Technology for mass personalisation and on-demand manufacturing

This article originally appeared on WTiN 17 April 2020 based on an interview by Joe Link. 

 

Technologies have emerged with the promise to streamline operations, but for a solution to be successful it must work at scale and be cost effective. To date, large swathes of the apparel industry accept that change is necessary but have been slow to adopt disruptive technologies. On-demand manufacturing is a term we hear a lot: the emerging business model is seen by many as the future of the apparel industry. Similarly, the print-on-demand and personalization trend has been gaining traction in the last decade as consumers show a weariness towards mass-produced, bulk fashion

 

vPersonalize duo Bala Selvarajan and Robert Johnson talk to Joseph Link about the importance of mass personalisation and on-demand manufacturing to the textile supply chain. Below are some excerpts.

vPersonalize’s Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Robert Johnson, believes that transforming the supply chain is a collective effort that ties together the technology providers, brands, direct-to-garment (DTG) sector, textile printers and consumers.

“On the supply side, we see a growing migration to dye sublimation and print on demand because it offers better margins and the ability to create retail quality products on-demand,” says Johnson. “This in turn creates a new pool of suppliers that brands and retailers can tap into. The real power of this disruption is that this new supply chain is local.”

One outcome of this disruption, Johnson points out, is the re-shoring movement. It has become a viable prospect to use technology to manufacture locally, through which turnaround times can be slashed.

“The main driver of personalization is targeted small-batch manufacturing which allows a brand to create, and experiment with, thousands of designs and size variants. The benefits include lower inventory costs and the ability to only manufacture a product after it has been purchased. This is the real promise of personalisation and on-demand manufacturing: make what sells, when it sells and get it to the nearest store where it sells,” Johnson adds.

“Print-on-demand always held the promise of bespoke, made-to-order apparel,” Johnson says. “Large sections of the textile supply chain still rely on heavy manual labour and when you have a large workforce operating different machines, human error becomes an issue.

“With a purchase-to-production-line solution, a lot of these uncertainties go away and what is designed and visualised is exactly what gets made,” he continues. “This brings predictability and repeatability to what has largely been a manual and cumbersome process for decades.

“On-demand manufacturing reduces wastage. Our [vPersonalize] solution enables a design to be taken directly to a production line in minutes, which makes local manufacturing possible,” Johnson adds.” And with local manufacturing comes reduced reliance on international shipping and the resultant carbon emissions. We have just one planet to leave to future generations and we are getting to a point now where we need everything to be sustainable.”

Outlook

“As more customers start working remotely and with smaller teams, the move to virtual product development, sampling and small-batch production will accelerate. We are focusing on the existing pieces of our technology that can support our customers during a period of social distancing and beyond, using tools that reduce the need for in-person contact like virtual product development, design-to-manufacturing accuracy, automation and online commerce,” says Selvarajan.

“The impact of Covid-19 is unprecedented and there is little by way of data or experience that can help us navigate this. But, we are seeing significant changes to consumer purchasing behavior, perhaps permanently, accelerating towards e-commerce and abandoning physical spaces. While online commerce is recording historic numbers, brick and mortar companies are seeing unprecedented closure”

vPersonalize focuses on apparel brands and manufacturers, helping solve some of the key technical challenges that are specific to them, says Selvarajan. He continues: “In all of this, the common theme will be to help our customers bring designs to market considerably faster and to help them manufacture those products on-demand.”

Online commerce may now be a survival necessity

Brick & mortars across the country are amidst an unprecedented closure due to the coronavirus. With hundreds of thousands of employees furloughed, companies are facing vast decreases in revenues and are bracing for the impact that coronavirus will have on them. The harsh reality is that some might not make it to the other side. According to Coresight, an estimated 630,000 outlets have already been forced to close and the National Retail Federation estimates that $430 billion in revenues will disappear over the next three months.

During this time of mass social distancing, consumer purchasing behavior is changing rapidly, perhaps permanently, barreling towards e-commerce and abandoning physical spaces for fear of contagion. While Amazon and Nike are seeing historic numbers, other companies are seeing sharp drop in revenue and scrambling to pivot to digital commerce.

It is believed that covid-19 will have long lasting effects on consumer habits. “When a lot of people are self-quarantined or staying in their homes and being in a lot less public places, we’re going to see a shift in behavior,” says Shelley Kohan, founder of Shelmark Consulting. “We’ve talked about how e-commerce is supposed to grow over the next few years, but this is something that’s going to happen in our first quarter and that is going to change behavior in quarters two, three and four.”

Andrew Lipsman described this phenomenon in Kohan’s article for Forbes, calling it a “step-change,” a short-term change in reaction to a specific event that creates a new, higher plateau for a certain behavior. Lipsman continued, “during the holiday, a time with more concentrated buying activity, consumers spend more online, creating a step-change, meaning the consumer may not return to past behavior. We may see this type of similar behavior unfold over the future.”

Businesses big and small must act now to create a solid digital strategy and align their business models to this new normal.

 

Focus on online sales

If you don’t have a digital strategy, the time to act is now! Even if you already have a fairly sophisticated online presence, prepare to run a large part of your business digitally. Make it easy for customers to purchase your product and services online. Prepare for a low-touch future.

 

Foster good relationships with your customers

Make sure to communicate with your customers clearly and consistently. Let your customers know you are open for business online. Create rewards and incentives. Use your social media presence to keep your customers up to date and connected.

 

Retool key processes for virtualization and automation

As more companies start working remotely and with smaller teams, the move to virtual product development and small batch production will accelerate. Use this time effectively to retool your processes and make changes to facilitate remote communication and less on-site staff.

 

We are here to help

If you are in the apparel space, we can help. We continue to focus on technologies that can support our customers during a period of social distancing and beyond, using tools that reduce the need for in-person contact like virtual product development, design-to-manufacturing accuracy, automation and online commerce.

As you use this time to focus on making your business resilient, we’re here to serve you with technology for a digital future – mass customization, on-demand production and online commerce.

 

Connect with us to learn more: 

www.vPersonalize.com

hello@vpersonalize.com