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Wearables inspire EMS to get hints from fashion industry

Posted: 13 Nov 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EMS? fashion industry? supply chain? wearable? Misfit?

The biggest, and perhaps the only difference is in manufacturing technology. However, if the electronics industry is more about supply chain than assembly, then surely those differences will be overcome.

I have watched the outsourced electronics industry move from PCB assembly (PCBA) to multi-disciplined manufacturing, fulfilment and logistics. I have often wondered what defines a product as suitable for the EMS industry.

Flextronics recently rebranded as Flex, letting go of the 'tronics' tag in their name. Most recently, the organisation announced a partnership with Nike to make advanced footwear. It leads me to the question of whether a product needs to have a plug on it for it to be suitable business for an EMS. Perhaps this is where the very term EMS is disadvantageous.

There are some interesting differences between the two industries that filter down to the supply chain and impact the design and manufacturing process. One is the seasonality of fashion products.

We see all the hype around the new Apple iPhone each year when new products are introduced. Meanwhile, the fashion industry and change styles and stock at an alarming rate to adjust to trends and changes in demand. This has to be reflected in the supply chain and the product design. More platform-based designs are needed to ensure rapid changeover and agility in the product version as well as many more options, sizes and styles to suit different markets.

Innovation in supply chain

If the real skills do reside in the supply chain, providing a solution from the start of the innovation process to the end of a products life, then surely one company can tackle the whole thing, from manufacturing the electronics-based garment to final fulfilment to the end user or retailer.

If this is the future, these solutions providers will need to learn some new skills. I suspect there will be mergers and acquisitions (the quickest route), as well as deep collaborations or even through recruitment and internal development. That's not a big problem. Today's organisations are adept at learning new skills, and change is part of their DNA. They seem to embrace it and the new challenges it brings.

Either way, the industries will need to meet somewhere in the middle and I suspect those with the greatest supply chain skills will be the winners. Eventually, the manufacturing part of every product becomes 'me too' and the ability to delight the customer with the ultimate service is the only distinguishing factor. Good supply chain management, good product engineering or realisation, and good sourcing are all essential whatever the end user product and whichever supply chain you operate in.

- John Daker
??Riverwood Solutions

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