With the change in demand of the consumers, with the change in seasons and time coupled, with their expectations of proper landing of goods at right time and at right place, supply chain has become an important factor for the Indian apparel industry especially by air and DHL Express is one the leading players who understands the industry quite well through its long-term association with fashion shows. Jasleen Kaur
Black may be beautiful, but white may be wonderful! Red doesn’t suit and yellow doesn’t go with the season! Going to college ripped jeans or till-the-knee Bermuda? Going to party the well-draped sari or the floor-length gown! This is an element of style. Vogue is the buzzword irrespective of any age and everyone wants to incorporate it into their wardrobe. But does fashion have little to do with the logistics and supply chain management? Think again.
When images of the hot-chic model hit the media, be it through TV or magazines or fashion shows or through big banners outside the malls, consumers scrambled to find that ripped jeans, that till-the-knee Bermuda, that well-draped sari that ‘vogue’, racking up to sales in whopping figures when it was first grabbed the attention of the consumer. And only then do apparel companies send their supply chains into overdrive to deliver on the ‘demands’. Such celebrity-inspired fashion crazes, as well as each year’s new trends showcased at fashion shows like Lakme India Fashion Week or Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week, make the apparel logistics more time sensitive than any other vertical. And, the consumer is also satisfied only with the proper landing of goods at the right time. Suppose a new trend of ripped jeans is launched catering to college students at the time of new session starts in July. If these jeans don’t get to the stores in time, it won’t be the hot item anymore. Consequently, due to cost reductions, just-in-time capabilities, getting product to store shelves faster, new methodologies, and automation the supply chain has become an important factor for the Indian apparel industry, where air logistics has a prominent role to play.
According to Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), India’s overall textile and garment exports will likely rise by around 4-5 percent this fiscal and fall short of the official target of $45 billion, thanks to a massive slowdown in Chinese demand for cotton and yarn, trade and industry. Though there has been an increase in the total export of apparel, export orders have been declining from the previous year. The garment exports grew 13.4 percent during April-February period to $15.26 billion from a year earlier. R S Subramanian, senior vice president and managing director, DHL Express India, shared, “The apparel logistics market is worth over $110 billion in India. It is almost 10 percent of India’s GDP. A streamlined supply chain can do wonders for any company, be it a service user or service provider. Across all industries, companies are realising the strategic importance of value-added supply chain and logistics services.”
DHL, the most passionate player
DHL Express, one of the leading players in apparel logistics by air, has a strong commitment to apparel industry through its association with Lakme Fashion Week. In the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015 DHL Express is sponsoring known designers like Nishka Lulla and Kunal Rawal. DHL is the official logistics partner for fashion week in 11 countries across four continents and continues for ninth year in India. Subramanian said, “DHL has been a long-time partner of IMG Fashion Weeks worldwide and we understand the business and the needs of the industry. The fashion, textile and apparel industry is one of the most creative and demanding industries and as the world’s leading logistics company, we provide the best solutions. Fashion Weeks are a perfect platform for us to demonstrate our expertise and we are delighted to be a part of this season once again.”
“Working with top designers has been truly delightful. Their designs are fresh and contemporary with an international appeal, which is what brand DHL epitomises. The fashion industry is something that we at DHL Express intimately understand, given our association with 30 Fashion Week events spanning 15 cities. Lakme Fashion Week is a perfect platform for us to showcase our partnership with the fashion fraternity and in the last season in 2014, we were very happy to be associated with young and creative talent such as MAWI and Gaurav Gupta. As international specialists in logistics, DHL works round-the-year and round-the-clock to ensure the fashion industry get the logistics support they need to ensure they remain cutting-edge in a vibrant market,” he added.
Time & demand as critical factors
Timing is the most critical factor in the apparel logistics. Consumer can only be satisfied with the proper landing of goods at the right time and at the right place. Moreover, changing style assortments and major seasonal change-outs, add to the significance of the timing in the apparel logistics. Being the logistics sponsor of Lakme India fashion week, DHL covers the entire logistics value chain of the fashion industry from material purchasing, quick movement of samples and quality control of production to the direct delivery of finished products to boutiques. Tailor-made express solutions address the latest trends in the fashion world and meet the specific needs of individual customers. These include value-added services such as the provision of track and trace capability to enhance shipment visibility, express services for efficient distribution of products from factory to store at competitive cost levels, as well as global trade services to provide specialist brokerage assistance. And it strengthens its presence in every nook and corner of the world thereby moving the fashion and finally taking it to the ramp.
