We hope industry would make note of this. You have provided professional consulting services to over 5,000 organizations in more than 70 countries over the years; with this accrued experience how do you read similarities/differences between Asian and global markets?
The industry has considerably changed and probably some old ‘categories’ shall be abandoned. For instance, within the Asian context, you find today a variety of company types, from old style to advanced efficiency to make the generic term ‘Asian’ meaningless. What we do see in Asia today is a strong will to improve manufacturing capabilities and to move up to higher value added products, while improving service and flexibility.
We also see a local market which is fast growing, demanding better products, better fashion, more novelties. A complex related topic is the one concerning product innovation. A lot of the novelties are still mostly developed by the European industry. This set-up is not sustainable on the long term and more investments in product innovation will necessarily have to come from players in newly developed economies.
Producing innovation, quality and service is partly a matter of equipment, but first of all it is a question of organizational set-up, competence and corporate culture. This is the real challenge for Asian textile and apparel companies because it cannot just be bought; it must be ‘built in’ in each company.
That’s very true. Here in speaking in global context; which could be marked as established, emerging, and developing economies? What role shall they play in shaping future textile industry? And, what role consultants, in turn, shall play in emerging zones?
Consulting today comprehends a lot of different types of companies, professionals, and business cultures. So rather than speaking about a broad and diverse range of players, let me talk about how we see the specific role of Werner. We still believe we can play a key role on the international stage, in Europe and the USA as well as in China, India, South America and Turkey. If we do agree that textile and apparel productions will keep on playing a role across the globe it is easy to see that each player will need to adjust and differentiate its activities maintaining an high level of ‘connection’ with the world flows and dynamics, mostly driven by large supply chain orchestrators and retailers. We see ourselves more and more as team contributors bringing in our strong experience and competence to help companies define and implement their unique positioning strategies, both industrial and marketing-wise.
Mr Raptis, a lot of activities are been seen in Europe's clothing sector for automation in the manufacturing process to decrease its dependence on the labour cost factor. Can you update us on the current developments in this move and what benefits/threats it will bring into the sector?
Having been in this industry for so long we are not new to this topic and we believe that automation will be extremely relevant in preserving and possibly bringing back clothing productions to high labor cost contexts such as Europe or the USA. However, we also know that high cost productions from these contexts tend today to concentrate on smaller volumes of expensive and sophisticated productions which often call for extreme flexibility and versatility, and therefore collide with the nature of technology. It is also important to take into consideration today’s modest level of investments in our industry in Western markets, where most of the attention tends to be devoted to retailing and branding with manufacturing more and more perceived as not being a strategic issue. We are not skeptical at all but rather realistic. It will really depend on the overall strategic architecture of the key players.
And, how should industry prepare itself for the aftermaths of recovery from global crisis?
First of all by believing in its future and role and after all the changes we’ve seen in the last twenty years it is a task by itself. We still need visionary entrepreneurs and business leaders. We are strongly convinced there is still good business to be made in making nice textile and fashion products. Ours is not a dead industry. Extreme off-sourcing leads to homogenization and banalization. Fashion retailers and brands are starting to understand this.
Unfortunately this very heavy crisis is pushing many to make life or death decisions, and more often than not this implies concentrating investments away from manufacturing. However, there is room for optimism. We see some interesting signs of a ‘new vision’ coming up. We are also looking at a much bigger pie than a few years ago. Chinese, Indian, Russian and Brazilian consumers are now looking at consuming more textile and fashion and their tastes and needs are quickly developing, and becoming demanding and sophisticated.
Well, that seems a silver lining in the cloud. We hope for the best. And lastly, please give some tips to consultants to help them improve client loyalty that has become the Holy Grail for most of them?
Since our early steps in 1959, Werner’s strength has been built on credibility. Our choice for specialization, contrary to most other consulting practices, has always been our prerogative. We operate with a unique network of senior high level international professionals, all moved by the same pragmatism and passion for seeing our clients succeed in the stormy waters of our industry.
Thanks so much, Mr Raptis! That was wonderful insight with you.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.