High street fashion giants are to pilot a supply chain platform that will provide real-time traceability across the textile sector
Next, H&M (COS brand), N Brown and New Look, along with yarn manufacturer Laxtons, will take part in the nine-month trial, which will use a new platform based on IBM technologies to enable track-and-trace of items and real-time decision-making.
The technology will be open source and available to the whole supply chain in order to ramp up sustainability and profitability in the UK fashion and textile industry.
The industry is considered one of the world’s biggest contributors to pollution and resource waste, and has been plagued with persistent issues around unsafe workplaces, human rights abuses and low wages.
The Sustainable Supply Chain Optimisation project secured £1.4m of funding from Innovate UK, part of UKRI, on behalf of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.
The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) is working with IBM, Tech Data, and the Future Fashion Factory to design the platform, which it says will help meet the government’s commitment to developing digital innovations in UK manufacturing.
A lack of transparency and visibility across the supply chain, and insufficient incentives to share data, are the major obstacles to achieving sustainable and responsible practices, according to UKFT.
To address this, the platform will combine blockchain, artificial intelligence and sensor technology to digitalise key processes and create one shared data system for all of the parties in the supply chain.
It will record how fabrics have been made, processed and finished, and under what conditions. Monitoring of such processes would indicate where changes can be made to reduce waste and optimise stock, and to give advance sight of potential supply chain disruptions.
The platform would also allow measurable and auditable actions across the supply chain to enable understanding of and compliance with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), said the UKFT.
Sue Fairley, head of sourcing, sustainability and quality at New Look said: “We recognise collaborating on this project will help remove complexity, increase transparency and help develop sustainable solutions with more reassuring visibility of the people and the environments impacted throughout the value chain.
“We anticipate that by bringing new technologies and global networks together, UKFT will accelerate change and allow the provenance of the products we sell to open up from origin to end user.”
Roberto Battistoni, consumer products business development lead at IBM, said “This project brings together the key players needed to improve trust across the full supply chain.
“At the same time, there is also an opportunity to reduce waste and have a lasting impact on the use of the earth’s resources. Having such a high-quality group of members in the consortium brings a unique synergy of knowledge, technology and experience to make a difference for the fashion value chain.”