Apparel Manufacturers' Management of Raw Materials Has Come Long Way, But Needs to Evolve More
By: Apparel August 05, 2014
A 2010 University of Florida study found humans began wearing clothing 170,000 years ago. Someone made those clothes from something, and that was the start of raw materials management. One could liberally argue early cave paintings of fur-bearing animals were the first inventory monitoring systems. RMM has come a long way, but we can do better.
Raw materials management has evolved in scope and practice as fashion, social awareness, technology, management philosophies and internet connectivity have matured. In fashion’s earliest days, one cave dweller made one wrap from one animal hide; today a sourcing executive may oversee purchase and logistics decisions annually for tens of thousands of fabrics, components and trims over thousands of SKUs made in multiple factories across numerous countries for overlapping seasons, lines and brands. Early RMM was about availability. Today it is a complex ecosystem encompassing physical materials, country of origin, quality and compliance testing, inventory shrinkage and other data that impact deliveries, import duties, liability and profit. Brand risk associated with the content, provenance, production and movement of raw materials and finished goods today is unprecedented. RMM tools that worked well enough even 20 years ago leave a brand dangerously exposed to sourcing risk today.
Gathering, analyzing and updating the massive amounts of real time data in today’s speed to market(place) and dynamic social and regulatory environment is a gargantuan task. Though still in widespread use, manually updated, user-generated spreadsheets leave brands vulnerable to reputation, profit and legal risk. Simply put, user-generated spreadsheets no longer suffice.