Applying Product Usage Information to Optimise the Product Lifecycle in the Clothing and Textiles Industry
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The clothing and textiles industry is facing intense challenges regarding shorter product lifecycles and increasing customer demands. The market expects new collection proposals up to every 15 days now instead of twice a year previously. The frequency of new collection design is especially demanding for small companies in the sector, who are under pressure to accelerate their design process whilst at the same time more precisely target customer groups to avoid unsold garments and returns. They also need to more efficiently manage their product lifecycles and supply chains to keep up with the higher speed of collection development. By gathering and analysing Product Usage Information (PUI) from customers, influencers and other stakeholders in the clothing and textiles product lifecycle, these companies can get quicker and better insights into fashion trends, customer expectations and market parameters. Precise knowledge about, for example, what colours, materials, styles and fittings are in demand can help companies develop new collections to more precisely meet market demands. In addition, sharing that information throughout their supply chain in a collaborative way can help accelerate processes throughout the lifecycle and contribute to overcoming the new market challenges. This article presents a use case from the Italian clothing and textiles company Dena Milano in which different sources of PUI were investigated to support the design of new collections and to update existing ones which better fit the expectations of the market, increase sales, and reduce the need for prototypes and the amount of unsold garments. It describes the development, trial and evaluation of a collaborative IT platform which collects, aggregates, analyses and visualises PUI to improve the target processes. Among the sources of PUI investigated in the use case are social media, company documents and databases, and different types of customer feedback. A novel approach to extracting fitting information from images was also developed as a part of the platform, as was a collaborative tool for idea management which involves stakeholders throughout the collection lifecycle in a collaborative open innovation process. The article begins with an introduction to the use of product usage information in the product lifecycle, and the background to its potential benefits in the clothing and textiles industry. The research approach and the activities carried out are subsequently described. This includes a detailed look at the PUI selected in the use case. The next section describes the architecture of the developed IT platform, with a focus on the tools designed to extract fitting information and collaboratively managing ideas. A section outlining the application of the IT platform in the use case follows. The next section presents the evaluation of the application of the IT platform from the point of view of Dena Milano. Sections describing the achieved benefits and an outlook to future work conclude the article.
Part of this research was funded under the EC Horizon 2020 Programme, in the context of the FALCON project (http://www.falcon-h2020.eu/). The authors wish to acknowledge the Commission and all the FALCON project partners for the fruitful collaboration.
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