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Dedicated follower of fashion

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LOGISTICS giant DHL has identified the fashion industry as a key growth area in Australia and the Asian region, and is pushing to gain a foothold in the field. As part of its strategy, DHL acted as the official sponsor of the inaugural Asia Pacific Fashion Forum, held in Melbourne in October.

Speaking at a media function provided as part of the Forum, Jonathan Castelino, sales director for Consumer Products and Services, DHL Global Customer Solutions Asia Pacific, noted that DHL was seeking to move beyond its transportation role into advice on logistics and broader market issues. “Fashion is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and continues to grow,” he says. “Some very talented designers have emerged in the region. But in many cases, their focus is on the creative aspects of design, at the expense of the efficient management of the supply chain. Our strategy for the fashion industry is about adding value to the process, by helping to develop solutions to problems such as inconsistent supply, inventory control, market forecasting, changing import and export regulations, and time to market.”

Castelino sees the fragmentation of the industry as a problem, although events such as the Asia Pacific Fashion Forum offer the opportunity to speak to a broad range of participants in the fashion industry, from textile manufacturers to designers to retailers. DHL has also established a presence in several high-level industry bodies, and Castelino emphasises that the company is thinking about the long-term future of the design sector.

One of the invited speakers at the Forum, Dr John Gattorna—a respected author and “thought leader” in the logistics field—offers a similar perspective. “Fragmentation is the enemy of good logistics,” he told Logistics. “What is needed is a range of mechanisms to share information, and some new thinking about business models. DHL is to be applauded for getting the process rolling, and to be willing to make a long-term commitment.

“The fashion industry in Australia has got some excellent people on the creative side, but logistically it is lagging behind the rest of the world,” adds Dr Gattorna. “When you hear about overseas designers taking 15 days to go from design concept to store, you realise how much the Australian industry has to lift its game. The good news is that much of the infrastructure—the technology, the transport, the marketing network—is already there. It’s just a matter of bringing the pieces together so they can be used effectively.

“What is needed is some landmark situations, where some well-known designers can show how they used logistics effectively, and how it made a positive difference to their bottom line. That’s the sort of thing which can be publicised through industry forums and professional associations, and it can make a real difference.

“At the same time, designers and design firms have to be willing to look at their existing practices and ask themselves: is this the most appropriate way for this function, or are we doing it just because that’s how we’ve always done it before? It might be that the best way is to design in Australia and manufacture overseas for cost reasons. In other cases, depending on the type of project, manufacturing in Australia might make more sense, if it means you are closer to your sales point. You have to be willing to adapt operations to circumstances.

“Looking at logistics problems in this way means a whole-of-enterprise approach. For large firms, it means involving the financial specialists and the technology people as well as the creative side. For smaller firms, it can mean drawing on the expertise of companies like DHL in a co-operative way. It’s about the effective management of knowledge, so that everyone can focus on their own skills. In the end, that’s how you build competitive strength.”

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