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Fashion Industry

How to create traceability in the fashion industry

Transparency and Traceability are linked to each other. To be transparent you need to be able to trace back all your products and processes. Here’s how you start from the beginning of your product development.

Author profile
Vilmer Ståhle
· 3 minute read

Why is traceability one of the key buzzwords in the fashion industry at the moment?

Because brands need to be able to trace every stage of their product lifecycle in order to be transparent and achieve their sustainable goals.

There’s a huge demand from the bigger players about the origins of the products you produce, the materials you use and whether it is certified. But also consumers are becoming more aware of the social and environmental impact of the fashion industry. Consumers want more and deeper knowledge of the garments they are buying.

Transparency & Traceability are linked to each other

You can only be transparent when you can trace all of your products and processes. To meet the expectations not only of the consumers but also to comply with regulations, tracing your product data from the raw materials until the finished garment is the key foundation for a transparent supply chain.

Here’s three ways you can start tracing your data from the beginning of your product development process.

Mapping materials in a dynamic item library

Building a detailed item library from the very early sourcing processes to improve the traceability of raw materials is crucial for creating a transparent supply chain. 

Item libraries can be created in Excel but it is a time-consuming and demanding process to manually develop a structure where data is organized and updated at all times.

On the other hand, PLM systems provide a proven structure to create and manage item libraries. With built-in supplier collaboration to manage fabric libraries, trims, material swatches, supplier comments, changes, approvals and much more, information is automatically documented and updated as the development process evolves. 

Automate BOM to ensure consistent quality and traceability

Once the detailed item library is built, fashion brands can pick the single pieces of the product puzzle to compose a comprehensive Bill of Material (BOM). Consistency will bring quality – a well-defined BOM is the base of a cost, time and waste-efficient production process ensuring that garments will be assembled without causing production errors. 

Working with a BOM in Excel is a time-consuming process as every single change needs to be manually operated. A method that can easily entail typos and ultimately risk damaging the quality and validity of the company’s BOM.

PLM systems support the automation of BOMs, meaning that each change of an item is automatically reflected in all of the BOMs in which it is used, ensuring consistency of quality and saving time from manually keeping track of these changes. 

Automated handling of a BOM will reduce resources involved in updating it, and decrease the risk of errors, ultimately improving traceability.

Transparency: Mapping the supply chain and sharing knowledge

Traceability is the key to creating transparency. Mapping the supply chain and sharing data across teams and suppliers is vital in order to ensure a transparent sourcing and development process.

The mapping can be manually performed based on supplier information in various item lists in Excel – however, this might be a substantial and time-consuming task in order to get a thorough overview of the entire process. 

Certificates, test reports and information from manufacturers can be shared via email and personal databases, but without a centralized solution, keeping track of all information quickly becomes a complicated task.

On the contrary, a collaborative PLM system automatically maintains an overview of suppliers and information, which removes the complexity of juggling with data in multiple systems. In that way, PLM creates compliance through full transparency of updated product data that is accessible for all stakeholders. 

Traceability is easier with a PLM

Working manually in Excel, emails and personal databases means that sharing your data sharing is more complicated. This results in errors and mistakes that damage will damage your brands’ traceability strategy and makes it difficult to live up to your sustainable goals. 

With PLM make sure that your data is automatically structured, always updated, easy to share and accessible for everyone at all times. PLM helps you build an affordable traceability strategy. 


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