Why Image-Based Planning, Development Systems Are a ‘Virtual’ Reality

How dynamic, image based, drag, drop and swipe technology can help fashion companies create the perfect plan with the flexibility to balance assortment, aesthetics, trend, colour, margin, compliance and delivery.

No one doubts or underestimates the challenges faced by today’s progressive fashion companies.

Ensuring that the right range of products is available at the right time has always been a challenge and is becoming a more difficult proposition. With consumer requirements changing on almost a daily basis, retail and wholesale companies need to ensure that their plans are as flexible, visible and as accurate as possible.

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Considering that it’s not unusual for fashion companies to have multiple collections per season, multiple seasons per year, multiple deliveries and channels per season, all combined with differing colour palettes and trend per delivery, managing the assortment based on these variations whilst trying to achieve corporate financial objectives is indeed a real challenge.

From an overall business perspective, different teams can also have differing objectives. Merchandisers, Buyers, Design, Development, Sourcing, Quality and Compliance will be working to ensure that their targets and goals are achieved, but does the sum of the individual component parts add up to deliver the overall corporate goals and objectives? Does each team know what is required of each other?

Without the proper tools it is virtually impossible to satisfy each team’s objectives or even measure them until it’s too late, let alone trying to change a plan to react to the latest sales figures, social media trend or celebrity dalliance.

But what tools do the teams have today? The answer will invariably be a mixture of different software solutions which don’t talk to each other and are probably based on grids of reports which need to be analysed, dissected and exported to Excel in order to make any sense. Each team will have their own set of reports and views which are then ‘handed on’ to the other teams down the chain driving inaccuracy and inconsistency.

However, in today’s digital age, grid based, green on black manual tools are just not acceptable. Most users of today’s current software tools have been brought up with rich content apps with images and visualisation being the most important part of the user interface.

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Only tools which truly manage the creative side of the fashion industry combined with the financial backbone of resilient data are acceptable today.

So how can you deliver against your plan in order to satisfy the needs of all areas and especially your margin? Firstly, it must be realised that planning is not all about crunching numbers and comparing this year’s projections to last year’s actuals.

Effective planning starts at the design direction which will incorporate strategic costing, pricing, key material requirements and sourcing strategies and will then drill down to include the detailed requirements of: Merchandising, Assortment Planning, Buying, Development – product and materials, Materials Planning & Sourcing.

Each of these teams will be given their strategic objectives and briefs, which will tally up to the overall corporate objectives. It is then down to the teams to deliver against these objectives.

The key to ensuring that corporate and seasonal objectives are going to be delivered is total visibility and transparency at all stages, combined with the ability to take real time decisions and communicate required actions to responsible parties.

So how can we do this? Firstly we need tools which will enable the following:

  • Clear visibility to all parties of what their objectives are.
  • Early visibility of proposed products and key materials.
    • Price point
    • Main material
    • Colour mix- Margin
    • Projected and actual costs
    • Channel
    • Delivery
    • Marketing classification
    • Proposed country of origin and factory
      The list of required views is endless but should match to the planned metrics.
  • Visible highlighting of exceptions.
  • Ability to view and select alternative products, colours, materials and suppliers if any key requirements are not being achieved.
  • Real time collaboration between all parties including factories using the Cloud.
  • Provide live, up-to-date access to all product data which is required to aid decision making with a single click, such as detailed tech packs, all images, cost sheets & suppliers.
  • Ability to search for previously developed products or materials which may suit the current range better.

In overall terms, at all stages in the range development process users must be able to, with an image based system, at any time:

  • See all the suggested products and clearly visualise for the aesthetic, trend, colour and material requirements.
  • Make dynamic and fact based decisions on candidates and selections.
  • Ensure that product selections can be delivered with the correct balance of capacity per country of origin and supplier.
  • View and manipulate images to achieve the correct balance of products and colour by channel & delivery etc.
  • Ensure that ALL decisions ultimately lead to the overall corporate direction of cost, margin, revenue, quality, delivery and trend.

It’s pointless coming up with a great range of products, materials and colours unless it can be delivered and unless your margins are secure.

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