When innovation is tailor made

A tailor-made IT solution designed to meet the unique needs of a reality where the warehouse is an integral part of the creative process

By Nicoletta Ferrini

From left: Paolo Maffei, IT Manager of Zamasport and Amedeo Cioffi, COO of Zamasport

The value of craftsmanship can be questioned by the company that must make its processes more efficient, reducing costs. However, sacrificing this value is always a choice that cannot be made lightly. In some cases, however, it is even impossible because this represents the very essence of the company. For example, it is difficult to imagine a reality like Zamasport putting aside the sartorial vocation to the product and processes, giving absolute priority to the most stringent logic of optimization and standardization. Yet a solution to the impossible dilemma found thanks to computer science.

Where creativity takes shape

“Ours is a very particular reality”, begins IT manager Paolo Maffei in telling the evolution of which his department has been a proponent. In its headquarters in the heart of the Novara fashion valley, Zamasport deals with research and development, as well as the production of clothing for some of the most important international high fashion brands. “We make a lot of prototypes and samples, that is to say all that part that precedes and prepares a high fashion show”. Before arriving on the catwalk, each haute couture dress is carefully studied in order to identify the materials – from fabrics to decorative and functional details – that best enhance its characteristics. “Starting from the designer’s first sketch”, explains Maffei, “we realize, sometimes even with 3D technology, the prototypes of the different models, looking for a perfect synthesis between creativity and production feasibility. even to end customers”. Once the prototypes have been approved, we proceed with the collection samples, that is to say that the collection is presented during the fashion shows or sent to the trade press. Our customers, who take care of the sale, then send us the orders on the basis of which we plan the production: we receive and store the selected raw materials and send them to our laboratory and sometimes to some selected subcontractors who take care of the realization of the clothes. The finished product is then verified by our quality control team and shipped to brands, their assets around the world or even end customers.”

A warehouse that has what it takes to innovate

The warehouse plays a crucial role in Zamasport’s business. “A haute couture dress is composed of many pieces that, in some cases, are unique – indicates Paolo Maffei – The fabric is the predominant element in terms of quantity processed and cost. Accessories (buttons, zippers, labels, hangers, packaging materials) have less “value”, but on the other hand they are many more in terms of references. Wanting to make a proportion: to make a dress you need on average from one to three fabrics and from 20 to 30 accessories”. To further complicate matters contributes the fact that in the Zamasport warehouse there are fabrics and accessories that serve two different processing lines – prototypes and samples that are subject to the same problems and production – each of which has specific and not always overlapping supply needs. “We also have a series of materials from past collections that we keep for their historical value”, highlights Paolo Maffei, “and for some time we have also been managing GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), i.e. certified natural fabrics that, as such, must be treated according to defined standards at all the different stages of processing: storage, transport, even packaging. In other words, it’s a bit like we had multiple warehouses in one.” In the small Zamasport warehouse (just over 1,000 of the 3,700 square meters of the entire Novara plant) almost 20,600 references are managed, of which more than a third are always in stock.

When IT goes fashion

“A couple of years ago, thanks to the expansion of our spaces, we concentrated all the raw materials here”, resumes the IT manager of Zamasport, “Previously many materials, in particular fabrics, were on consignment with one of our suppliers who took care of the quality control of the pieces and kept them in stock until they were necessary for processing or until the customer decided what to do with them at the end of the cycle. All with times and costs that can be imagined”. The construction of the new structure solves this criticality but highlights a limit: “our warehouse was based on the memory of the people who work there”, says Paolo Maffei: “only the managers and managers of the various warehouse areas knew where the materials were. In other words, he had to rely completely on the formidable historical memory of these people to know where everything was. And there was still the unknown factor regarding the quantity of goods in stock”.

The bubble finally burst the moment all materials were transferred to the new and larger space. “It is as if they had multiplied suddenly”, confirms our interlocutor, “at that point it became clear that we had to take a step further, thinking about warehouse efficiency. We then began to analyze the problems and complexities to be solved, keeping in mind the different procurement logics of the two areas”. Once the automation option was discarded, the possibilities of intervention focused on the “brain” of the warehouse. And among the various WMS software solutions considered, WhSystem by Technolog was finally chosen. “Together with the Technolog team we reviewed the analysis carried out in collaboration with our Simco consultants and from there we started to understand what to develop or not and what was to be reviewed. It was quite a long journey because the project could not start off on the wrong foot. And in fact there was never a moment when, despite the inevitable hitches, we thought we had taken the wrong direction”

