Robust VPN keeps apparel maker ahead of the fashion curve

The apparel industry, perhaps more than any other, feels the need for speed when it comes to getting new products to market. “Speed is a core competency in the fashion business,” says Fernando Gonzalez, CIO of Byer California, a San Francisco-based manufacturer of clothing that appeals primarily to teenage girls.

02/01/2009


The apparel industry, perhaps more than any other, feels the need for speed when it comes to getting new products to market.

“Speed is a core competency in the fashion business,” says Fernando Gonzalez, CIO of Byer California , a San Francisco-based manufacturer of clothing that appeals primarily to teenage girls. “In just weeks a new design can go from 'hot' to 'not', and slip from the full-price rack to the closeout discounter.”


Byer California, a San Francisco-based apparel maker, uses a virtual private network to link headquarters, design centers, showrooms, and warehouses— enabling both its manufacturing and sales groups to respond nimbly to changes in customer demand.

Consequently, Byer must be able to push information through its supply chain in a rapid, reliable fashion. Gonzalez says that's now possible since adopting a virtual private network (VPN) from AT&T . The network links the company's headquarters, design centers, showrooms, and warehouses, enabling both its manufacturing and sales groups to respond nimbly to changes in customer demand.

To create compelling designs attuned to the very latest trends, intense collaboration is required among Byer teams scattered about Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York. Videoconferences held over the VPN are the norm, with cameras transmitting images of samples and fabrics as new designs are vetted.

Digital specifications are then dispatched via the VPN to core teams of pattern makers and sewing machinists located in the company's design centers—each center close to a warehouse that contains not only finished goods en route to customers, but stocks of raw materials.

“If it's a rush job, we can go from a blouse design to a sample in four hours: for a dress sample, the turnaround is seven to eight hours,” says Gonzalez.

The ability to place samples in customers' hands at such short notice is turning out to be a competitive edge, he adds. Rapid response also extends to the supply chain downstream from manufacturing. While Byer California retains a U.S.-based manufacturing operation that produces high-margin garments required in-store at relatively short notice—three weeks from design concept to store shelf, for instance—overseas factories are the main source of supply.

And for the overseas supply chain, agility is vital. Given the short shelf-life of Byer's typical product, the usual game plan is to get a certain amount of product in the store, and then time the supply chain's movement to the pace of actual sales.

Point-of-sale data—some of it obtained digitally; some verbally via calls to stores—is used to fine-tune the precise rate of production and delivery of each product, thus saving Byer the markdown money that department stores receive for clothes that don't sell at full retail price.

The same information helps the company see when sales are higher than expected, indicating the need to boost production while products are still in the higher-margin portion of their life cycle.

In the case of unexpected material shortages, the VPN permits the use of video-conferencing, digital mock-ups, and quickly generated samples to model the effect of substitutions—a seven-inch zip fastener in place of an eight-inch fastener, for instance—until supplies of eight-inch zips are replenished.

“When I joined Byer, I was always fighting network failures,” recalls Gonzalez. The AT&T MPLS-enabled IP VPN has not only put Byer's core business on a firmer footing, he notes, but adds resiliency. Using the VPN, data is replicated at the data centers, which serve as backups for each other, and the “any-to-any” connectivity delivers the flexibility required for operations to substitute for each other in an emergency.





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.