The retail and brand side of the fashion business has acted with speed in realising the importance of technology and digital solutions, responding and adapting quickly to a changing environment. However, until recently, their supply chain partners have been slow in recognising the fact that the traditional legacy manufacturing methods are no longer effective to play competitively and deliver what is required in today’s fast-evolving retail landscape.
It has taken a global pandemic like COVID-19 for the manufacturing industry to fully comprehend and appreciate the urgent need to replace and/or enhance traditional operating methods, and embrace the digital transformation of core processes to move up the evolution curve quickly, building strength and resilience… or be left behind by those players that do evolve. There are technology collaborators, platforms and software organisations that can proudly take credit for not just bringing digital transformation into the fashion supply chain but also positively disrupting the industry by ushering the right digital solutions into processes to help a company gain operational excellence for today and tomorrow!
Coats Group, the well-known world leader in industrial threads servicing the Apparel & Footwear industry, launched the aptly named Coats Digital on the basis of proactively assessing the changing environment and as a means to develop another avenue to create value and support for its customers.
Coats Digital is one such gamechanger that has proved to be a key catalyst for the digital transformation of the fashion supply chain. Though the concept was prevalent before the pandemic hit the world, the organisation and structure was formalised over the last 2 years. It experienced a massive acceleration in its efforts when supply chains got ruptured due to COVID-19, when there became a necessary impetus for manufacturers and supply chain partners to finally realise the need to digitise… the old ways are no longer going to work.
So, how is Coats Digital different from other digital transformation companies and what is the USP that will make it an essential digital platform for the fashion supply chain? Akash Shah, Managing Director, Coats Digital in an exclusive conversation with Team Apparel Resources, shared the strategy that differentiates the company in a market crowded with multiple digital transformation options. What’s very unique and interesting is the business model, which is built on the strong pillars of deep industry talent and technology expertise built through a foundation of M&A and ecosystem collaborations, then organically step-changing it to create a whole new synergy between complementary solutions, connected technology providers and end-users to make the sum greater than the parts. The aim is to create a digital platform that enables transparency and visibility, powering sustainable processes to drive insights and better decision-making, addressing specific needs and pain points of individual clients.
Creating a portfolio of technology solutions through collaborations/mergers/strategic alliances is key to moving the industry forward with speed and solving critical pain points across the value chain…
The business model of most fashion technology companies is to have a specialised niche product supported by an internal team of trained technologists to provide responsive and targeted services to the customers for optimal utilisation of the product (software). However, Coats Digital was formed on the basis of acquiring and collaborating with prominent technology firms to bring together solutions across the fashion supply chain, and thereafter, build on that foundation. Since 2015, Coats Digital acquired companies including GSD (Corporate), FastReact Systems and Threadsol. Not stopping here, Coats Digital has established a strategic partnership with Res.Q – which is a software technology arm of leading Sri Lankan garment manufacturing group Hirdaramani Group.
“The aim of getting into the digital business after being the long established market leading industrial threads partner was all about how we can deliver greater value to the industry and our customers by bringing them forward in today’s digital era. Our acquisitions stem from assessing the key components of the apparel / garment factory value chain, which has been our playground for centuries and carefully considering the critical questions of what are the key pain points to address and different components we need to build so that we can deliver greater tangible outcomes for our customers,” states Akash, adding, “We have taken the originally acquired software businesses and brought the solutions forward to the latest tech stack while also enhancing the value proposition across the portfolio, all under one umbrella which allows us to disrupt the market as one cohesive organisation solving multiple critical business issues in the fashion supply chain.”
Rare combination of deep talent and technology expertise is at the core of the Coats Digital business model…
It’s always easier said than done, as collaborations aren’t an easy equation in the fashion industry, even for giants who have existed in the value chain for decades. So, how does Coats Digital achieve this synergy? One of the core pillars of the company is connecting talent (people) and technology across the fashion supply chain. Coats Digital has built the rare combination of having both global and local talent from the apparel industry (i.e., they know the customers business inside out), being a core software development house. The cohesive bind between these two areas is essential to be the leading digital transformation partner to the industry.
