The internet of things (IoT) is the big buzzword flying around at the moment, with a lot of amazing implementations being rolled out.The big question is: how does IoT help your fashion business?
To answer this we need to take a step back from the hype and look at IoT in a more practical way. Let’s start by looking at supply chain management. Any business dealing with this will tell you that it is one of their biggest headaches. Now lets add IoT and see how it helps. The best way to take real control of your supply chain, is to break it down to a micro level. Let’s say that you are an apparel / fashion manufacturer, producing thousands of garments a week. You have raw materials coming in from various suppliers at all times, and often these deliveries are staggered across multiple delivery dates. If you don’t have firm control of what is where and how much is available, you are not going to achieve any deadlines, which often results in penalties from the retailers.
Fashion businesses take control of your supply chain using IoT!
Using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags to tag the raw materials as they get delivered and then tracking them in your SCM/PLM (Supply Chain and Product Lifecycle management) system, means that you are starting to get a clear picture of your raw materials as they move around your manufacturing process flow. So how does it work? Radio-frequency identification works by transmitting a signal that gets picked up by receivers (listeners), that feed back to a system. These RFID tags are created by RFID encoders and this can be done on the fly using data passed to it by your SCM/PLM system. After a roll of fabric is tagged with a unique identity that translates to the purchase order, item ID, batch number and supplier, it is put onto your system, showing production planners how much is allocated and where it is. Once the fabric starts moving, the listeners in the warehouse track it. As it is loaded onto a truck the system get automatically updated and when the fabric arrives at the factory, the listener picks it up and the production planners know it has been received by the correct people. All this without a member of staff having to log anything.
Moving from manufacturing into retail and how IoT helps with this.
Once your garments have been manufactured, you tag each garment with a RFID tag. These tags are part of the swing tag that gets added to the garment, so you are not adding any extraneous processes to the flow. Every garment is now trackable on a micro level. Lets say your garments are flat packed and boxed. Once the box is packed and moves past a listener, it picks up all the garments in the box and does a stock count without even opening it. When the boxes get loaded onto the truck, a manifest gets sent to customs as well as to the retailer’s distribution centre (DC), this again is automated. As soon as the truck arrives at the DC, the boxes get off loaded and passed via a listener that again counts the stock in the box. If a box has been tampered with in transport (which until now has been near possible to detect) the system will pick up that there is a difference in the amount of garments in the box and the shipping company is liable.
From here the DC sends the garments to the individual shops, which follows the same process of boxes passing listeners. On the shop floor the garments get moved to the in store position and again listeners are detecting the movement. Because every garment is already tagged with a RFID tag, you don’t need to have security tags as a listener near the entrance will detect when a garment passes that has not been cleared at a till. Furthermore, the process at the till can be streamlined as you don’t need a barcode scanner anymore.
Fashion IoT meets Living Data
Adding listeners around the fashion store and in your changing rooms allows you to track what your customers are trying on, then abandoning or buying, which gives you great insight on what your customers actually want to buy. If your living data system is connected to your e-commerce system it will make adjustments to the order of presentation based on in-store and regional data. Now also connect your digital displays to your living data and your fashion adverts become more targeted.
I hope this blog post has given you a taster of what the IoT can do for your fashion business. If you have any questions leave a comment below or contact us to see how we can help your business grow with amazing technology. Check out our regularly up-dated essential retail technology news snippets.