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Sourcing Journal / March 28, 2019

Inside Jockey’s Ambitious Goal to Double its Business in Five Years

Last year, Jockey developed 50 percent more products than it did in 2017. Though chief supply chain officer Tim Taylor jokes that that’s “too many,” he acknowledged there’s no going back as a new reality in apparel has firmly taken hold.

 “The number of new products is just going to keep growing,” he said.

Jockey is the No. 1 women’s and No. 2 men’s underwear brand in department stores, the core channel that’s long been a great wholesale partner—but where business is shrinking as new opportunities open up, said Taylor, who shared the 143-year-old company’s story at the NGC Velocity conference in the Orlando area on Wednesday.

Without NGC’s Andromeda PLM platform, Jockey had “absolutely zero chance” of churning out so many more units, Taylor said, especially because the innerwear brand didn’t increase its headcount as product development ramped up.

Jockey is producing so many more new products to feed newer channel partners like mass-market retailers Target and Walmart and dot-com pure-plays including Zappos and Amazon beyond its own 12-year-old e-commerce site which grows 20 percent to 30 percent each year. The challenge, according to Taylor, is that all of these new partners want unique products designed exclusively for them, which by necessity means that fabric platforming becomes that much more complicated.

As Jockey sees direct-to-consumer grow from its current 30 percent share of business, the underwear brand is looking to sustain its core wholesale operation while disrupting with other innovative models and products, Taylor explained. For one, the company is still “feeling the effects” of moving away from a manufacturing background in which it owned spinning mills, knitting factories and dying facilities across the U.S. and Central America just 15 years ago. Whereas 95 percent of production was located in the Western hemisphere, now 95 percent is based in the opposite part of the globe, said Taylor. Nowhere is that more evident than in Jockey’s previous product development system, which was built around “having a sample room downstairs where you could get a sample really quick,” he added.

Today, 30 factories in seven countries produce 250 million pieces annually. With supply chains strung around the globe, 100 to 120 days elapse between purchase order receipt and product arriving in a distribution center, up from eight weeks back when product was sourced on- or near shore. But that’s all set to change, as Jockey’s laid out ambitious goals to slash lead times dramatically all in the name of serving new channel partners and impatient consumers—and doubling the business in five years’ time.

As of one year ago, Jockey needed 316 days to develop new product, 120 days for production and 40 days for shipping. Its new target is 150 days for development, and an average of 60 days for production on top of those 40 days for transit. Taylor jokes that he found the transportation team to be “very inflexible” when he tried to negotiate down shipping times.

There’s a lot Jockey can do with 225 days of time savings. Already, it’s piloting this new schedule with a factory in India, which shipped its first order this month after just 30 days of lead time. The company did this pilot on a spreadsheet outside of the PLM “so it’s not scalable” but the goal was to see if it was possible, Taylor said. Trimming lead time by 30 days boosts the service level by 1 percent to 1.5 percent, he added, so a 60-day reduction could lift sales by as much as 3 percent “for the same level of inventory investment.”

Becoming more efficient with time is great not just for having a flexible supply chain but also for expediting back-in-stock product, which previously required the full 475 days to execute. “By reducing our lead time and putting materials in the supply chain, we can get back into stock almost two months faster,” Taylor explained.

This year Jockey plans to bring previously licensed businesses like socks and sleepwear in-house to leverage economies of scale, said Taylor, in addition to making a big push in activewear. Systems like Andromeda PLM, which Jockey installed in just six months, will be instrumental in growing these businesses, he noted. It helps that vendors are fully on board with the technology; suppliers told Jockey the PLM creates some of the best tech packs they’ve ever seen in the industry.