“What really makes us different is our ability to combine and create synergies with solutions across the fashion supply chain core processes, not only in select niche areas. Our ultimate aim is to achieve a sustainable business platform that provides solutions from ‘Plan to Pack’… from when brands ‘plan’ sourcing requirements to when manufacturers ‘pack’ goods produced. The intent is to bring visibility and transparency within core processes and across the fashion supply chain. With real data now made visible, our customers can draw greater insights and thereby, make better decisions. We are here to help customers digitally transform over the long-run, work with them on their roadmaps to improve agility, speed to market, efficiency and ultimately deliver insights that strengthen their business… not just sell software. Our purpose says it all… Connecting talent and technology in the fashion supply chain to make a better, more transparent and sustainable world,” says Akash with clarity of thought.
What’s also noteworthy is the hiring of local talent in a market where Coats Digital plans to expand unlike most of the other companies who rely on agents or work from overseas offices to tap into a market. By hiring local people, Coats Digital ensures they know their customer base well, are familiar with the challenges that are specific to the country/market, enhancing communications with factories in local language and setting expectations and hence delivering the desired outputs.
“We focus heavily on the ‘discovery’ process. It’s critical to fully understand the customer’s key pain points and the challenges they want to address. Once that is understood, there becomes a unified common goal for the collective customer/Coats Digital teams to tackle. Through the customer journey, including organisation for implementation, we get to know if the customer team is ready! In all honesty, any system implementation is most successful when it’s a joint effort – when the client also puts the necessary resources in place (people, expertise, time) as agreed to in the implementation planning. We can then work closely together on implementation and adoption, continuously building their internal expertise… our clients put the energy into it as well to yield the sizeable benefits.” shares Akash.
Be it a retailer or a manufacturer, the need for cost cutting is always there, especially in those processes which are time-consuming, expensive and complicated. The sample making process is one of them as it takes weeks of discussions between buyers and suppliers, physical visits of buyers to explain designing aspects to manufacturers and to get the final version of approved sample. As COVID-19 has disrupted the entire fashion supply chain, the most impacted area of the business is travelling and some of the fashion brands have decided to not travel for some time. In such a scenario, 3D virtual design, fit and prototyping software can be a helping hand for apparel businesses to keep the designing and sampling process on track.
Akash feels that design (i.e., 3D) and product development (i.e., PLM) areas are key bridges today between brands and manufacturers. Coats Digital does have VisionPLM to offer the industry for the product development space. “We see greater digital progression in manufacturers when mandated by the brands. Costing (i.e., GSDCost) is a great example where that mandate has benefited all parties and continues to do so,” avers Akash. On a parting note, he concludes that, “The main aim of Coats Digital going forward is to take apparel manufacturers forward and help them evolve to the next level by leveraging technologies to build sustainable best-in-class processes. They just need to take the leap that is founded on clear evidence and precedence. Digital transformation will help all players build sustainable core processes, operational resilience and ultimately, a stronger, competitively advantaged business… and we are committed to helping them achieve their aspirations over the long run.”
The company accepts that the market in Asia is not an easy one as this is a new ground for many manufacturers, who are also assessing their internal capabilities and juggling multiple priorities. No doubt, there are challenges in transforming an industry, but what brings confidence is the entrusted history of Coats Group with its industry know-how and operational horsepower coming to the table to support the unique Coats Digital hands-on collaborative approach that combines talent, expertise and technology depth to drive growth. This is fuelled by Akash’s 20+ years’ experience across Asia-Pacific (post years across North America) driving business growth imperatives in a variety of environments, before joining Coats Group 4 years ago and now taking charge as MD of Coats Digital. With a determined and dynamic leadership team and the backing of a true market leader in the fashion value chain, Coats Digital has the makings of a winner!
