A TECHNOLOGY TRIP REPORT TO NGC
I met Alan Brooks, founder of New Generation Computing, in 1985 when I was with IBM. In 1990, I was assigned the IBM apparel industry software mission which was to find application software for the apparel industry that worked on the IBM AS/400. Alan had written apparel application software for our industry and by 1990 he had become an apparel industry application software house.
Alan and I were charter members of the AAFA 'Quick Response Leadership Committee' in 1990. We literally built the committee together. When I joined the AAPN in 1995, Alan brought NGC into our membership. He has gone out of his way to keep me current on the bleeding edge of the changes technology has forced upon our industry. Today NGC is a major industry innovator with these highlights:
- Over 37 years supporting fashion brands and retailers
NGC is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Software, Inc.
Offices in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia
FIDM classes in design & supply chain
NGC’s Advisory Board includes many industry leaders
Knowing that NGC had expanded its suite of applications over these decades, even integrating them with three other software firms owned by American Software, I called Fred Isenberg asking if I could visit them on Feb 26. What I learned on this visit is they have evolved into a cloud-based platform with an end-to-end supply chain set of problem solving software modules. Many of these have been developed in joint projects with their long term customers who are major industry brands, as you can see on https://www.ngcsoftware.com. On this tour, I met with:
Fred Isenberg, President Consulting Services
Roger Mayerson, VP Vendor and Product Compliance Solutions
Jennifer Carter, Director Solutions Consulting
Maria Saavedra, Marketing Director
Their focus was best summarized by NGC President/Chief Strategy Officer Mark Bernstein, in the SOURCING JOURNAL on Aug 30, 2019 when he said, "Today’s fashion and retail supply chains are extraordinarily complex. In the ultra-competitive world of fashion retail, companies must manage all the details of product design, sourcing, compliance, product testing and supply chain execution for thousands of SKUs simultaneously. They must also react to constantly changing demand signals, fashion trends, weather patterns, sales data, production delays and many other variables—and they must do it faster and faster".
But how can we visualize the complexity within a major brand or retailer? We know there are some 30 links in the apparel supply chain. How many steps are required inside a brand to design and deliver garments to consumers? How many staff operations are required to sign off on each step? Who actually generates the data?
This is critical. At our first AAPN Sourcing Executive Roundtable of dozens of sourcing executives, held at Material World in Miami, Suzy Ganz of Lion Brothers looked at these brands and said, "you tell us suppliers that you want to share information but all you do is ask us to enter data". How far have we come since then? Not much apparently.
NGC showed me blockbuster slide, one I had never seen before in my 30 year career in this industry – the steps and the responsibilities inside of a brand. The top axis showed 21 steps to plan, develop, source, produce, ship and sell a garment. The side axis showed the 18 departments or functions within the brand required to execute production. Small blue squares showed who actually generated the data that drive the next steps in production. The gray ones are the departments that need that information to perform their jobs. The ratio is four gray squares for each blue square. As NGC puts it, "without a platform containing all the real-time enterprise information available to everyone, companies are stuck with data silos, analog processes and slow decisions". This is that slide:
People change. Staffs change. Styles change. But data is a constant. The question is, when does and when should the data become information that can be shared down chain because – how can you be transparent when there is wall after wall, silo after silo, discontinuity after disaster, and more INSIDE the brand and then subsequently DOWN the chain? That is exactly what NGC has been developing over their decades in our industry
We asked our brand members about this. One wrote, "We've been developing RACI's……Responsibility Assignment Matrix. RACI is an acronym that stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. A RACI chart is a matrix of all the activities or decision making authorities undertaken in an organization set against all the people or roles. It has really helped departments that did not work well together cross-functionally and helped build teamwork".
Wow, so while we have been working to organize the supply chain of this hemisphere industrially, some brands have stepped back and started doing the same within their own enterprise. Way back in our AAPN Annual Conference 2007 in Santa Monica, Barbara Zeins of Gerson & Gerson gave a talk called 9 BIG FAT GARMENT LIES which included:
1. Vendors are substitutable – If you source your product strictly on the basis of lowest material and CMT costs, you will wind up producing in some very strange places and paying a very high cost.
2. There is no cost in setting up a new vendor
3. Costs are linear, increasing in direct proportion to quantity produced ……. and 6 more
She recently added an additional lie, "Lie #10: You can build a strong supply chain without trust". As experience has taught us, "you'll never have speed until you build trust". Before building trust with your suppliers, clearly you have to build it within your own company. So as we look ahead to 2020, what drives us is the generation of data not just within the chain or the brand, but by billions of Gen Z smartphones.
Three other NGC slides tied the challenge together. The first is the Supply Chain Operations Ecosystem diagram which is from PwC Industry 4.0:
The second is their Convergence of Blockchain, IoT and AI:
The third is about Gen Z; Sustainability; Transparency; and above else the empowering impact of the internet to exponentially increase the volume of raw data generated in the gazillions every day. This slide says it all:
You know the old saying, it takes a day to write a one-hour speech, a week to write a 15-minute one. It has taken NGC literally decades to create slides that capture generations of innovation and, as Mark Bernstein put it, "extraordinary complexity".