Product Mix for Apparel
Supply Chain

It has now become essential to analyze the impact of product mix on the functional objective in the apparel supply chain.

A strong brand drives market share, higher margins, and negotiating power in business relationships. But how many of us think about the key role of product mix for apparel supply chain plays in strengthening a brand? Consumers have their own likes and dislikes while they are purchasing apparels of worth; they look for something common in garment and that is style, fashion and brand. Growing globalisation, market changes and mercurial fashion has shot the competition in garment industry up. Consequently, companies are left without any option but to expand their products to gain market share. This distinctiveness is, mostly, chosen by different customer noticeable features of garment like design, handle size and fit which lead to a related wide range of manufacturing aspects in upstream direction. To achieve prompt delivery and superior benchmarks, manufacturer must overcome the constraints like unpredictability in production parameters and the related small lot sizes, which strictly influence the marketability of a product. For apparel supply chain, this is the most characteristic trouble, where an array of products makes the work schedule knotty. This complication makes management of a particular product more troublesome with respect to time, cost and serviceability.

Furthermore, since global sourcing grows to be the order of the day, product replacement in apparel supply chain dons new garbs with raw material supply, manufacturing, garmenting, distribution and retailing - all globally dispersed. In this scenario, it is inevitable to ensure whether the place, time and price of the product are in line with the latest trends. In apparel supply chain, it is more important to put stress on right product than to spend more time after place, time and price of products.

Changing modes of supply and developing significance of globalization create multifaceted supply chain and management issues. To modernize and control supply chain activities, technology is the latest resort for the companies.

The present article is focused on the effects of product- boost in textile and apparel manufacturing.

Nature of product variety

An unmatched group of features works as a glass through which consumer observes apparel commodities. Optical and other senses govern the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) of apparel. Objective criteria like design, comfort and handle can secure these instinctive senses. Different material and action features in the upstream direction of apparel chain affect all these objective criteria.

Impact of product variety

Impact of product proliferation can be mapped across two levels - retailing and manufacturing.

Retailing & Sourcing: From a given fabric type, an entire range of apparel S.K.U. can be proliferated. It shows how one type of basic textile product delivered out of textile manufacturer's warehouse gets translated into so many S.K.Us by the time it reaches the retailer's shelf. Moreover, a retailer may want the goods to be shipped on a hanger or in a particular package and may want the manufacturers to mention the price and other details before shipping. Moreover, variability introduced in accessory stage (style of button, calf, collar, zipper, etc) will further amplify this diversity at retail level. Looking into the entire range of variables involved, one can deduce how many thousands of S.K.Us will result at retail level from a given

product basket comprising of hundred different varieties of basic textile fabric with respect to colour, design, fabric structure, etc! Needless to mention the enormous task of developing and managing this "ocean of S.K.U.s" across globally dispersed supply nodes.

Production: Supremely modified product area indicates added number of lots at different phases of function. These product criteria steer to array in batches at different steps of process. What is common from one side to other side of production phases is Order size and maximum batch size acceptable at various steps, as determining factors of lot size. Therefore, on one hand number of apparel and textile producing criteria lead to a rise in the number of S.K.Us on retail shelves and on the other they enhance the number of lots on the production end. In manufacturing lots, this array has added to the following complication in the nature of function:

. Failure in Production
. Degradation of Value
. Collection Planning - a tough nut to crack
. Asset Management should be improved

These four factors have made the production cost high.

Failure in Production: The shade-matching problem creates new trouble of rate of reprocessing with more number of lots in fibre and yarn dyeing industry. When every shade is dyed, machine comes to a halt and it should be made free of filth. Since all machines have definite batch size, machine might stay still i.e. without any use. The definite batch size of all machines may not go with order size of each distinctive shade component at fibre or yarn phase.

With more number of lots, rate of change increases in spinning, weaving and processing. If product variety is raised, unequal processing and loss of productivity results in recurrent changes.

In garment industry essential fabric types, garment fits and models are developing and therefore scheduling is becoming challenging. Today machines handle the apparel producing function and that makes the corresponding movements of
body, collars, buttons and other accessories across cutting, assembling and stitching of finished garment complex. This varied range of products severely affects the garment productivity.

Degradation of Value: At every phase of production, loss of material boosts with the increase in number of lots. The reason why loss of material boosts is that a definite quantity of material goes into waste for every lot disregarding the size of lot. Hence, more numbers of lots create more waste. For example, it is discovered that material damages are usually higher for all-wool, finer micron wool blend and smaller lots in dyeing and spinning. In the last phase, wastage is higher for all-wool fabric than that of blended fabric.

In weaving, fixed length goes into wastage with every warp-beam. Therefore, quantity of waste increases due to reduction in beam-length and more number of beams.

