How the IoT reshapes fashion businesses


The internet of things is at the moment a big buzzword flying around with a lot of amazing implementations being rolled out.

The big question is how does IoT help your fashion business?

To answer this, we need to take a step back from the hype and look at IoT more practically. Let us start by looking at supply chain management. Any business dealing with this will tell you that it is one of their biggest headaches.

How does IoT help with the supply chain? The best way to take real control of your supply chain is to break it down until it gets to a micro level. Say that you are an apparel manufacturer and you are producing thousands of garments a week. You have raw materials coming in from various suppliers at all times, and often these deliveries are staggered across multiple delivery dates. If you don’t have firm control of what is where and how much is available you are not going to achieve any deadlines which often results in penalties form the retailers.

Taking control of your supply chain using IoT

Using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags to tag the raw materials as they get delivered and then tracking them in your SCM/PLM system means that you are starting to get a clear picture of your raw materials as they move around your manufacturing process. So how does it work? Radio-frequency identification is a transmitter that emits a signal that gets picked up by receivers (listeners) that feedback to a system. , and this can be done on the fly using data passed to it by your SCM/PLM (Supply chain management and Product lifecycle management) system. Once a roll of fabric is tagged with a unique identity that translates to the purchase order, item id, batch number and supplier. The fabric roll in question is now on the system and will show the production planners how much is allocated and where it is. Once the fabric starts moving the listeners in the warehouse tracks it, it gets loaded on a truck the system gets automatically updated and then when the fabric arrives at the factory the listener picks it up, and the production planners know the correct factory has received it. All this without a member of staff having to log anything.

How IoT helps retail.

Once your garments have been manufactured, you tag each garment with an RFID tag. These tags are part of the swing tag that gets added to the garment, so you are not adding any extraneous process to the flow. Every garment is now trackable on a micro level. Your garments are flat packed and boxed. When the box is packed and moves past a listener, it picks up all the garments in the box and does a stock count without even having to open the box. After the boxes get loaded on to the truck a manifest gets sent to customs as well as to the retailer’s distribution centre (DC), this again is automated. As soon as the truck arrives at the DC, the boxes get offloaded and passed via a listener that again counts the stock in the box. If a box has been tampered with in transport (which until now has been near possible to detect), the system will pick it up as there is a difference in the number of garments in the box and the shipping company is liable.

From here the DC sends the garments to the individual shops which follow the same process of boxes passing listeners. On the shop floor, the garments get moved to the in-store position, and again listeners are detecting this movement. Because every garment is tagged with an RFID tag you don’t need to have security tags as an RFID listener near the entrance will detect when a garment passes that have not been cleared at a till. The checkout process at the till can be streamlined as you don’t need a barcode scanner anymore an RFID reader will detect the tag automatically.

IoT meets live Data

Adding RFID listeners around the store and in your change rooms allows you to track what your customers are trying on, abandoning and then buying gives you great insight into what your customers want to buy. If your analytics system is connected to your e-commerce system, it will make adjustments to the order of presentation based on in-store and regional data. Now also connect your digital displays to your live data, and your adverts become more targeted.

I hope this blog post has given you a taste of what the internet of things can do for your business. If you have any question leave a comment below or contact me for advice on how your business will grow with the use of technology.

Image source:

Ray Noppe