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Tailoring IT solutions for one of the largest players in the Fashion business

Tailoring IT solutions for one of the largest players in the Fashion business

A relationship that has “worn” well

This client is one of the largest US-based apparel and footwear manufacturing and retailing concerns, with 1200 stores and ranks among HCL’s earliest and most valued clients. In fact, HCL has built a strategic partnership with the group over the last five years, building domain strength and creating value for the client. The complexities of the business are further layered by its very nature – i.e. fashion, which has its own fickle, time-bound demands; the sheer spread of the business, both in physical and corporate geographies, the latter through mergers and acquisitions and the nature of operations – both manufacturing and retail. At the time it approached HCL, the client has a complex and scattered IT environment, stemming from all of these factors.

That dress needed to be in the store yesterday!

This was a frequent complaint about the group. The business of apparel is one from which you can easily be ousted if you miss the boat on trends and end up with a whole load of dead stock. The fact that the group was involved in both manufacturing and retailing their products, not only through their own stores, but also through other stores, only added another layer of complexity. The manufacturing processes needed to be streamlined, warehousing and the supply chain required tweaking, the in-store processes needed to be ramped up.

Also, all of these needed to be integrated into a system which would enable tracking of a product at every stage of its lifecycle, ensuring that it reached the stores in good time from the design stage onwards including the development, manufacture, warehousing and retail elements. Intervention was required at every stage from product design to demand management, supply chain management, retail management and the enterprise layer for smooth communication at all levels.

Specific issues included reduction in concept-to-store time for a product and integration. Integration in itself was a huge challenge, given that the group had a rich history of mergers and acquisitions. However, all of the acquired companies under the group umbrella functioned on diverse platforms, which were not necessarily compatible with each other. This also meant that the management was not accessing a “single version of the truth”. Ten data centers, eight different e-mail systems, six different operating systems and ERP packages, and seven vendors combined with complete lack of any software standards posed serious barriers to a transparent and smooth functioning. In addition, warehousing was a huge issue because the group owned between 30-40 brands, and products could not be shared or transferred between brands and warehouses.

The dress fits like a dream

Partnering with the group was a bit like styling a supermodel. Everything had to be customized , to get that perfect fit. The solution that HCL partnered with the group also needed to be similarly tailored. It was broadly divided into two sections: Enterprise Applications and IT Infrastructure. The three-stage transformation journey enabled conceptualization and implementation of these solutions in an optimal fashion.

Enterprise Applications were focused on the three main challenges of tracking product data and lifecycle; creating a single version of truth across all company acquisitions, bringing them under a common IT umbrella and upgrading warehouse management. Once the IT Infrastructure was integrated and upgraded, the way was paved for the operations transformation.

Product lifecycle and data management were handled through the UG STC application, while the specialized SAP AFS (Apparel and Footwear System) and Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management system streamlined the post-manufacturing processes.

You look like a million bucks

HCL worked on several fronts and delivered high value to the group. From reducing the ‘Concept-to-Store’ cycle time to a mere 16 weeks from 52, decreasing the garment development cost and increasing the number of on-trend styles to creating collaboration across the entire supply chain from vendors to customers, separating the design and production stages, developing corporate product knowledge (PDM) and best practices to controlling the product development timelines, the entire process was streamlined to perform at a higher efficiency and lower cost.

The global IT infrastructure was upgraded across data networks and servers to accommodate the new system.

The ERP system, based on SAP was implemented and supported by HCL with strong focus on operational excellence. This provided a common platform for all processes from costing and allocation procedures to vendor/ customer/ product numbering. Further, reduction in time taken to assimilate and integrate mergers and acquisitions was reduced – they were all integrated at an Enterprise system level in a timeline that was tightened from 18 to 3-6 months. And finally, “one version of truth” was available to the management through the implementation of SAP Business Warehousing.

The warehouse management translated into tremendous increases in efficiency and cost savings as well. The group could now ship any product, for any division, from any warehouse. There was a better Supply Chain visibility, higher shipping floor efficiency and a 300 percent rise in productivity for customer order execution besides improved routing efficiency and a common version for inventory distribution and transfers.

We’ve only just begun

The relationship between HCL and group has been strengthened over time and several projects, and HCL is currently exploring further improvements to the existing system in order to help the company take its operations transformation to the next level.


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