It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse. But what many people don’t know is the intricate web of logistics and supply-chain management that goes into getting our clothing from designers’ sketches to store shelves. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is a clothing supply chain?” and give you an overview of some of the key issues to be aware of in this complex system.
What is a Fashion Supply Chain?
A fashion supply chain is the system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product from the initial stage of production to the end-user.
It also involves tracking every step of the manufacturing process. The steps in the chain run from sourcing raw materials to the factories where these materials are fashioned into garments to the distribution network that delivers the garments to customers.
More important to fashion business owners, however, is the fact that the evolution of the garment from beginning to end is a lengthy process that’s prone to disruptions. And anything that gives more transparency to the supply chain or streamlines processes within it is extremely beneficial.
The Main Stages of the Supply Chain
It is essential to understand the processes and stages of the supply chain. Then, it is possible to locate the flaws and work on solutions. They include:
- Purchasing Part 1: The first stage of the supply chain is sourcing raw materials or what it’s known as purchasing.
- Producing materials: The second stage is transforming the raw materials into textile products.
- Design: This stage is where creativity comes in. Here, designers come up with new ideas, and trends are born.
- Production: At this step, clothes are manufactured from textile materials. Typically, they will be manufactured in factories according to the specifications provided by the designers.
- Finishing: The fourth stage is giving the garment its final touches, such as washing, pressing and packaging. Often, finishing chemicals are put on clothes to make them more durable and aesthetically-pleasing in warehouses and stores.
- Testing and Quality Control: The fourth stage is testing and quality control, ensuring that the clothing meets all safety and quality standards before it’s shipped out.
- Distribution: This is where the garment is distributed to retailers or customers.
- Reaching Consumers: This penultimate stage is when the customer finally buys and wears the clothes.
- Threshold is reached: In this last step, a threshold in inventory is reached, and more raw materials need to be bought to replenish what was used. The cycle starts over.
The above steps are a general overview of the fashion supply chain. Depending on the company, there may be more or fewer steps involved.
The Importance of the Supply Chain
The supply chain is important because it’s the backbone of the fashion industry. It’s responsible for getting clothes from designers to consumers.
Additionally, a well-functioning supply chain is essential for a company’s success. A poorly managed one can lead to missed deadlines, errors, and ultimately, loss of revenue.
Some of the most common issues in the supply chain are:
- Long lead times: It can take months for a garment to go from design to completion. This is due to the many steps involved and the fact that each step takes time.
- Complexity: The supply chain is a complex system with many moving parts. This can make it difficult to manage and optimize.
- Lack of visibility: There can be a lack of visibility into the supply chain due to the fact that it spans multiple geographies and organizations. This can make it difficult to identify issues and track progress.
Other factors that can cause issues include:
- Material scarcity: This can lead to delays in production and higher costs.
- Political instability: This can disrupt the supply chain and cause delays or shortages.
- Natural disasters: These can damage factories, warehouses, and other infrastructure, causing disruptions.
- Labor shortages: This can impact production and lead to higher costs.
- Pandemics: This can cause widespread disruptions to the supply chain.
The above factors underscore the importance of having a well-functioning supply chain and are just some of the issues that can impact the supply chain. It’s important to be aware of them so that you can take steps to avoid or mitigate them.
A company that can manage the complexities of the supply chain and overcomes these challenges will be well-positioned for success.
Systems that Can Help with Supply Chain Management
There are a few different types of systems that can help with supply chain management. They are:
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems: ERP systems can help companies manage their inventory, finances and operations. They can also provide visibility into the supply chain.
- Supply chain management (SCM) systems: SCM systems are designed to help companies manage their supply chains. They can provide visibility into the supply chain, help with planning and execution, and more.
- Warehouse management systems (WMS): WMS systems can help companies manage their warehouses. They can provide visibility into inventory, help with picking and packing orders, and more.
- eCommerce Inventory Management Software: This type of software can help eCommerce companies manage their inventory and operations. They can provide visibility into the supply chain, help with order management, and more.
These are just some of the systems that can help with supply chain management. There are many other options available, and the right system for your company will depend on your specific needs.
The Bottom Line
The supply chain is a critical part of the fashion industry. It’s responsible for getting clothes from designers to consumers. A well-functioning supply chain is essential for a company’s success.
Some of the most common issues in the supply chain are long lead times, complexity, and lack of visibility. These issues can impact the supply chain and cause delays or shortages. To avoid these issues, companies need to have a streamlined, well-functioning supply chain.
There are a few different types of systems that can help with supply chain management, including ERP systems, SCM systems, WMS systems and eCommerce inventory management software. The right system for your company will depend on your specific needs.
Let N41 Help You Optimize Your Clothing Supply Chain
N41 offers a comprehensive ERP solution that can help you manage your inventory, finances and operations. As America’s top fashion and apparel ERP solution provider, we have been helping companies optimize their clothing supply chain for over ten years.
Our comprehensive solution includes:
- Automated inventory & purchases
- Streamlined operations & transactions
- Integration with other solutions
- Analysis of data through flexible reports
- Scaling for business growth
Therefore, if you’re looking for a clothing ERP system to help your company save time and increase revenue at your fashion company, contact us at (213) 738‐1010 today. Alternatively, you can request a free demo to learn more about how we can help you improve your supply chain on our website page.