Closing The Zara Gap – The Role of Technology

Closing The Zara Gap – The Role of Technology

September 28, 2016

Author: Megan Castillo, NGC Software

Last week, I attended the annual Sourcing Journal Summit in New York, where once again the topic of Zara came up.  Everyone in this industry wants to achieve the level of success Zara continues to have each year, but the question still remains: how? 

The Zara model presents a flat-out culture shock to most companies.  I mean, who ever heard of designing for 26 seasons a year?  Or better yet, getting product from concept-to-store in just 15 days!  We’re not programmed to think or work in that way.  And not everyone wants to get into the business of ‘fast fashion’.  But we could all learn a little something from Zara on how mastering the fashion supply chain leads to greater profit. 

Most of the attendees at the event held titles such as Manager or VP of Production/Sourcing/Supply Chain, or something similar.  As the discussion turned to how critical it is to speed up production and to eliminate the indecisiveness that tends to slow down the supply chain, most attendees seemed to shrug their shoulders.  One woman at my table leaned over and said, “If it was only that easy. You should see the number of design revisions we go through for one style!”

The reality is, it may take some investment in time and money on your side, but the efficiencies you will gain are worth it in the end.  As I said, the very way in which Zara operates is a culture shock to most, but there are ways to achieve efficiencies in your supply chain using technology.  Does that mean you will turn into a profit house overnight?  No.  Just like anything else, you have to walk before you run, and implementing a fashion SCM solution that enables the processes below, will take you one step closer.

  • Establish intuitive workflow calendars that manage milestone events and alert you when dates are missed that can cause production delays.
  • Collaborate with your global supply chain partners in real-time, and eliminate the use of spreadsheets and emails that become outdated or lost. 
  • Reduce sample turnaround times, revisions, and overall cost with improved communications.
  • Start planning material requirements to lock in costs.
  • Eliminate indecisiveness with key analytics like sell-thru analysis and other big data, so you can cut what’s not selling and allocate materials and resources to more of what is selling.
  • View real-time work-in-process updates when making decisions, not last Thursday’s numbers.
  • Improve quality control with remote inspections, eliminating mistakes at the source, rather than waiting until the goods are shipped, saving time and money.
  • And more…

To sum up, you need to start making changes, even at the smallest level, and an SCM technology solution can help.  It’s no longer a game of driving down cost at the supplier to achieve the greatest margins.  It’s about achieving efficiencies in your own processes that lead to gains in the bottom line.  By identifying and alleviating those bottlenecks in your supply chain, each season, whether you produce 6 or 26, will be more profitable than before!