The following article was published in the International Clothing Manufacturer.
Computers as Information Centres for
Clothing Manufacturers and Wholesalers.
What should a Garment Manufacturer/Wholesaler expect to see in a modern Integrated Comprehensive Software Package specifically developed for the Garment Industry !
By Andreas Polydorou, B.Sc. (Hons), Ph D, FRSA.
Dr Andreas Polydorou studied Engineering and Physics at the London University. He studied Information Technology for his Doctorate. He worked for Unilever Ltd for 17 years. He started ADM Computers in Clothing in 1982, a Company which has specialised all these years in the Development, Marketing and Support of Software specific to the Clothing Trade. He is a well known innovator with a string of inventions to his name, and has lectured on both sides of the Atlantic at numerous Seminars and Universities on various subjects. He is a known writer having published books in both English and Greek. He is also known for his work in Radio. He stood for the British Parliament in 1984.
A few years ago, a leading expert in the Clothing Trade commented that, a major problem with most Clothing Manufacturers is that they do not pay enough attention to the Costing Sheet for each Style they design. This does not allow for the necessary planning and projections, and frequently the British Manufacturer is left exposed and unprepared to face the consequences. The phrase "it is not that we plan to fail, we simply fail to plan" is thus unavoidably frequently linked to the Clothing Trade and Industry.
The use of Computers in the last twenty years has helped some Manufacturers and Wholesalers to appreciate the significance of a comprehensive Costing Sheet. At least one Software Package (G-MATE) is using the Costing Sheet as the nucleus of information for the other operations available in the System.
This procedure has far reaching consequences in that it introduces a new fundamental methodology in the way the whole Business is run. This is mainly achieved through the idea of defining all static information concerning each style as a satellite to each Costing Sheet. Apart from the fact that this core information becomes centralised, there is the additional advantage that such information can be entered against each Style at any time between the design of the Style and the issuing of the Docket. There is therefore no time pressure in the entry of such information and thus the possibility of errors is minimised.
For example it is well known that most Manufacturers write the information on the Docket at the last minute, when the lorry might even be outside their premises, loading the fabric. Under such pressure it is so easy to enter the wrong instructions (such as for example the position of the tickets or the spare buttons on the finished garment) or evaluate wrongly the number of buttons required, or to send the wrong trimmings, etc.
In an integrated computerised system however, where this information is centrally stored as part of the Costing Sheet, the instructions and amounts of each item required for every docket are automatically displayed and printed on request. Last minute modifications are allowed and this provides flexibility but at least, all the default requirements are automatically displayed.
Before one reaches the Docketing stage, the Computer System (at least in the case of G-MATE), would give a breakdown of material requirements, compare the stock availability and provide a list of materials (fabric, trimmings, etc) that need to be ordered with the correct delivery date and delivery location, to ensure the making of the garments required. The system should be able at this stage to automatically print the supplier Orders or even fax them directly to the suppliers. The information as to the materials required for each garment is obviously taken from the Costing Sheet. The tabulated information presented in this operation should consider all the outstanding material orders and the respective allocated amounts.
The above information should also be linked to the Critical Path Analysis which in an Integrated System can play a vital role in the presentation of information concerning the status of the individual customer Orders. The Critical Path is slowly becoming an imperative tool which can provide the essential information to the customers as soon as they request updates on Order processing. The initial Critical Path information should be evaluated automatically from the delivery date of the Customer Order and the default number of days required to complete each one of the individual jobs.
I believe that in the near future, the Critical Path is going to increase in importance as far as most big customers are concerned. One should therefore ensure that any Software Packages considered, should include a comprehensive and integrated Critical Path Module as part of the overall System.
The materials aspect of the business is these days receiving a new emphasis due to the fact that a larger proportion of garments is now made overseas and the materials have to be provided from various sources. One also has to keep very accurate records as to the amounts delivered, amounts actually used and the amounts that may be in stock at various warehouses at any one time. It will be of great benefit if the system provides the facility for a projection in the use of materials with warnings that the delivery dates and the requirement dates may have run out of synchronism due to the continuously changing dates on the Critical Path.
The issuing of the Docket should automatically adjust the stock levels of all materials issued. Similarly the completion of the Docket should automatically adjust the stock levels of garments in the relevant warehouse and location. The system should provide the facility to issue Debit Notes to fabric suppliers if any shortages are due to damaged fabric, or to the factory for other shortages or damaged garments. It should also provide the facility for payments of the factories.
For those companies that make the garments in their own factories, the system should be able to produce the required bar coded tickets either for section work or other similar manufacturing method, directly from the Docket. These tickets can be in the form of sticky labels or alternatively they can use the new method devised by ADM Computers in Clothing whereby the sticky labels have been replaced by an alternative modern process (Patent applied for).
Once the garments are in the warehouse the system should provide the option of issuing the Despatch Note to the customer. Obviously the information on what to despatch should automatically come from the original Customer Order. Once the Despatch Note has been issued the garment stock levels should be adjusted automatically.
The issue of the Invoice can then immediately follow with the automatic posting of the relevant information to the Sales Ledger and the Nominal Ledger. One should not accept anything less these days - like for example the updating of the files through overnight utilities, etc. Following the issue of the Invoice, the Intrastat information should automatically be updated from information that can be picked up from the Costing Sheet, the material stock card, etc.
The Accounts Package itself should be fairly comprehensive and apart from a full Sales, Purchase and Nominal Ledgers, it should include a Cash Book as well as the means to a sophisticated Bank Balance Reconciliation.
The multi currency requirement is becoming more important with the new markets available but also with the new sources of fabrics and other materials from various Countries. With the introduction of the European Currency Unit, the Currency for the supplied materials has perhaps become more important than for the sale of garments. This necessitates the introduction of a Costing Sheet for each fabric. Such a Costing Sheet includes the factory cost and the transportation (probably in a foreign Currency), loading, unloading, insurance, rent, commission, etc. A more comprehensive package would also incorporate the element of conversion (dyeing, knitting, etc.) as well as information on the structure of the fabric.
The Reporting Structure of the modern Integrated Package should have enough reports to enable the access and presentation of all information concerning the smooth running of the business. Furthermore the report writer should be available for the users to define their own reports should they need to do so. The reports should provide suitable guidelines to enable fast and accurate decisions to be made without having to chase for information through numerous menus. This can be done through the use of colours and flashing data. Such data should be accessible for further information whilst still in the same menu, though drop down menus.
The selected package should have the facility to access a sketch/photograph of a style. It should also provide the facility of Bar Coding (both printing and reading) as this can vastly improve the speed and accuracy of data entry into the system. For example when receiving or despatching overseas a number of fabric rolls it is advantageous and sometimes essential that the length of each roll is specified separately. The system should be able to print bar coded sticky labels that can be stuck on each roll. These labels should not only specify the length of the roll but also other relevant information such as the code of the fabric, description, colour, composition, width, weight (evaluated automatically from the basic properties of the fabric stock card), batch number, and any allocation information where relevant (customer, order number, factory to make, etc).
A comprehensive integrated package based on the latest technological advancements in computer software and hardware should be able to access information on all other data bases that are similarly structured, through odbc (open date base connectivity). It should also have the facility of accessing Internet and e-mail. Some Packages have also autofaxing and autotelephoning through the modem.
ADM COMPUTERS IN CLOTHING (We seek agents around the World)
50 Oakwood Avenue, London N14 6QL.
Tel: 0044 208 882 2281 Fax: 0044 208 882 4653
Web Site: www.adm-computers.com,