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Retailers New Look and Next to pilot new supply chain platform

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: courtesy of UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT)

The UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) is working with technology companies IBM, Tech Data, and the Future Fashion Factory to design, prototype and pilot a new technology platform to help the fashion and textile industry drive sustainability and profitability through increased transparency within the supply chain.

The Sustainable Supply Chain Optimisation project will see retailers Next, H&M (COS brand), N Brown, New Look and yarn manufacturer Laxtons taking part in the initial nine-month pilot.

The initiative has been awarded 1.4 million pounds of funding by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, on behalf of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.

Adam Mansell, chief executive of the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), said in a statement: “A strategic goal for the UK fashion and textile sector is to become synonymous with sustainable and ethical products, processes and production.

“This project aims to promote greater transparency in the industry to ultimately enhance the competitiveness of UK textile and garment manufacturers, while reducing the environmental and ethical impact of the sector.”

UKFT teams up with IBM, Tech Data, and the Future Fashion Factory on supply chain platform

The new technology platform will combine several emerging technologies built on a combination of IBM’s Blockchain, AI and sensor technologies running on IBM Cloud. Blockchain technology will enable increased transparency in the supply chain, while AI technology will facilitate the detection and response to supply chain disruption and provide the insights for real-time analysis of current business performance, rapid problem solving and optimisation of business flows.

For instance, it will be possible to gain a much better understanding of where and how each garment’s fabric was processed and finished, by whom and in what conditions. It will be easier to spot potential disruptions before they have a chance to affect delivery and it will also be possible to better monitor production processes and flows resulting in a real chance to reduce waste and optimise stock.

It is hoped that this level of insight will allow real, measurable and auditable actions across the whole of the supply chain to enable increased understanding of and compliance to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) criteria as well as improved operational efficiency.

The UKFT said it hoped that the platform would help make a complex and disjointed global supply chain “more sustainable, resilient and able to cope with unforeseen disruptions”.

In addition, the technology will also be open source and easily available across the whole supply chain, with an integrated visualisation layer as the core innovation focus.

Next, H&M (COS brand), N Brown, New Look and Laxtons to pilot UKFT SSCO Project

Joanne Poynor, head of sustainable development at Next, added: “Working together, we are pleased to support the development of a new supply chain platform tool for the apparel and textiles sector, to facilitate the gathering of robust sustainability data and provide clear visibility of environmental and ethical impacts to empower better decisions.”

Sue Fairley, head of sourcing, sustainability and quality at New Look, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in the UKFT SSCO Project as part of New Look’s core strategic commitment to integrate sustainable practices across the business. We recognise that collaborating on this project will help remove complexity, increase transparency and help develop sustainable solutions with more reassuring visibility of the people and the environments impacted throughout the value chain. We anticipate that by bringing new technologies and global networks together, UKFT will accelerate change and allow the provenance of the products we sell to open up from origin to end user.”

Future Fashion Factory
New Look
Supply Chain
Tech Data
UK Fashion and Textile Association