Blockchain can guarantee product authenticity, fight counterfeiting
Founded in 1973, Paris-headquartered Lectra is one of the leading providers of apparel and fashion technology solutions. The company empowers brands and manufacturers from design to production and the management of collections that cover the entire product lifecycle in the fashion and apparel industry. Philippe Ribera, vice president-innovation, discusses supply chain challenges and offers possible solutions to them in an interview with Fibre2Fashion.
Tell us about the Lectra's Cutting Room 4.0 launched recently. What digital changes does it bring to the fashion industry?
The main Industry 4.0 challenges in manufacturing are about quality issues and visibility. Eighty five per cent of quality issues are caused by worker errors, and 40 per cent have no visibility into the real-time status of their company's manufacturing process.
Lectra's cutting room 4.0 is a process-oriented and a data-centric solution. It allows operators and managers to get a permanent monitoring to production via a secure remote connection. Our autonomous cutting room solutions give a direct link to Lectra experts by sending technical information and enabling preventive support. It aims maximum flexibility and efficiency in production.
Virga, our brand new made-to-offer solution for mass-customisation, is the first single-ply cutting-room to fully integrate this 4.0 proposition.
What will the fashion product lifecycle management (PLM) market look like five years from now?
First, only the most innovative, more collaborative, modulable and scalable solutions with an outstanding user-experience will compete in a few years.
The fashion PLM market is now focused on delivering:
- Collaborative tools: to connect processes, systems and supply chains
- Modularity: to offer solutions adapted to each customer's methods and issues
- Scalability: dedicated to all kind of processes (design to source, develop to source and develop to manufacture) for small and big companies
Then, fashion expertise will be decisive. Fashion companies are looking for relevant tools based on their own processes. Lectra actually got the know-how to think and develop the future of fashion PLM, more than any competitors. We are working on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) through some proof of concept (PoC) to help design the next generation of collaborative tools for the fashion industry.
We know that the future will be fully connected and committed to enhancing the product development efficiency through industry 4.0 technologies and best practices. Together, the four main pillars of digitalisation - big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), the platform economy and artificial intelligence - promises perhaps the most profound change that fashion has undergone since the dawn of large-scale manufacturing.
The Lectra PLM white-paper titled "The Digitalization of Fashion" by the WhichPLM magazine said: "It is little wonder, then, that the BoF and McKinsey research referenced earlier lists 'end-to-end transparency,' as a key theme for the digital reinvention of the fashion industry supply chain. Brands and retailers who invest in obtaining this level of insight will be able to build and advertise codes of conduct for social compliance and sustainability, confident that there are no blind spots in their design, development, and manufacturing processes."
What factors continue to have an impact on the fashion industry?
In 2018, the fashion industry will continue to face the challenges that have been around for a while. These disruptive trends and challenges start to become a norm:
- Global economy plus consumer shifts and trends:
o Volatility, uncertainty, and shifts in the global economy: major decisions by the United States, China with its supremacy in textile production, but with growing labour costs.
o The millenials and the upcoming Z generation:
- Need for speed with fast and ultra-fast fashion: Speed-to-market is being redefined to 'Idea-to-Consumer'. The winners will be those retailers, manufacturers and brands that evolve their thinking in strategic collaboration and focus on value generation to the consumer.
- Need for sustainability.
- E-commerce development and shopping experience re-invented.
- Flow positive sourcing trends:
o The digitalisation of the value chains: Processes are changing with big data, IoT and the current need for agility. 3D visualisation/virtual prototyping is the most sought-after functionality.
o Pressure on growth and margins.
o Near-shoring: Regional sourcing closer to the consumer will continue to expand, partly due to fast fashion and customisation issues.
o Upcycling issues of unsold articles.
But these challenges also present opportunities as the improvement and digitalization of the value chain or a closer alignment between product development and suppliers occur. This is why collaborative tools as PLM can help companies.
Personalisation is increasing in fashion. The sourcing trends are also changing with nearshoring and the rise of homegrown products. Are these new challenges being considered for fashion IT solutions?
Lectra is answering these trends by launching the cutting room 4.0 solutions and a brand new machine, Virga.
This new cutting room is dedicated to agile production and mass-customisation. It is, with the support of our coming digital platform for made to order (planning, control, dashboarding), dedicated care-services (digital direct link to Lectra's experts), training and consumables offers, a complete workflow tailored for cutting operations. It is a perfect tool to answer the challenges of product personalisation and cost reduction while nearshoring.
These new challenges are also being considered as we support the product development on a digital collaborative platform, as our Lectra fashion PLM 4.0. As we said, collaboration, modularity and scalability are the key for fashion IT solutions.
What are vendors and fashion companies looking for in terms of IT solutions?
They are looking for more collaborative tools. IT solutions have to be user-centric, developed with care for the user experience (interface, 3D visualisation) and data-centric, permanently connected to big data, libraries and consumer inputs from shops and social media.
A lot of big players have a digitised supply chain. What about small companies and fashion start-ups? Do you see the rate of adoption increasing there?
Fashion PLM solutions are now modular and adapted to usages and processes, so that they can correspond to companies of all sizes. More and more companies are adopting it also because they are looking for efficiency. Moreover, they are now affordable, so there is no obstacle to the access to a digitised supply chain for any.
Which geographical regions do your customers for fashion solutions belong to? Where is the adoption of 3D fashion design integrated PLM solutions growing?
Lectra is selling fashion solutions in over 100 countries, a harmonious mix of countries between Europe, Asia and the Americas. We are successful because we create strong dedicated relationships with our customers and because we support them wherever they are.
3D fashion design and integrated PLM are a change management challenge in fashion. People are used to 2D tools or manual works on mannequins, but 3D design on computer is slowly gaining ground. Adoption is growing everywhere but a lot of our customers are located in Europe.
Do you see the use of VR and AR growing in product designing too? Is Lectra working on this?
Lectra is working on VR for product design and development and AR for maintenance. We recently realised a PoC on this technology about how to improve collaborative decision-making through interactions with virtual prototypes. We are working on how to:
- View and interact with virtual prototypes
- Invite members of multi-disciplinary teams
- Work on multiple sites in real time
Will the concept of blockchain make its way into fashion PLM?
Blockchain seems to be the tool to work on traceability and create a valid link between brand and consumer. It can also be a way to guarantee product authenticity and to fight counterfeiting.
Lectra is now working on those subjects by defining future project developments that will help improve our offer in the next years.
What is Lectra's focus on for upcoming solutions, especially for the fashion industry?
On one hand, we are continuously working on our product development platform and on the upcoming Lectra Digital Cutting Platform by implementing new modules, while on the other, Lectra is exploring new ways to enrich its offer through research on materials, data collection and analysis.
Collaboration, an open vision and innovation are keys to developing a common future. (HO)