From Fiber to Fabric: Ensuring Sustainability through Supplier Evaluations & Mapping

Discover the importance of supplier evaluations and mapping

In the rapidly evolving garment industry, supply chain management has come to extend well beyond timely delivery and cost controls. Driven by increasing regulation and consumer demands, it now also encompasses ensuring the sustainability and ethical production of garments, which calls for the implementation of thorough supplier evaluations and detailed supplier mapping.

In this article, we will dive into why understanding your supplier network and their performance is crucial in order to improve the overall sustainability of your supply chain. We will also take a look at how to approach these different tasks, including tools, tips and tricks.

Understanding and implementing Supplier Evaluations and Mapping

1. Let’s start by understanding the potential benefits of keeping track of your suppliers and their performance. Some of them are listed below: 

  • Quality Assurance: Conducting regular evaluations of suppliers ensures that garments meet industry and consumer standards. This includes assessing the quality of materials, manufacturing processes, and final products.
  • Risk Management: Understanding the origins and methods of garment production helps identify potential risks, whether geopolitical, environmental, or economic.
  • Sustainability and Ethics: The increasing focus on sustainable practices mandates evaluating suppliers for their environmental and social impact, meeting consumer demands for ethically produced garments.
  • Regulatory Compliance: The garment industry faces stringent regulations regarding sourcing and production. Supplier evaluations ensure compliance with these legal standards.

2. Now that we are clear on the benefits, we need to understand what is actually required in order to implement processes related to these topics. Start by defining clear evaluation criteria and understanding why you’ve selected your criteria. Some examples of criteria could be:

  • Quality: Assess the durability of materials, product finish, and adherence to specifications, ensuring consistent quality over time and review customer claims.
  • Timely Delivery: Evaluate the supplier's ability to meet deadlines, focusing on reliability and consistent delivery schedules.
  • Sustainability Practices: Examine their environmental impact, energy usage, waste management, and sustainable material sourcing, including sustainable certifications. If sustainability is a criterion, ask for detailed sustainability reports.
  • Financial Stability: Assess the supplier's financial health through credit scores, financial statements, and market reputation.
  • Cost: Review purchasing price and product development cost as it aligns with the overall service received and quality of product. 
  • Industry Regulation and Accreditation Compliance: Ensure adherence to labor laws, safety standards, and environmental regulations. Seek ISO certifications like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 and request regular audit reports covering various operational aspects.

3. Once you’ve nailed your criteria, you are ready to move on to the next step, which involves creating a comprehensive supplier evaluation form:

  1. Include both quantitative (e.g., on-time delivery percentage) and qualitative (e.g., communication quality) assessments.
  2. Utilize a scoring system for each category for simplicity.
  3. Regularly update the form to reflect changes in supply chain priorities or industry standards.

4. Step 1-3 means having laid the foundation. You now know what you want to evaluate and why. Now it’s time to start conducting regular audits:

  1. Schedule both announced and unannounced audits to review processes, compliance, labor conditions, and environmental impact.
  2. Use third-party auditors for unbiased assessments.

5. Ok, so audits are in place and you have made sure you are actually measuring and evaluating your suppliers on your key KPI’s. But how will you manage your processes related to these tasks as well as all the data that is being generated? Make sure you have proper tools and routines in place:

Supplier mapping
  1. Implement software for real-time tracking and visualisation of the garment's journey from raw material to finished product.
  2. Document the geographical location of suppliers and sub-suppliers, critical for compliance and risk assessment.
  3. Identify critical supply chain points, focusing on areas with higher risks.
  4. Maintain digital records of evaluations, audits, and communications for easy reference and decision-making.
  5. Employ AI and machine learning for predictive risk assessment and continual improvement of risk evaluations.
Product-Level Mapping and Bill of Materials:
  1. Ensure detailed traceability by linking each item in the Bill of Materials to specific suppliers or manufacturers.
  2. This level of detail is vital for claims regarding sustainability and for managing quality control and compliance with industry standards.
  3. Efficient supply chain management through a well-mapped Bill of Materials reduces waste and optimizes inventory levels.
Daily operations and Periodic Tasks:
  1. Monitor supplier performance daily, focusing on delivery times, product quality, and specification compliance.
  2. Conduct monthly reviews for trend analysis and improvement areas.
  3. Perform quarterly detailed audits for comprehensive compliance assessment.
  4. Reassess supplier strategy annually to align with business goals and market trends.
Tracking Improvements and Implementation:
  1. Establish Key Performance Indicators related to supplier performance.
  2. Utilize automated reporting for real-time progress tracking.
  3. Establish a feedback loop with suppliers for continuous improvement and relationship building.
How Does Vintly fit in?

Vintly's supplier and article management modules allow brands to customize and manage their supplier evaluations, including personalized topics and ratings, and facilitates the exchange of feedback and documents. Brands can assess supplier performance against specific criteria, view all supplier certifications in one place, and monitor their validity. Additionally, brands can develop corrective action plans based on these evaluations.

Supplier Evaluations

Brands and suppliers have the capability to interconnect and share data, creating a comprehensive map of the entire supplier network and linking suppliers to specific styles they produce.

Product tracking

At the article level, brands can catalogue all suppliers involved in producing an article, including main and component suppliers, both at the style and Bill of Materials levels. Each Bill of Materials component can be linked to a style and its corresponding suppliers. Furthermore, brands can track the necessary certifications for different styles, upload relevant documents, and apply these certifications to Purchase Orders as needed.

Bill of Materiaql
To Summarize

Supplier evaluations and mapping are critical for maintaining a robust, ethical, and sustainable garment supply chain. These processes are not just beneficial, but imperative in building a supply chain that meets global standards and compliance in an interconnected and accountable business world. 

With Vintly, your brand gains a comprehensive overview of all suppliers and how they perform in relation to your unique criteria and KPI’s, as well as a tool for managing the operational aspects of collecting data and collaborating with your suppliers on all things related to your styles, PO’s and shipments. While you and your suppliers tick off to do’s and work on exceptions nad improvments, Vintly keeps users and C-level stakeholders updated with real time data, enabling long term strategic decision making. 

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