In producing apparels, marker development is difficult because of growing range of garment. Therefore, while cutting and creating patterns, material waste inflates due to underutilization of fabric. Moreover, large range of products also contributes chiefly to the class of more second-rate goods at the closing stages of every process.

Collection Planning - a tough nut to crack:
Garment producer must have all product lines available at hand at the same time to get the utmost effect on consumer's value sensitivity. Sizeable collection plan at every link of apparel supply chain, commencing from initial textile manufacturer, is made crucial by the accessibility of a complete range of items. However, success of this collection plan is prevented by rise of lot sizes. Back-end textile manufacturing has both batch and constant processes and therefore it is compulsory to move all the collections of a style together out of final stockroom. To reach this level, it is important to synchronize the actions of manufacturing lots in such a way that makes the whole factor (style collections) available during garment cutting phase. However, each factor has different processing time, which makes it difficult to drive the whole 'collection of product' collectively through the 'manufacturing leeway' of apparel chain. For example, in a collection with white and colour fabric, white goods get to the final stockroom earlier because processing time for white goods is significantly less than that of colour commodities.

Moreover, the more number of product units, the more difficult it would become to gain this coordination across product-process range. Naturally, the outcome is lost of sales due to lack of complete collection on retail-rack during purchase.

Apparel manufacturers must develop a Master Production Schedule (MPS) to meet the delivery dead lines of buyers. In many cases, it is customary that the production orders received from the same buyer are arranged with the production schedule. Orders that have been executed after deadlines add to extra transportation expenses and minimize selling price of garments.

Asset Management should be improved:
All factors for a particular product should be processed together in the internal supply chain. As the number of variety increases, so does the time taken for individual factor to be processed, as lot of changeover time and different downtime related to quality problem increase. As a result, higher quantity of on going work occurs at different phases of action.

Higher rate of changeover from one type of mixture to another increases machine downtime in fibre and yarn dyeing. In addition, time necessary for matching shades escalates with large product range. Chance of surplus dying is more because different machines do not have equal degree of capacity in connection with batch size. Since sizeable variation is to be processed in a given time, waiting time for item also increases. These procedures engage more materials during the process.

Spinning procedure causes an array in various blends, count and twist that creates more waiting time. This is because higher number of substitution and inadequate batch lot of a specific blend-count-twist combines to feed ringframe.

The number of beam gaiting and greater frequency of changes in process sequence cause increase in machine set-up time in weaving and finishing. In finishing too, batch making time enhances with growing varieties as all equal quality-pattern of a product mass requires to be processed together for uniform finish. These require more material in process, which raises inventory-bearing expense at each phase of processing. These cause higher work-in-process.

In storehouse, dispatch of the finished goods banks on accessibility of all related quality of a particular product. In a more assorted product mix, individual quality-pattern takes more time to reach the warehouse. This turns out to be increase in waiting time and higher finished goods inventory.

Tailoring product mix holds the key

Unstable fashion and transitory season has always maintained a great deal of unpredictability and kept the garment industry on seesaw. Formation of new divisions multiplies product lines. For example, Yoga wears have been introduced to the cluster of long-established sports wears like golf wear, tennis wear or swimwear. Moreover, we can experience changes in product lines, sizes and overall fits with the effect of globalisation. These products are inclined to magnify S.K.U unpredictability at retail level to an exceptional height. Retailers and big buyers should deal with this transformed product line through different phases - product development, sample approval, bulk sourcing of components, production or outsourcing apparel, distributing finished product across retail shops and merchandising. Moreover, all these exercises should be integrated across large geographical extents. In the basic textile fabric, this complication of action is amplified many times by the growing product mixes.

The leading organizations (retailers and big buyers) do not pay any attention to the hostile consequences of product proliferation, because these organisations, engaged in textile-apparel-retail chain are hardly associated with one another.

Only purchasing and selling should not be the only attention of retailers, instead they should consider the whole supply chain. Because, if a manufacturer is not able to supply the commodities within the fixed deadlines, delays will spoil the whole supply chain up to the end customer. On the ground of specified arrangement of apparel supply chain, the retailer has little scope to execute control in this process.

Comparatively simple garments rely upon the mixture: fabric from one factory, buttons and zippers from another, and snaps from yet another. All these accessories must come together within prescribed limit for the finished garments to be piled on store shelves. Since developing and selecting fabric swatches (sample of clothes) are part and parcel of product development, recognizing garment style and merchandise flow, production of product-mix turns out to be high product development cost, long design-to-market cycle time. Normally, for any fashion-apparel item, design-to-market life is 6 to 9 months. It is discovered that 70 per cent of this time includes non-value added activities such as communication delay, waiting time for collections and non-approval of commodities at various phases etc.

Therefore, a perfect product mix makes the whole apparel supply chain more manageable and at the same time it does not harm the end diversity in terms of apparel fit, size and style that lure the consumer's fancy.