Our business is a global enterprise. We are an interdependent supply "chain" relying on each other to insure businesses involved in the chain are successful and profitable. Therefore, when it comes to planning, careful consideration has to be made in terms of timeline development. It is important to understand lead times. For example, how long would it take to receive a color dip for approval from an overseas office or how much time would typically be required to make small versus large revisions to print paperwork?
Timing is everything in our business; time lost due to poor planning from the development side can result in customers having to take deeper markdowns than initially planned or the producing company bearing the cost of late goods with air shipments. These scenarios can easily be avoided by not only making sure timelines realistically reflect lead times, but also by proactively managing changes in deliveries and approvals as they occur within the development process. As changes occur, and changes will happen, one has to be prepared to quickly communicate these changes and develop alternatives which will help keep development and/or production on schedule.
This is why merchandising calendars are typically a starting point in the development planning process. The merchandising calendar serves as a both a guide to keep me on task as well as to help insure cross-functional teams are clear on and working within the established timelines.
Please click on the file below to review a representative merchandising calendar. The attached product development merchandise calendar has been saved as a pdf file, but I will be happy to provide the original excel file complete with formulas during a scheduled meeting.
In the spreadsheet, I've included established lead times in the formulas so as the approval dates on the top line change, then the dates adjust for all other development and production functions.
In addition to creating tools like the product development merchandise calendar, I will also develop spreadsheets such as the ones below which can help me to track multiple lines in development or production. I am able to quickly review and share (as needed) the status of individual products as well as anticipate and assess problems that may be impeding the completion of development or production sample. These charts have typically been co-authored and managed with overseas teams to establish open lines of communication in the development process as well as help highlight areas of focus and/or improvement. In addition to Excel, I am also familiar with different types of PLM software developed by Lectra and VisualNext as well as PDM systems custom designed by Gerber and ERP systems like AS400 and WinFashion for planning and production.
Technology is great, but not every organization I've worked for is willing or able to afford product management systems. The truth of the matter is that most of the reporting systems incorporated in these programs rely on the same or very similar concepts involved creating Excel spreadsheets. Therefore being able to track development and production using Excel spreadsheets is an important skill set as it gives me the flexibility to manage product development functions in a way that best fits the organization.
The files attached are a couple of examples of spreadsheets I've created to help manage product development and approvals. These spreadsheets have often been used in conjunction with merchandise planning calendars as product management tools. Tables and charts can be created from the information to quick share with cross-functional teams, customers, and/or upper management.
Technical knowledge is definitely an important part of cost negotiations; understanding how much components cost as well as labor, shipping, and/or duty costs (if applicable) are the basic components to creating costs sheets and establishing baseline costs. Baseline costs that will be used to determine if development product is in line with margin goal and will meet the buyer's cost expectations. Once base costs are established, then the fun starts for me.
I love working with cross-functional teams as well as overseas partners to figure out how we can lower the base cost. Do we need to see if we can save on cost by revising the specs or technical aspects of the garment? Can we change from a flap to a welt pocket and still maintain design integrity? Maybe if we change the zipper brand or type, we can save some money? Is there a more competitive factory we can book this program and still maintain quality and lead times? Are there minimums we can book for other programs to offset development and/or production costs?
The possibilities are endless and requires the cooperation and feedback of the various teams (design, merchandising, sales, buying, and production) involved as well as developing relationships with vendors that are transparent, built on trusts and mutual goals. We all understand satisfied customers are good for all respective businesses involved in the supply chain.
The attached cost calculator template has been saved as a pdf file, but I will be happy to provide the original excel file complete with formulas during a scheduled meeting.