We spoke with Jehan Mutaliph (Chief Digital Officer, MAS Holdings), who provided us with his supply chain insights and observations on the fashion industry, as well as a look ahead on how MAS is leveraging technology to sustain growth during the current disruption.
1. What are your current priorities in terms of technology and how it supports the business?
2. What role did technology play in helping MAS navigate the COVID-19- pandemic?
When the pandemic initially hit, everyone's primary priority was to stay at home and work. We had, however, previously invested in infrastructure and systems that allowed us to work from home right away. As soon as lockdowns happened, no one went to panic mode because many of our processes had been digitized, making it simpler for our employees to continue working while being connected digitally.
Technology also played a massive role in our manufacturing plants to analyze the risk of contamination, improve contact tracing, estimate community risk, and understand the risk to our employees.
When it came to client engagement, our previous method was physical prototypes, but when travel restrictions continued, we switched to virtual prototyping, which was initiated before but not at scale until recently.
3. How is MAS utilizing technology to anticipate customer needs and respond proactively?
When it comes to consumer demands, we consider the following factors: anticipating demand for which products should be created for the next season and estimating how much to sell.
We were already utilizing technology to assist our product development teams in anticipating, validating, and researching what will work in terms of consumer preferences. However, with just online customers this year, we had to modify our strategy.
So, we started utilizing technology to have a better understanding of a digital consumer. By incorporating feedback into the product design process, it allowed us to examine and adjust the products, which also reduced lead time. For us, technology has played a massive role in product creation.
4. As we see brands moving to a digital-first strategy, how can supply chain partners realign themselves, to support this shift with the use of technology?
We, as supply chain partners, need to assist companies as they transition to a digital-first approach. To do so, we've identified the skills we'll need to develop: quicker product development and better sourcing and production processes.
To service online brands, each of these processes will need to be reviewed and adjusted, since their supply chain requirements will differ. The feedback loop is the primary difference between a business that sells online and one that sells in-person because a digital customer is more likely to have more information to make purchasing decisions than a consumer making a purchase in a physical shop.
If these buying decisions are made much closer faster, they would expect the supply chain partners also to respond, at that same rate to reduce the risk of lost sales.
5. So as an innovator in the apparel industry, what lessons can you share for the industry, to be more agile and receptive to the needs of the marketplace?
At end of the day, you have to reduce your lead time because you can't achieve agility if you don't reduce your lead time. You must also have the capability to make things in smaller batches. These two major factors will increase your agility as a manufacturing partner.
My advice would be, don't try to start with technology and try to find a use for it. Have a clear vision and from there onwards, break down the problem and see where technology can be adopted to solve that problem.