How do designers and clothing manufacturers keep it all straight? This year’s Fall line might very well be the spring line in a couple of years simply by virtue of different fabrics and color palettes. Similarly, shoes, handbags fashion with all the accessories change from year to year and from season to season before revisiting the runways of the future. How DO they keep it all straight? And how on earth do they remember it all? Apparel software! That’s how! Like any other product, Apparel comes, goes and is redesigned and as those dresses or jeans or whatever roll off the assembly line – consistency is the key to success. It would not do for Levis to appear in stores without the little red pocket tag and in the eighties embroidered pockets were the identifiers for genuine Jordache. Once, patterns were printed on parchment or tissue paper and re-used until they wore out. Embroidery stitches were counted and images posted.
ERP with a pattern
Mass production of apparel is a fact of life today and as such, subject to the technology. As with anything else, apparel manufacturing has become computerized and software companies have designed specialty software for the use of pattern-driven manufacturing. Patterns are now stored in secure databases instead of locked file cabinets. Patterns are the blueprints of the apparel manufacturer.
Of course clothing lines change with the season and this makes for repeated re-design and adjustments – version after version after version and maintaining consistency of product when the actual garments are produced by hundreds of different manufacturers can be a daunting and risky task since consistency is a primary key for fashion success.
World-wide, clothing production facilities can be found all over Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, China and back over to Central America. Levis sport “Made in Cambodia…Thailand…Vietnam” tags inside the waistband with the Philippines and India rounding out but not nearly completing the field of sewing machines operators.
After production, apparel software (ERP enterprise resource planning) systems and tools see to it that orders are fulfilled and delivered on time for retailers. Walmart, Kmart, ThisMart, ThatMart receive the latest shipment of 501s and apparel software and ERP systems cue the payment transaction, often through a pre-established electronic pipeline.
Like any other erp manufacturer, apparel manufacturers must adhere to strict guidelines and plan for future style adjustment and the virtual re-tooling of the production process. Materials management was never so important in the figurative or literal sense. Levis has its proprietary denim that has come to be recognized by mere touch and patterns have to be available at a moment’s notice – who knows when the shift will go from straight leg to boot cut to flared leg to skinny jeans – the apparel industry is an industry on the move and the ability to re-fit quickly is vital to maximizing profits.
Apparel software is a comprehensive ERP built on the foundation of an extensive database. Patterns are stored in the database and the recipe for each style of Levis. Sales data and market trends are pulled from apparel software production reports provide road maps for future production.