COMPETITIVENESS: A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
The textile sector in the UK continues to languish for the most part in intensive care.
Having met many executives in this sector, I continue to be struck by the wide gap between the few companies who have got their management act together and the rest who struggle along until a final crisis pushes them over the edge.
The knee-jerk reaction to the increased level of price competition has been to curtail manufacturing in the UK and source product off shore from low wage cost regions. This strategy is fine in terms of reducing the unit cost of manufacture, but it does bring a number of logistics and other management issues in its wake. Quality, lead times to replenish and uncertainty of supply are just a few issues that now need to be dealt with.
However, any cost advantage obtained by sourcing off shore is soon dissipated as everyone starts to do it.
Given the above, the competitive battleground continues to be driven by the same strategic factors that have always applied, namely doing more with less and doing it better and faster than the competition.
There is no doubt that without the aid of effective business management tools, this continual process of performance measurement to drive operational improvements will not be achievable.
Quite simply, you cannot control and refine what you do not measure. What you are not measuring therefore is probably out of control.
The reluctance to invest in effective technology based management systems in the textile sector is certainly one major reason why it has remained almost perpetually in recession to a greater or lesser degree in recent decades, regardless of the generally prevailing economic conditions. When investment is made, it is usually piecemeal and fragmented.
Your computer system, like your company, has to change to model the on-going process of improvement that is needed to retain and increase competitiveness.
An effective computer based business management system will rapidly (in months, not years!) recover any investment made in it.
It will reduce the cost of doing business.
It will form the core of a service level improvement programme that is essential to maintain and increase sales.
Overall, you benefit from being more price-competitive and from better margins on sales.
Not having an effective computer system to underpin trading operations obviously puts a textile company at a serious competitive disadvantage.
Fortunately, systems like XeB's are available with very short paybacks on investment.
However, ensuring systems like these are deployed and used effectively remains a challenge. Investments also have to be made in training, consultancy and in customizing the system to reflect changes within the supply chain and improvements to business processes.
The (too) few companies who continue to prosper understand the importance of effectively deploying technology tools and are not reluctant to make investments in them.
More companies need to follow suit. The systems are available. However, the will to make the changes necessary to bring these systems to bear remains the major challenge facing companies in this difficult sector.