Technological change is happening so quickly that even big companies can't keep up. So the IFTC (International Fashion Technology Centre) could help fill some of that void.
Nygård International and Mid-West are similar in that they've computerized almost every aspect of their operation. For example, their design, pattern making, marking, cutting, labeling, packaging and garment-handling operations are all computerized. So, too, is their order-taking, inventory control, and accounting. As a result, clients can place orders, receive bills and pay accounts electronically.
Klapman estimated that about 25 percent of Mid-West's transactions are done electronically. Nygård said about 46 percent of Nygård International's customers and 95 percent of its suppliers use e-commerce. Nygård has higher numbers because it rewards retailers and suppliers who use e-commerce and has penalized those that don't. Mid-West has no such policy, Klapman said.
But while Mid-West and Nygård International have both incorporated information technology into their operations, Klapman said Nygård does it on a much bigger scale. In fact, Nygård is further along the e-commerce road than any other garment manufacturer in Canada, says Robert Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation. What sets Nygård apart is that its systems allow retail customers to conduct transactions on the Internet. That means that even small retailers can conduct electronic transactions with the firm.
Although all of Nygård International's manufacturing and retail operations are computerized, the company's crown jewel is its plant on Notre Dame Avenue, dubbed ARTS2, which produces women's pants for its Tan Jay and Åliå divisions. Nygård described it as "probably the finest electronically driven plant in the world."
Plant manager Karen Chernesky said that when she joined the plant eight years ago, it was producing 25,000 to 30,000 garments a week. Now, its pumping out more than 60,000 a week thanks largely to technological advances and increased efficiency.
Chernesky said it used to take three or four employees three or four days to process an order, put together a production plan and fit the work into the plant's schedule. Now, a computer completes the same task in minutes. Chernesky and Klapman also stressed that within the fashion sector, automation does not mean job cuts. "It gives you the ability to do more business, and to do more business you need more people," Klapman says. "So it's a job creator, not a job destroyer. It just shifts jobs around."