The warehouseman is almost a stylist

The Technolog WMS goes into operation in parallel with the new warehouse. “As we moved the items they were loaded into the system”, explains the assistant IT manager Alessio Piantanida, “suddenly we were fully aware of what we had, of where it was located since the unloading in the warehouse. Before, it could happen that the most urgent goods were brought to the production line immediately after being unloaded and then before the warehouse manager knew about it. This prevented us from having any trace of it. We had therefore started to label all the pieces with barcodes and this actually allowed us to arrive more prepared at the WMS. With the latter we have definitively enhanced and improved the tracking, a crucial aspect with regard to the sample or prototype pieces whose quantities are very limited”.

Now all the goods arriving at the Zamasport plant are labeled and immediately inserted into the WMS and then stored in the correct positions. If urgent, the material goes directly to the cut, but without losing track. “In the cutting area there is a physical container where the pieces intended for prototypes or samples can remain longer because the process develops in several phases,” says Piantanida. “This buffer obviously has its own alter ego in the WMS.” “It is a simple configuration of the system”, indicates Lorenzo di Salvatore, Technolog sales manager leading the project for Zamasport, “from a technical point of view it is essential to map all objects and all containment stations even if it is a buffer of this type”. In other respects, customization has been much more pushed: our WMS takes into account the fact that Zamasport manages the warehouse with different logics depending on whether it is prototypes and samples, rather than production. “The first is certainly the most particular”, specifies Paolo Maffei, “here the warehouseman is almost “stylist” because he finds himself having to make up for the lack of some products with others that can be equally suitable, if not better (eg buttons, zippers, etc.)”. “The challenge for us was to design an orderly and regular flow, making possible a certain degree of customization of the withdrawal in addition to the security of the certain data that derives from the real-time visibility of the entire stock”, says Di Salvatore.

A real evolutionary leap

The benefits offered by the implementation of WhSystem in the Zamasport warehouse are many and all very relevant: “the first is the complete and real-time visibility of the availability and exact quantity of all the materials in stock”, says Maffei: “some raw materials are mono collection, but many materials are repetitive. The knowledge and experience of warehouse managers combined with full awareness of the stock allows us to offer a better service, as well as more efficient. The WMS also helps us to manage GOTS without error because it effectively prevents putting this particular type of fabric in conditions that would compromise its certification. There is no doubt that the Technolog solution has reduced stress and frustration that could derive from the fact of not always finding quickly what you were looking for. As next steps we aim to include in the WMS also the management of the finished product and therefore its distribution. In addition, we will soon implement a new ERP and a new PLM and this will in fact lead us to restructure the WMS as well.

The WMS”, concludes Paolo Maffei, “has marked a turning point in our way of working things that previously seemed difficult to manage, in the new structure would have been impossible. The Technolog solution has untied the knots without forcing us to give up our craftsmanship”

Increasing complexity

The complexity in Zamasport’s activity has never been a question of volumes but rather of sophistication of processing and variety of materials used in processing. At least until a couple of years ago. “The Covid19 experience has changed many things”, admits Amedeo Cioffi, COO of Zamasport, “with the first wave of the pandemic and the consequent interruption of several activities we have “lost” an entire collection. We had to recover by working with accelerated times, but also by inserting new brands: from 5 or 6 in 2019 we have come to follow today more than double. Volumes have increased. If we look at prototypes and samples, they have even doubled. All this has also had an impact on the logistics business.

Coronavirus has been an exceptional test. Without this intervention to expand the warehouse and technological efficiency, frankly I do not know if, in May 2020, we would have been able to manage a complex restart from an organizational point of view, but above all characterized by a decisive increase in activity. We were far-sighted and maybe even a little lucky to have made the right choice at the right time. Certainly, if we ever had any doubts about the benefits we would have, the events of the last two years have definitively swept them away”.

“A company like ours, which has craftsmanship as its main value, could only look for a tailor-made solution for its logistics”. 

Paolo Maffei, IT Manager di Zamasport

“Every system has to be a fair compromise between data richness and management functionality, so we always have to understand what level of detail is useful without making the whole process cumbersome.” 

Lorenzo di Salvatore, Sales Manager di Technolog 

“We were looking for an interlocutor who would allow us to always have answers quickly. With Technolog we found it”.

Alessio Piantanida, IT di Zamasport

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