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Apparel is increasingly an overseas business. Studies show that only about 5% of manufactured apparel is produced in the United States. Custom apparel and promotional product manufacturer Unionwear, based in Newark, New Jersey, is one such manufacturer that has sustained operations in the United States. While it employs approximately 120 unionized workers in a high-priced industrial corridor, Unionwear has been able to compete globally partly because it has embraced cloud ERP through its Rootstock software.
The company's journey into the cloud has its roots in lean manufacturing. Mitch Cahn, Unionwear's CEO, and his team knew that in order to succeed in a challenging environment, they needed to differentiate themselves from their competitors' business practices. Lean manufacturing -- the methodical approach to eliminating waste and reducing manufacturing costs -- was the silver bullet the company needed.
As part of its continuous improvement, Unionwear was ready to adopt an ERP system designed for its manufacturing environment. After a search, the team found that Rootstock Corp.'s cloud ERP software was scalable enough to accommodate Unionwear's operations and production needs, according to Cahn.
The cloud-based ERP approach afforded fast and easy implementations for the company, with no major IT infrastructure investment needed and a built-in ability to easily expand. This was the perfect fit for Unionwear's long-term goals: increase customer satisfaction while maintaining a stable expenditure of resources for the manufacturing and production architecture.
While the Rootstock platform came with a wide variety of ready to use modules, Unionwear's focus was on using its inventory management. The company's primary raw material fabric and varied customer demands require that Unionwear use a multitude of colors and types of fabric, Cahn explained. It is not only critical to plan precisely the amount of material required for production, but to know exactly what is available for production at any given moment. The industry is, in general, a low-margin business. Any time spent looking for material or having extra material laying around that may never meet the needs of a future customer does not fulfill Unionwear's mission of creating value.
Efficiency was also a critical component of Unionwear's cloud strategy -- specifically, efficiency in finished goods inventory. Unionwear only measures efficiency in the production of finished goods, meaning products that are ready to ship to -- and bring value to -- the customer. Any material and work in process does not equate to customer value, according to Cahn. With Rootstock, the company was able to calculate the efficiency of its manufacturing effort based on internally-developed standards that measure when the product is complete and ready to ship.
Unionwear's future plans continue to explore the possibilities of cloud ERP and what it can do to make manufacturing leaner. For example, the company is considering using Rootstock's reporting tools and utilities, as well as different cost accounting methods. The capability is there for the ERP system's usefulness to grow as the company grows; as Cahn said, this is "a tremendous advantage and opportunity." With its ERP in the cloud, Unionwear is poised to be a global competitor for years to come.
Jim Romeo (www.JimRomeo.net) is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Virginia.
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