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Fashion Industry

The Bill of Materials (BoM) – The Hidden Hero of Brand Sustainability

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Thore Bischoff
· 3 minute read

The fashion industry still accounts for 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year – more than the shipping and aviation industry combined. In the light of this, the demand for more responsible and sustainable business conduct continues to increase under the public eye. A Quantis study from 2018 found that over 90% of those emissions come from four activities: dyeing and finishing, fabric preparation, yarn preparation and fiber production. All processing steps where the value chain relies on complete and accurate order estimates, to only produce for the actual need. In order to deliver on these terms, the Bill of Materials (BoM) plays an integral role: while inaccurate BoMs can become a main contributor for resource wastage, thoroughly designed and adequately forecasted BoMs become your hidden hero for brand sustainability.

In this article, we uncover how an (in)accurate BoM composition affects your value chain, how PLM can facilitate the quality of your BoMs, as well as open the dialogue for a path towards stronger sustainable actions.

What is a Bill of Materials (BoM)?

No matter if we are discussing shoes, clothing or accessories, a Bill of Materials (BoM) in its essence is a complete list of all your items and their respective units & costs that you need to create a product that’s why many also refer to it as a shopping list. And when we say complete, we mean it: every millimeter of a garment’s fabric and stitches, and each and every intended zipper or button should be covered in it. 

While each BoM should be customized to suit the product at hand, it usually covers the component category (e.g. fabrication, trim, interfacing), its size/dimension, the color, the supplier, the needed quantity and the location of the material on the garment. That way, you can keep a precise categorical overview of all material costs to better plan your purchases and eventually produce as resource- and waste-efficient as possible; while never missing the tiniest of details.

Why is the Bill of Materials so important for a functioning value chain?

The BoM originates directly from a designer’s feather with its own illustrations and notions about suggested features, materials, trims and colors. All of these specifications need to be thoroughly transferred into a well-defined, detailed Bill of Materials by the product development and costing teams that allow designers to capture an accurate depiction of actual material demand. Product technicians then approve colors, patterns, body measurements, final fittings and quality assurance and prepare the hand-over for suppliers. 

The tiniest of errors can lead to significant interdepartmental problems and paralyze the operative value chain throughout the full development cycle. For instance, unproportionate estimates of the component quantity can cause inaccurate inventory, which will likely stall production. Additionally, an incorrect product costing can impact your ROI (Return on Investment) and strategic budgeting decisions, while mistakes in the BoM data input can peak in quality concerns and customer returns if they remain unnoticed throughout the full development process.

Why is a well-designed Bill of Materials crucial for brand sustainability?

Most fashion brands are on a constant lookout finding ways to optimize the sustainability of their products and operations, be it for external demand, their own corporate values or margin profitability. When you approach that path, a thorough and sophisticated BoM basically becomes your recipe list for forming a sustainable, responsible and transparent product. This starts by substituting environmentally harmful materials with more regenerative ones and integrating them into the product design; continues with a considerate choice for more sustainable processing measures; and ends with involving your suppliers in the process to execute such measures and share transparent data. Ultimately, it is the combination of all these measures that help you to produce and promote a truly sustainable product.

How can Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) facilitate the creation of accurate and complete BoMs?

You can automate much of the product documentation process within the environment of a PLM system, including the generation of accurate and complete Bill of Materials. As these can be shifted over and adjusted from season to season to fit both smaller and larger changes, the element of human error becomes a struggle of the past. With its collaborative platform design, a PLM software also allows all internal and external parties to provide and approve relevant product- and process-related data inputs and outputs. 

Collaboration means that your design and manufacturing teams will be working in the same platform environment, helping you reach early alignment in-between design intent and product realization. That way, designers and product technicians know if design requirements are impossible to implement right from the initial stages and can offer alternatives before any issues in the prototyping stage evolve – allowing for a quick and accurate approval early in the lifecycle.

A sophisticated Bill of Materials will lay the foundation for a resource-efficient and qualitative operative value chain. But to seek true sustainability, your full ecosystem needs to thoroughly align on that mission.

Book a demo and see how Delogue PLM can facilitate your brand’s sustainability efforts and support accurate BoMs.


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