Apparel Warehouses: How to Innovate for Resilience - Exotec

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Apparel Warehouses: How to Innovate for Resilience

November 30, 2023

While operating in the fashion industry’s dynamic landscape, brands encounter unparalleled challenges in satisfying the demands of ever-more discerning and unpredictable consumers. At the heart of this challenge are warehouses, pivotal in supply chain strategies, as they navigate intricate supply and distribution networks. In this article, we delve into areas of innovation where investment can reshape these warehouses into hubs of efficiency, agility, and profitability.

Demand forecasting and agile planning 

One of the foremost challenges confronting apparel companies today revolves around achieving accurate demand forecasting in an environment characterized by perpetual evolution and mounting uncertainty, as detailed in our exploration of the multifaceted seasonality within the apparel industry. While traditional forecasting methods relied on statistical models, innovation in this realm now pivots towards the adoption of innovative technologies, including machine learning, predictive analysis, and neural networks, to dissect historical and present trends. This technological leap enables increasingly granular forecasts, deeper insights into future consumer behavior, and proactive anticipation of forthcoming supply requirements.

Moreover, within the warehouses themselves, agile planning is indispensable to swiftly adapt to demand fluctuations. Contemporary apparel warehouses embrace agile supply chain management systems to optimize inventory levels through nimble data handling, cost reduction, and minimizing delays. Forward-thinking warehouses proactively manage resources and skills to align workforce size and qualifications with warehouse needs. They also explore alternative strategies such as the implementation of robotics to address labor shortages and alleviate the operational strain on human workers, positioning themselves for future success and resilience.

Intelligent, flexible storage solutions 

As in any other warehouse, storage space is precious in clothing warehouses. Here, innovation lies in intelligent, flexible storage solutions. Besides the physical storage solution, automated inventory management systems optimize space utilization and minimize management errors. Modular shelving and other scalable storage systems offer essential flexibility to adapt to changes in the product range. 

What’s more, advanced inventory management using RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) or NFC (Near Field Communication) technology enables real-time traceability, reducing waste and improving inventory accuracy. 

Collaboration with manufacturers and suppliers 

Close collaboration with manufacturers and suppliers is a key element of innovation in apparel warehouses. This is all the more important as it has become increasingly complex with the evolution of the apparel industry and the emergence of new supply chain strategies, as discussed in this article. In this respect, strategic partnerships help to reduce lead times and optimize costs. Supplier relationship management (SRM) systems and real-time communication platforms can facilitate coordination between supply chain players. 

In addition, implementing more sustainable and ethical production processes through collaboration with manufacturers enables apparel companies to respond to growing consumer concerns about social and environmental responsibility, as some brands whose identity is based on a fundamentally ethical and sustainable approach to apparel have well understood. 

Improving order-picking processes 

The efficiency of order-picking processes has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, and the well-being of warehouse operators themselves. Innovation in this field means automating repetitive tasks such as picking and packing. Autonomous robots and intelligent conveyor systems speed up order processing and reduce errors. 

At the cutting edge of this efficiency drive, some intralogistics players are even integrating the use of augmented reality and virtual reality into their operations to help employees quickly locate the required items, thus improving the accuracy and speed of the order-picking process. All this is, of course, being at a very embryonic stage, with no successful practical application to date.

Integrating new technologies for efficient intralogistics 

Integrating new technologies is essential for efficient intralogistics. Apparel warehouses are adopting advanced warehouse software to optimize receiving, storage, picking and shipping. The Internet of Things (IoT) is used to monitor storage conditions, such as temperature and humidity, in real time, guaranteeing product quality. 

For apparel warehouses, defining and implementing an innovation strategy is not longer optional, in the ultra-competitive context of this sector where the supply chain obviously has an immense role to play in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Solutions tailored to the apparel industry

At Exotec, we specialize in the design, production, and maintenance of robotic goods-to-person solutions tailored to optimize warehouses worldwide. Our expertise shines particularly bright in the realm of ready-to-wear and footwear sectors, which collectively constitute nearly 50% of our customer sites. Specifically engineered to address the unique demands of apparel warehouses, our Skypod® system delivers unparalleled performance, agility, and adaptability – qualities that are indispensable for intralogistics operators operating in this sector.

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