppliers allows fast, accurate and more efficient information exchange. This way, the best available information can be presented to managers at decision making time.
Quick reaction to market needs is one aspect by which lead time of factories can be reduced. How is Datatex helping manufacturers in enhancing this?
Ronnie: This is done both by means of automating all communication with the customers electronically via the web in real-time while applying advanced planning and scheduling logic to calculate and communicate accurate delivery schedules. Tracking of production then provides customers with updated information such as the status of production, deliveries and shipping.
Social distancing is the new norm and physical quality auditing/checking by buyers at vendors’ end will see a halt. What is distance Quality Measurement System? How can software technology like yours help in distant quality assurance?
Ronnie: Opportunity is both in providing multiple online test results at all stages within the process and allowing visibility of the full traceability of raw materials throughout the supply chain. This is already a requirement for recycling audits which can be done electronically better than any manual system available. These online recycling audits are helpful in identifying the authenticity of recycled fabrics. If a brand wants to claim that it is using recycled fabric, it is imperative to know the complete detail while receiving recycled fabrics from textile mills.
It means fibre level information is required at the fabric level or at the garment level. This information is tracked from start (at fibre level) to end (at fabric/garment level), and is then provided online with the help of our ‘Lot Management’ tool. This whole process uses two-way tracking – from the origin of recycled fibre lot to finished fabric or finished fabric until the origin of the lot. This is quite significant information to know in recycling audits and we do it online without any hassle.
The test results can be collected and presented both from test laboratories and for tests conducted on the shop floor.
In addition, presentation and calculation of the full defect map of every piece produced are available, also to be used in the future for cut optimisation facilities. This is predominantly for fabric inspection. Datatex has fabric inspection software that maintains defect data of fabric lot at fabric mill’s end before dispatch. The fabric inspection is done using a standard process like a 4-point checking system.
Now the question is… How does the software track the defect at the factory level? When this fabric lot comes to the garment factory, the operator can see the inspection data (entered at mill level) in the software to know where the different types of defects lie on fabric roll and at what length.
This is why we can also call it an online defect map system. This system helps to let the cutting room team know about defects well in advance so that they can manage to spread and cut better.
Datatex software can manage the current needs of the distant quality assurance in many ways as stated below:
- Being online software solution, manufacturers using Datatex can provide online quality reports or mail them – about the level of raw material used, work in progress at various stages, end products and shipped products – to customers to instil confidence about their transparent practices.
- As Datatex NOW has multimedia capability in all modules to enhance trust, manufacturers can attach online videos with actual material and test results with standard and actual reading with deviations. This can be done at various levels of roll, carton or batch.
- To maximise trust, Datatex can provide option to customers to randomly enter QA result screens at all times and do spot checks, making sure QA results are registered, monitored, and approved in a timely manner which means before each step starts, the previous QA is approved.
Datatex can also make this as a procedure, assuring next step is not progressed until customer approves QA results accompanied by video and attached physical documents and result scans.
When buyers are cancelling orders and businesses have been put on hold, do you think manufacturers will have investment capacities for technologies in today’s time? How are you convincing your probable clients?
Ronnie: Excellent question! We do believe this should be turned into an opportunity using the time available during this slower period to renew business process and implement new technology. The industry will survive; and sooner the industry comes out of this crisis, the better it would be, both for its members and clients.
In fact, we are currently implementing around five new customers globally using remote methodology we have developed and they have adapted with excellent results thus far. Datatex NOW system, being totally native and web-based, is the perfect platform for remote implementation, support and development and for running the future digital enterprise.
Which is the best prospective Asian country for you in terms of your market expansion?
Ronnie: There is not one specific country. We are very active currently in India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan. We have just started new activities in Indonesia and are looking forward to progress in China. We are very content with the availability of management teams and project teams in Asia to quickly adopt and adapt to remote work as above and are making efforts to maintain our success in this process.
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