A Stitch in Time: Lean Retailing and the Transformation of Manufacturing--Lessons from the Apparel and Textile Industries

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Oxford University Press, Jul 29, 1999 - Business & Economics - 384 pages
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The apparel and textile industries have always been at the mercy of rapidly changing styles and fickle customers who want the latest designs while they are still in fashion. The result for these businesses, often forced to forecast sales and order from suppliers with scant information about volatile demand, is a history of stock shortages, high inventories, and costly markdowns. But, as the authors explain in A Stitch in Time, technological advances in the 1980s paved the way for a new concept in retailing--lean retailing. Pioneered by companies like WAL-MART, lean retailing has reshaped the way that products are ordered, virtually eliminating delays from distribution center to sales rack by drawing on sales data captured electronically at the checkout counter. Armed with up-to-the-minute data about colors, sizes, styles, and geographic sales, apparel and textile companies now must be able to respond rapidly to real-time orders efficiently based on new approaches to distributing merchandise, forecasting, planning, organizing production, and managing supplier relations. A Stitch in Time shows that even in the face of burgeoning product proliferation, companies that successfully adapt to the world of lean retailing can reduce inventory risk, reduce costs, and increase profitability while improving their responsiveness to the ever-changing tastes of customers. Based on the success of these practices in the apparel industry, lean retailing practices are propagating through a growing number of consumer product industries. A richly detailed and resonant account, A Stitch in Time brilliantly captures both the history and future of the retail-apparel-textile channel and offers bold insights on the changes and challenges facing retailers and manufacturers in all segments of our rapidly changing economy.

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1 The New Competitive Advantage in Apparel
Historical Background on the US Retail Apparel and Textile Industries
Traditional Versus Lean Retailing
4 The Building Blocks of Lean Retailing
5 The Impact of Lean Retailing
Demand Forecasting and Stocking Decisions
Production Planning and Optimal Sourcing Decisions
Getting Ready to Sew
13 The Global Marketplace
Firm and Industry Performance in an Integrated Channel
Public Policy Implications and Future Directions
List of Acronyms
The HCTAR Survey
Data Sources
Companies Visited or Interviewed by HCTAR

Assembly and the Sewing Room
10 Human Resources in Apparel
Spinning Weaving and Finishing Cloth
A Tale of Multiple Channels

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About the author (1999)

Frederick H. Abernathy joined John T. Dunlop in a 1979 study of the Tailored Clothing Industry which led to the establishment of the Textile and Clothing Technology Corporation ([TC]2). His continued involvement with the apparel industry led the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support the research resulting in this book. He is Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering, and Gordon McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University. John T. Dunlop has had an extensive career in labor relations and government including serving as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1975-1976 and more recently chair of President Clinton's Commission on Worker-Management Relations. He has also served as a mediator and arbitrator in a wide range of industries and is the author of more than ten books on labor relations and labor economics. He is Lamont University Professor, Emeritus at Harvard University. Janice H. Hammond investigates how manufacturing and logistics systems develop the speed and flexibility to respond quickly and efficiently to changing customer demand--critical capabilities in the retail-apparel-textile channel. She is the UPS Foundation Professor of Business Logistics at the Harvard Business School. David Weil has written widely on the impact of technology and human resource policy on business performance based in part on his studies of the retail-apparel-textile industries. His research spans the areas of labor market policy, industrial and labor relations, occupational safety and health, and regulatory policy. He is Associate Professor of Economics at Boston University School of Management.

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