A CIO's Wish List: 2015
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A CIO's Wish List: 2015

Irina Rosca, Director of Operations, Ashford Textiles LLC.
Irina Rosca, Director of Operations, Ashford Textiles LLC.

Irina Rosca, Director of Operations, Ashford Textiles LLC.

In the last decade the apparel and textile industry has undergone significant advances in technologies that support and integrate inventory management, logistics and customer service have made it easier for CIOs to manage and interpret mass amount of data in the industry. Various data management systems such as enterprise resource and enterprise risk management have for long encouraged lean operations and the implementation of best practices to maintain competitive advantage. In the coming year the apparel and textile industry should expect to see increased focus on the omni-customer, one who uses various means of purchasing goods, lean logistics and improved forecasting technologies. Companies that will lead the future in the industry need to balance technology needs and improvements in 3 key areas: customer service, supply chain, and inventory management. This article will discuss potential tech developments in 2015 that build upon existing software and can help distinguish industry leaders.

“With the increased efforts placed on multichannel marketing and sales, CIOs will now have to manage customer service closer and monitor the demand changes in response to specific campaigns”

Customer Service

Discovering what customers really care about and incorporating this knowledge into sales, marketing, and inventory forecasting is a continuous challenge for CIOs. In the past CIOs focused mainly on systems that monitor manufacturing, supply chain operations and financial resources. With the increased efforts placed on multichannel marketing and sales, CIOs will now have to manage customer service closer and monitor the demand changes in response to specific campaigns.

While most traditional ERP systems integrate fully with a customer relationship management (CRM) modules, it is no easy task to understand customer demands across a variety of channels. Furthermore, buyers (retail or wholesale) are becoming increasingly more focused on the transparency of the supply chain, and measuring the ultimate impact products have on the environment and society. To ensure that customers remain at the forefront of business decisions, traditional CRMs will require the ability to fully integrate with product information management systems and successfully exchange data within the enterprise resource management software.

Supply Chain Management

A recent study by Deloitte shows that out of 600 global executives, 71 percent agreed that supply chain management is important to strategic decision making. Supply chain management spans across all areas of the organization into operations, finance, and logistics. Since the early 1980s, traditional ERP systems have addressed the corporate need for a central data repository and analysis, but logistics is often managed trough outside resources that do fully integrate with ERP. Leading logistics and freight companies, such as Kuehne+Nagle with KN Login solution, offer

vessel management software which communicate with traditional ERP systems. These systems allow companies to track containers with goods as they move towards their final destinations.

Such systems can help companies with forecasting and closer management of logistics costs, but because the data comes from outside the ERP it is rarely used to its full potential. In the coming year, as fuel prices continue to fluctuate and omni-channel sales cause unexpected demands, the textile industry should expect top ERP vendors to provide more support in supply and logistics management. Such modules can incorporate vessel and container visibility, integration with existing purchase orders, sales orders, or inventory forecasting models.

Inventory Management

A recent study published by Deloitte University Press found that when a group of inventory managers were asked “How many units of inventory a manager should order when faced with a possible disruption in supply?”, less than 0.3 percent got the answer right. According to the study 99.7 percent of those asked to do the exercise responded suboptimal, over 15 percent responded irrationally given the parameters and one-third altered inventory for no apparent reason. Inventory management and order forecasting is still a major challenge for the industry, and while various solutions have been incorporated into best practices, the new focus on omni-channel sales has created various unexpected disruptions compared to traditional brick and mortar sales. Customers expect companies to offer a wider variety of goods in their online stores then they hold in stores, and therefore inventory costs will differ more in the coming years. Apparel and textile companies are even more susceptible to supply chain disruptions than other industries because trends fluctuate rapidly and the margin of profit for non-luxury brands is small. Companies need software partners that can take them beyond the traditional inventory and forecasting management systems and offer ways to integrate full product information management (PIM) including customer preferences and trends. Such programs currently exists in stand-alone form, and can integrate into traditional ERP systems but are not widely used and are just barely skimming the surface of the data available for use.

Geography is becoming less critical to innovation. The internet has connected customers to businesses, suppliers to buyers, and wholesalers to retailers. The benefits of accurate information management, customer relations and innovative supply chain strategies in clear in the tremendous success of Macy’s omni-channel sales and online retailers Alibaba and Amazon. As 2014 comes to a close it makes sense to look forward to what will be different next year.

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