Coats Digital is the leading digital transformation partner for the fashion supply chain, powering sustainable processes and high value insights through connected technologies. Coats Digital helps fashion brands, sourcing companies and manufacturers to optimise, connect and accelerate business critical processes including design and development, method-time-cost optimisation, production planning and control, fabric optimisation and shopfloor execution. Used in over 3,000 factories globally, their unmatched end-to-end apparel, footwear and textile software and SaaS solutions improve agility, speed to market, efficiency, transparency and sustainability.
The technologies offered by Coats Digital to support the digital transformation of the apparel manufacturing industry, from ‘Plan to Pack’!
Fast, efficient, sustainable product development and supply chain collaboration with VisionPLM: VisionPLM is an intuitive, flexible and scalable, browser-based fashion PLM and sourcing solution that streamlines and integrates key business processes. Configured to reflect industry best practices, VisionPLM offers core product lifecycle management and extended sourcing functionality, creating ‘one version of the truth’: from design, material and product development (including tech packs), to sampling, approvals, costing, vendor capacity management, order allocation and purchase order status updates.
Method-Time-Cost Analysis becomes easier with GSDCost: GSDCost is the international standard for establishing and optimising accurate method-time-cost benchmarks for sustainable garment cost optimisation and manufacturing excellence. GSDCost is an easy to use software solution which enables staff – with little or no manufacturing expertise – to develop a ‘time-cost analysis’ for any chosen apparel product. This is achieved through the use of standard product templates and a simple ‘drag and drop’ approach. GSDCost is used at an early stage in the product development cycle enabling design and cost variations to be assembled and assessed, and the optimum price/performance balance is achieved as part of a cost and value comparison. Design teams can explore various ‘what-if’ scenarios with various product components to reduce the associated labour/ manufacturing costs and achieve a lower ‘in store’ price points and additional margin opportunities.
Production Planning & Control go digital, JIT and LEAN-based with FastReactPlan: The production planning software supports a faster, more reliable order confirmation process and production plan which is optimised for delivery, efficiency and speed. Developed specifically for fashion manufacturers of all sizes, FastReactPlan is configured to reflect industry best practice and specific business requirements. The highly visual, flexible ‘drag and drop’ approach to planning allows effective master planning across multiple factories, as well as fast, detailed and accurate scheduling of manufacturing lines/machines. Supporting processes are also managed in FastReactPlan, with materials and pre-production activities dynamically driven by the latest plan on a LEAN ‘just in time’ basis.
Fabric Optimisation is a must for long-term sustainability and performance and that’s what IntelloCut and IntelloBuy aim for: IntelloCut is designed to give control over fabric usage in the cutting room by optimising key processes, including the generation of cut plans, lay plans and allocation, end bit usage and management, as well as tracking and reporting. IntelloCut’s automated, closed-loop approach to fabric planning reduces the amount of time and effort spent on planning and re-planning, and at the same time maximises fabric utilisation.
On the other hand, IntelloBuy allows manufacturers to accurately estimate fabric consumption at the buying stage. This allows manufacturers to buy the correct amount of fabric for their orders, reducing fabric costs and increasing margins. IntelloBuy uses advanced technologies including Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics to solve the problems generated by complex new styles, shrinking lead times and planning with manual tools. It also solves the restrictions in accurate fabric booking due to incomplete information.
Digitise shopfloor execution and control with Res.Q solutions: Res.Q is a dynamic suite of digital solutions, focused on business critical manufacturing processes, from quality and machine management to skill management, line layout planning and production tracking, connecting and optimising the combined power of man, method and machine to power a more agile, sustainable and efficient factory. The Res.Q solutions are part of the Coats Digital ecosystem with particular synergy with GSDCost, by providing a digital feedback loop to ensure that it is able to cut through management layers to provide workers/operators with the information to make decisions in real time.