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Chat Feature: Real-time communication in Fashion Supply Chains

5 min Jan 19

Header Image from SupplyCompass

by SupplyCompass in Platform

Fashion brands can now communicate in real-time with their manufacturers 

It’s time to replace the complicated mix of email, text and WhatsApp with one single communication tool used by all. SupplyCompass launches an in-platform chat feature that is based around ‘threads’ for easy to trace conversations, allowing for real-time communication whilst also bringing much-needed structure to chats by linking all conversations to an order.  The future of supply chain communication!

Nearly a year after the world went remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Read about the impact it has on the industry here), digital communication tools and apps like Slack and Zoom have exploded in popularity. As for the fashion industry—where effective and streamlined supply chain depends upon clear, strong methods of communication—the need for specific communication tools is greater than ever as we head into 2021.

To bring a product to market, hundreds of different people are needed to communicate with each other at different points across the product lifecycle. You can have design teams, manufacturer teams, logistics partners, material suppliers, agents all communicating with each other via a myriad of tools, such as WhatsApp, email, Zoom, phone, video, Slack, and even hand-written notes!. 

For the fashion industry—where effective and streamlined supply chain depends upon clear, strong methods of communication—the need for specific communication tools is greater than ever as we head into 2021.

What is the challenge with existing methods of communication?

Teams tend to use the most immediate and convenient method at that moment-in-time. Although this can feel quicker and easier at the time, in the long-run, it ends up making things harder for all. It usually creates a fragmented trail of endless messages and email threads, that quickly become hard to keep track of. It can be really challenging to ensure key people are in all the right conversations and the implications of a missed email can be very costly. 

What about email?

Email is still the main way to communicate with people in external organisations, but this very quickly gets confusing and complicated with production when you have hundreds of different designs, material and components, and are working with many different suppliers around the world.  The key challenge with email in product development and production is that its too easy to miss a key person off from an email, to lose important information in separate threads, or to miss a key attachment. 

The key challenge with email in product development and production is that its too easy to miss a key person off from an email, to lose important information in separate threads, or to miss a key attachment. 

What about Slack?

On the other hand, there is Slack, which, although a fantastic tool that solves some of these challenges, is designed more for internal team comms. Ultimately it hasn’t been built specifically to work for the complexities of global fashion supply chain communications and complete product development processes with timelines and approvals. Plus—and perhaps most crucially—it allows too much freedom for new channels and threads for something like production.  Production needs structured communication.

A dedicated communication tool, built for fashion and supply chains

We didn’t want to launch our in-platform chat before we had created a clear and structured workflow tool first. Otherwise, we feared it would become another tool encouraging unstructured communication. Product development and production need structured communication to be successful.  Plus, with teams WFH around the world and this set to be the norm, we felt now was the right time to launch.

What’s the SupplyCompass Chat feature?

We worked out early on in our journey at SupplyCompass that although production teams needed the opportunity for freestyle, unstructured communication, this needed to sit alongside structured product and order related details, together in the same platform. Currently, many production teams share downloads or links from Excel or Google Drive and send via email. In the SupplyCompass platform, teams can upload heavy files directly into the chat, there are no restrictions on file size like you have with email.  You can share videos, embed links, and use emojis, to bring personality and humanness to messaging. Like instant messengers,  you can also see who’s online at the same time, enabling you to work faster, together.

We allow teams to have chats unrelated to projects, but have a tool that encourages uses to link conversations to a project so that all conversation about that order happen together. You can communicate in real-time with your factories like you do Whatsapp or Slack, but the key difference is that all conversations relating to each order are saved in one single thread, with all the relevant team members from all sides all in.

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SupplyCompass is a Collaborative Production Platform for Fashion that brand builders, production teams and their manufacturers use to collaborate on product from moodboard to delivery.

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