Fast Fashion: Achieving Global Quick Response (GQR) in the Internationally Dispersed Clothing Industry
28 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2009 Last revised: 4 Apr 2012
Date Written: September 14, 2009
The clothing industry is one of the most mobile industries in the world. In the last three decades clothing manufacture has migrated substantially from the developed to the less well developed economies. There have also been significant movements of parts of the clothing sector across newly industrialized, developing and under-developed economies. The emergence and dominance of clothing production in China in the last two decades has had a major impact, as have the changing regulatory structures affecting international trade in textiles and clothing. Global supply networks pose significant challenges for quick and accurate response in the clothing sector. The challenges relate to ensuring the right volume and mix within retail stores from a globally dispersed supply network. Here we first discuss the global dispersal of clothing manufacture and the emergence of buyer-driven supply networks. We then define and describe a new concept - Global Quick Response (GQR) - which strives to combine cost and scale efficiencies by sourcing globally with quick and accurate response to specific market requirements based on effective information management, dynamic planning and strong logistics. The characteristics of order fulfillment in the volume clothing sector from design and sampling to supply chain ramp up for volume production are discussed. We examine GQR with respect to three fundamental operational processes - the new garment design and development process; the initial volume order process; and the replenishment or repeat order process. Strong QR basics are needed in GQR systems. However, GQR requires a 'total systems' focus. We discuss GQR requirements with respect to market intelligence and rapid new product introduction; network structure; network planning; and network capability, performance and health. Quick response is premised on compression of key components of lead time. The importance of staged planning postponement over a rolling planning horizon is highlighted. This enables open and flexible planning pipelines, where commitment to precise mix requirements is delayed as late as possible in the supply process. Different solutions to achieving Global Quick Response (GQR) are possible from fully integrated, centrally controlled systems to response based on contractual relationships. Two contrasting examples from practice - Zara and Primark - are described. GQR offers significant opportunities for further research both in the clothing sector and more widely.
Keywords: Global Quick Response, Clothing industry, Supply Chain Management, Fast Fashion
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