Technology has a key role to play
The apparel companies need to engage hi-tech supply chain providers to meet the demands of the customers, opined Subramanian. “While part of it is still moving boxes, it’s more trend-driven than other verticals. Increasingly, apparel companies turn to technology to help meet the do-or-die supply chain demands that characterise this hypercompetitive environment. The shift towards a high-tech supply chain helps apparel companies be more reactive to consumer needs, which ultimately helps them increase revenues,” he observed. Custom-tailored enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management system (WMS), product lifecycle management (PLM), and inbound logistics software systems help apparel companies combat supply chain obstacles. Advances in RFID capabilities, web-based technology, and reverse logistics applications, among others, also push the industry forward. These technologies dish out real-time visibility information that lets apparel companies better track products across global supply chains, and make timely decisions on changes to style, color, size, price, where products are sold, and distribution patterns, among others. Because of the value-adds technology provides cost reductions, just-in-time capabilities, getting product to store shelves faster, new methodologies, and automation the supply chain has become a margin factor rather than a cost factor for apparel companies.
Subramanian informed that DHL has been a pioneer in developing the ‘Track and Trace’ systems adopted worldwide by all the major international air express companies. This is a very good example of customer service self-help. “On the business efficiency front, measuring transit time has been one of our key achievements. It has served a benchmark against our own commitments. This is another example of how technology has enabled us to translate a measure into a quantifiable and a measurable parameter. To put it simply, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’,” he added.
Supply chain obstacles
Factor in long lead times for offshore manufacturing and the necessity to meet retailers’ requirements for timely and complete delivery, often reinforced with penalties there is lot of supply chain obstacles in the apparel industry. Subramanian said, “In India, the apparel export business has always faced the challenge of meeting deadlines and maintaining a lead time which is becoming shorter day by day with the advent of fast fashion where the retailers are trying to get the manufacturing of the merchandise done much closer to the selling season. This is pushing all the members of the supply chain to optimise performance. The NCR is one of the important export hubs of apparel business. Since the region does not have proximity to export houses, buying houses and freight forwarding companies, this region often face operational and infrastructural challenges.”
Competition in the air
However, the competition is everywhere and apparel air logistics is not an exception. FedEx, on the other hand, was the Official Logistics Partner at the 13th Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, held in New Delhi. Through its deep knowledge of the industry, FedEx helps apparel customers realise competitive advantages within their supply chain that can cut days and even weeks off distribution cycles and increase profits. FedEx provides time-definitive deliveries for special garments that need to reach consumers or retailers immediately and provide assistance with customs clearance. FedEx also produces packaging specifically for the textile industry to help ensure product arrives safely. The FedEx Express sponsorship of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week is just another example of the company’s commitment to the industry. FedEx has an unparalleled global network to help garments designed and manufactured in India reach more than 220 countries and territories within one to three business days. With more than 16 customs clearance gateways in India alone, highest for any express delivery company, FedEx is highly equipped to deliver goods to the apparel industry. Moreover, recently, American Swan, an online fashion brand said it has made its products more accessible to customers by tying up with India Post Delivery Service to offer a wider reach to over 20,000 PIN codes across India.
“Through more than 50 years in fashion, DHL has provided speedy response, excellent quality and convenient delivery that the industry demands, especially in this era of multiple sales channels and online retailing. DHL has developed specific logistics solutions to meet the demanding needs of this dynamic sector. Our unmatched worldwide presence means we can deliver optimised supply chains, reduced lead times and easy access to new markets. With the fashion industry witnessing phenomenal growth, DHL takes its role as trade facilitator rather seriously. Our partnership with LFW was immensely successful. On a global level, DHL has been partnering with fashion events across the world to provide logistic support and will continue to do so,” concluded Subramanian.