Digital transformation is a term that has been thrown around a lot in recent years. But what does it mean and why should businesses care?
For us, the outcome of digital transformation isn’t just to digitise. It is a process of transformation underpinned by digital technologies. It refers to the use of digital technologies to fundamentally change how we operate to deliver higher value to our customers.
The headwinds that have come our way have altered the course of the manufacturing industry. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in the global supply chain. The lasting social impact of the pandemic has led to labour shortages, with many manufacturers struggling to find skilled workers and retain talent. For customers, reshoring is increasingly becoming a more attractive option to increase efficiency and reduce supply chain risks. Bringing manufacturing back to domestic markets means we must relook at our global operations.
While these changes are immense and rapid, they create new and exciting opportunities for us. This is where digital technologies can help manufacturers adapt to changing market conditions and position themselves for long-term success.
How I see it?
There is no future for business as usual. The future belongs to those who see it coming. So, you need to reach the future ahead of your customers and be able to greet them when they arrive. We saw these headwinds early on and started building the right tech and capabilities to address them.
In 2018, when we were looking at how we could futureproof MAS, we realised that Digital Product Creation (DPC) was an emerging technology. We saw the value of having what is referred to as digital twins (DT) in our product creation process. A digital twin is a virtual counterpart to a physical ‘product’ that represents the fit and look of the physical garment. We saw how this could help bring agility and flexibility to our product creation process and support a brand’s go-to market strategies.
The technology behind Digital Twins changes how products are made. With Digital Twins, manufacturers can surpass the time and cost of many cycles of sample replacement. What takes weeks can now be reduced to a matter of days, pushing the boundaries of traditional and sequential workflows. The ability to digitally display the fit and look of a product to customised dimensions and sizes changes the way products are sold as well. It is a technology that impacts the complete journey from creation to consumer.
We started investing in our talent, technologies and processes to build knowledge in DPC and began working with our customers. The capability we built was accelerated with the pandemic, and we’ve successfully continued the momentum since then.
Still, technology cannot replace some aspects of product design and development. Digital transformation, after all, is more about how people use and adopt technology and less about the technology itself. With this digital technology, we combine our decades of experience and expertise in product craftsmanship. This helps us connect skill and mastery of product development with the efficiency of technological innovation.
Having human resources to operate and maneuver this technology is also critical. Investing in our people, training and upskilling them is vital to reduce the gap that is created between exponential technological advancement and human capacity.
At MAS, we develop over 3,000 unique DTs annually, across 50 brands. The product categories range from activewear and athleisure to complex products such as constructed bras. When incorporating these tools, our teams understand that DTs are not just aesthetic representations but that they must meet all the technical requirements of a physical product so that brands can make the right assessment and make decisions digitally.
With Digital Product Creation, our product creation process can be faster, better and more sustainable. We are able to co-create with our brands, and support them to go faster to market. With fewer physical samples being made, the entire process is far more sustainable than our traditional workflows.
We have been successful in Digital Product Creation at MAS because our 3D technologists appreciate product craftsmanship and the need for production feasibility. They are able to develop 3D samples with this goal in mind. At MAS, we ensure our 3D technologists have a solid background in pattern making and garment construction. They are trained to use new technologies, incorporating the knowledge of best practices in the physical product development. Getting the balance right is everything.
Beyond product development, for brands, DTs open endless retail possibilities. This includes assortment reviews, virtual simulation of physical collections, digital releases or product launches and B2B sales, among others.
While all this exciting technology exists, research shows some interesting numbers. For example, 90 per cent of leaders worldwide get excited about transformation, just like us, of which only 17 per cent sponsor these initiatives with their best resources. Yet only 2 per cent manage to achieve the targets they set out to achieve. At MAS, when it comes to future-proofing with digital technologies, one example being DTs, we aspire to be a part of this 2 per cent.
Process to implement Digital Twin
Here’s how the process of using digital twin technology in product creation typically works:
Design: The process starts with a 3D technologist creating a concept as a digital twin of the garment, using virtual prototyping software like Browzwear or Clo3D. This will be used to decide the styling details/new shapes and aesthetic applications like prints/colours/embellishments. These digital designs will then be presented to brands for feedback followed by iterations if required.
Prototyping and fitting: Finalised designs will then move to technical sampling stage. Actual patterns/fabric properties will be used at this stage to create a true-life digital twin to validate the accuracy of the fit and look of the garments. The 3D techs will use various technical features like pressure maps, tension maps, point of measures to evaluate the technical accuracy. An internal review will be conducted to assess the readiness of the product to be shared with the brand. Given the flexibility of the software, we are able to go through iteration rounds digitally in a few days until the digital twin is ready for a final physical sample.
Size set/colour and salesman: Digital twins then pass through more sampling rounds where brands will evaluate the placement prints across a size set or use digital photoshoot samples for their salesman process.