Businesses all over the world are now facing fierce competition because of the liberalization of trade and globalization. Apparel Manufacturers are facing intensive global competition nowadays. Entrepreneurs are becoming more aware of the importance of modern management philosophy to provide the competitive advantage of the free-market system after the total abolition of the MFA in 2005.
Now the key to competition in the international market place is cost reduction besides quality and on-time delivery. Customer demands is now a wide variety of products at a lower cost as they have more opportunities to choose from different options.
Many apparel industry owners are trying to rationalize the cost reduction on wages cutting which is not only the way to minimize manufacturing cost. Some entrepreneurs are also focusing on productivity and efficiency improvement. Few factories are also working to establishing an efficient supply chain in the industry to minimize cost and optimum use of resources.
Besides all these strategies there is one major field is keeping unfocused is the merchandiser’s efficiency improvement, which needs to draw deep attention. Efficient merchandising can help to lower the cost. Merchandisers are the heart of the garment industry. They can contribute a lot to cost minimization. Every single mistake of merchandisers incurs cost increase.
Below are the major areas where merchandisers can focus on cost control:
During the development, stage merchandisers need to focus on the styling. Sometimes customer mentions some process of sewing which is difficult to maintain in bulk production and chances of rejection. If merchandisers discuss with the development team for analyzing and make an alternative option to minimize sewing difficulties, they can find an alternative.
There are many examples we see when bulk production starts, some sewing processes are difficult to continue or to keep quality or productivity is slow which leads bottleneck in the sewing line. If such a process was noticed before production or during development and discussed with the customer for alternative option approval, will help to prevent the operator sit idle in the line and save time to keep calculated SMV.
Once the merchandiser receives the tech packs, need a deep study about material requirements. Sometimes it is found that there is some fabrics requirement for contrast or beautification of the styling, which consumption is very low and not cover MOQ or locally not available.
The merchandiser can check and discuss with in house design team for alternate option proposals to customers. Discussion with the supply chain team can help to find easier options and check with the customer for approval. The merchandiser can follow this in the case of the trims and accessories. If the merchandiser can present nicely the difficulties with a practical impact on the costing, the customer will consider and accept the proposal.
When the merchandiser receives the tech packs, they make the fabric consumption by pressing his calculator or pass to the CAD team for consumption. They never check the marker. There are many ways to improve marker efficiency.
If the merchandiser sits with CAD people and asks for a mini marker then they can study and find a way to improve marker efficiency. This will help them to reduce the fabric consumption and no need to mention that fabric cost is around 60 – 70% of FOB cost.
Selecting fabric width
Selecting the most economical fabric width can help to improve marker efficiency. Again, it is also required to check the mini marker. In the case of knit order, it is very easy to manage as the required machine for circular knit is available. But for woven, it is a bit difficult to get the required marker or fabric width as there is a limitation for weaving to get fabric width as per marker requirements.
But it can be manageable. Sometimes it is noticed fabric consumption is high due to smaller sizes or bigger sizes measurements. In such cases, the CAD section can make a size-wise maker and calculate maker efficiency. If it is needed then can select different fabric width for different sizes. For different fabric widths, the fabric mill might ask for higher fabric price but ultimately the upcharge for bigger width might be less than the fabric wastage of using common width for all sizes marker.
Sometimes merchandisers receive mail from a customer, “Did you checked before sending?” Due to urgency or time shortage merchandiser cannot check the fabric or trims or even samples. They depend on the fabric team or accessories supplier or sample section.
They just work like a postman and pass the things to the buyer for approval. When the customer receives the materials then they notice submission is not perfect or comments are not improved and they reject. It is just a wastage of time and finally has an impact on production.
There are many examples found in the industry, due to the delay approval production team cannot start production on time and miss the delivery date. As a result, goods have to ship by prepaid AIR for launching the goods on time to the shop. The only way to check every single material once they receive and before submit the customer.
Merchandisers are called the local representative of the buyer. From the beginning of an order or inquiry, the merchandiser knows about the pros and cons of it. All comments from a customer or any special instructions must share with all concerned departments. Sometimes merchandisers are getting relief by thorough a mail but sometimes it is required for one table discussion for making the comments clear to the concerned team.
If the merchandiser sits together and discusses the issue’s customer advised to follow then the chances of mistake is almost zero. Sometimes it is noticed, the buyer made comments on the PP sample to improve some points during production and not asked revised PP samples for saving time and for on-time shipment. But the production team is not well informed or understood clearly and started production. During an inline inspection or even final inspection, it is noticed and required rework, which makes production cost high and incurs a huge loss.
Sharing difficulties with customer
In the manufacturing process, many things cannot predict until it is getting into the production process. If any issues come during bulk production, it is the merchandiser’s common tendency to hide rather share to customer and request for approval or alternate solutions. If customers know the difficulties immediately it is noticed, they can either accept it or can make a solution.
If buyers don’t know about any issue when there is a way to modify it, then finally the only option they have to reject it once they are informed. This leads to discount claims or rework or even cancelation. Merchandisers need to think the customer might consider or accept an alternate option. Sometimes customers also accept mistakes or wrong workmanship to get the goods on time.
Learning from past mistakes
When one season is closed, merchandisers close down the order file with learning from the mistakes. They never take note of what problems happened during last season and what they learned. Same mistakes repeating in the next seasons. May be buyer advised something to follow for all seasons commonly, when they noticed it could improve the product’s global view. Merchandisers can follow the running season and forget this is to follow for next season also. It is commonly found in our apparel industry.
Merchandisers are playing a vital role in cost minimization and profit maximization in our RMG industry. Sometimes it is not required to be highly skilled or technically sound to reduce the cost. Just need to think about the bigger picture or the consequences of the actions. An entrepreneur can take initiatives to improve the merchandiser’s efficiency and mindset by arranging relevant training to convert human resources into human capital.