How the right ERP system can help apparel companies adapt and grow

November 10, 2021
Kaily Hirsch

The apparel industry is no stranger to cycles and trends. Change is a reality of the business, and keeping up is just part of the job. But the rise of ecommerce and ultra-fast fashion brands are creating a significant shift in consumer demands. People expect apparel options that are on-trend, on season, in their size, and they want it all as fast as possible. Messages like "out of stock" are no longer part of business as usual; they are a kiss of death for modern apparel companies. Shoppers can and will find the products they are looking for somewhere else. These demands, combined with extra fashion seasons, micro-trends, and a growing population, are seriously challenging even the largest apparel brands. No matter where you fit into the industry, you have no doubt felt the pressure. Thankfully, there are solutions. 

An ERP designed specifically for the apparel industry can help you meet changing consumer demands. You will access tools that allow you to forecast, plan, and increase your speed to get products out in front of consumers. Automating processes, better communication, and quicker outcomes will not only lead to less work for you but increased sales and happier customers. From forecasting and planning to faster inventory updates and production, the right system should manage your process from end to end, leaving no room for surprises or disruptions.

What is ERP anyway?

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. This is basically a fancy way of describing a system that allows companies to manage the day to day operations related to the production, storing and distribution of materials, goods and services. It may seem like an overly complex concept, but that’s because it is. ERP software has traditionally been a powerful and expensive tool used only by large enterprises, but evolving technology has made it more accessible to companies of all sizes. And, more and more software companies are custom building these systems to address the specific and unique needs of different industries.

Know what consumers want

Forecasting is one great benefit that an ERP system can offer to apparel companies. Forecasting requires tons of data and, if done manually, is time-consuming, incredibly complex, and could very well still lead you down the wrong direction. As a result, many apparel companies just don't know what consumers want. The right ERP tool can help you analyze historical data to understand consumer likes and dislikes better. A system with customizable reports will help you to break data down by any criteria. It'll be easy to see accurate, live information about specific products, locations, order types, and more. It is crucial for everyone in the apparel industry to have full-scale, customizable reporting tools as part of their business management system. Having easy access to data history that is specific and simple to understand will allow you to mimic past successful product launches, rollouts, and campaigns. You will be able to use the information you have at your fingertips to determine the amount of product you will need to satisfy your customers. The right ERP will help you analyze large quantities of data and avoid overselling or stockouts! 

Plan your work and gain visibility 

ERP systems are designed to coordinate the different disconnected areas of your business. They make planning your production, purchasing, and selling much more manageable. Planning is crucial in this industry. The devil is in the details when it comes to apparel, and even the smallest mistake can spell out disaster. You need a system that gives you end-to-end control. Apparel-specific ERP systems will help your design team see their goals and visions come to fruition. Improved visibility across departments will ensure that no part of your workflow is left messy or unclear. Business management systems with inventory management and reporting capabilities will let you plan future material purchases or create automatic reorder points for your most popular products. In addition, you will be able to prepare for potential material shortages, like the cotton crisis happening right now. Planning has always been a priority in apparel and will become even more important as supply chains continue being pushed to their limits. 

Get products in front of consumers faster

Speed is the name of the game in today's world, but moving quickly can create a whole set of new challenges. An ERP built with the apparel industry in mind will ensure the standard and quality of products at every stage of development. You should never have to sacrifice your product or sanity for the sake of getting work completed and products sold. You need a system that ensures inventory levels are reflecting incoming and outgoing orders live. You need automated processes that will help you deal with data collection, fulfillment, and reorders. A snappier workflow means products are out and ready to sell while they are still on the top customer's minds. Gone are the days when consumers are happy to spend ages on waitlists; they'll find the products somewhere else or move on to the next best thing. 

When it comes to quicker (and less painful) manufacturing, an ERP designed for apparel should allow you to accumulate active work orders. A great system should include a customizable Bill of Materials (BOM) that enables you to have multi-layered BOMs with unlimited materials. You'll be able to see all the material requirements for each article of clothing.  This type of customizable BOM allows users to change active work orders without changing the original BOM.  When it comes to apparel manufacturing, you shouldn't have to make different work orders based on various requirements. Instead, your manufacturing system should take all of that information and add it to the work order transaction. A system that lets you create work orders off of multiple orders and get a clear view of your future is non-negotiable. These automated processes and customizable BOMs are the key to getting your products made quickly and in front of buyers without hiccups. 

Don’t get left behind

If you've been debating upgrading your business management software, now is the time - it's sink or swim in this new era of apparel. Consumers' expectations have changed, and old ERP systems cannot handle modern demands. Manufacturers, distributors, and direct-to-consumer sellers must adapt to current consumption trends or risk getting left behind. ParagonERP is designed with the unique challenges of the apparel industry in mind. You owe it to your customers and yourself to get a specialized system that can stand the trials and tribulations of the exciting but turbulent apparel industry.

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