Apparel manufacturers manage countless moving parts. Production processes alone include product design, fabric selection, and inspection, pattern making, grading, marking, spreading, cutting, bundling, sewing, pressing or folding, finishing and detailing, and dyeing and washing. These manufacturers are also responsible for quality control, receiving, shipping, packaging, merchandise returns, HR, and much more.
What’s shocking is that most manufacturers are stuck using manual processes and spreadsheets to keep track of all these steps! I can’t even wrap my head around how difficult that must be.
As a Customer Success Manager, I get first-hand accounts of how PLM systems are unable to solve for these manual processes. Because of inflexible technology and scarce resources, many rely on spreadsheets, emails, and endless manual data entry, resulting in a lack of process visibility.
Fortunately, the manufacturers I’ve worked with all have one thing in common: they’ve discovered the benefits of using a low-code platform to automate processes across their entire organization without having to change their PLM system. Even better, some built their first application in as little as 10 minutes without writing a single line of code.
Here are 5 ways apparel manufacturers are using low-code to dramatically change their most difficult processes.
1. Special Make Ups or SMUs
For all the non-apparel manufacturing folks, SMUs are a dynamic part of the apparel world. These are one-off designs requested by resellers that create additional processes for manufacturers. With different designs, quantities, and delivery dates for each request, companies often turn to spreadsheets and emails to manage the process. With a low-code platform, manufacturers can build a custom business application to make this process digital and standardized for everyone.
The result? Complete visibility across multiple departments with access to live data. Employees at every step of the process can view the entire production line in real-time. That means sales can keep an eye on every SMU they submit and actively keep clients updated while the production teams deliver the requests simultaneously. What’s more, individual teams know exactly what’s coming down the pipeline and can report on any delays.
2. Material Requests
Every piece of clothing and merchandise is made using one or more materials. But how is the material requested? It’s requested via email, spreadsheets, and phone calls – and this process leaves a lot to be desired (and a lot of room for error). With the back and forth, the multiple spreadsheets and email chains, it can be painstaking to stay organized with multiple projects running at the same time. Low-code platforms have helped manufacturers streamline this process, giving all parties involved visibility into the status of requests and the ability to enter a request using a mobile device or desktop. This enables manufacturers to decrease email and spreadsheet traffic and create an organized audit trail within the platform.
3. Quality Inspections
Raw and finished goods need to be inspected to ensure they are up to the manufacturer’s standards. Typically, these audits have been performed by pen and paper, which leads to delays in root cause analysis if a quality error is reported. With a low-code platform, manufacturers are able to digitize their quality inspection surveys and provide real-time quality reports. Not only does this decrease the time it takes to identify trends and minimize costs associated with quality errors, but it also decreases the time it takes to perform a quality audit, allowing for more items to be inspected on a daily basis.
4. Supplier Assessments
Manufacturers use many different suppliers for their fabrics, buttons, zippers, etc., and as you may have guessed by now, many are tracking these suppliers using paper processes or spreadsheets. Not only do manufacturers need to know who their suppliers are, but they also need to know if they are compliant, what types of machines they have available, and if there are any outstanding corrective actions.
Manufacturers have found that by using a low-code platform, they are able to tailor their supplier assessments to have the exact criteria they want to track while keeping all assessments—past and present—in the same location. What’s more, it’s all digital and updated in real-time. With increased visibility into a supplier’s profile and status, manufacturers are able to make choices with confidence.
5. Merchandise Returns
Everyone has returned a piece of merchandise before, either via mail or to the store. Have you ever been asked why you’re returning that merchandise? It seems like useful information to collect, but where does it go? In some cases, it is entered into a POS system. By using a low-code platform to capture the reason the merchandise is returned, manufacturers are able to report on trends for specific pieces of merchandise, stores, or vendors. With this increased visibility and reporting, there’s better insight into where corrective action plans may be needed.
Manufacturers manage a ton of moving parts. Luckily, with a low-code platform like TrackVia, digitizing manual processes has never been easier. TrackVia is the first IT-approved low-code platform that gives the people who do the work the freedom to build their own applications and make work easier. You can digitize any aspect of your business and start using it in record time on any device without help from IT.
Are you an apparel manufacturer looking to centralize and standardize data by automating manual processes? If so, we’d love to show you just how quickly you can build an app to improve your operations. Check out how one of our Fortune 500 apparel manufactures built their first app in 10 minutes and now use over 20 apps to solve core business and PLM needs.