Over and over we hear the mantra “ time-to-market” is the key selling point for the exciting new technology of 3-D design. Although time-to-market can be an important function of digitizing the design development pattern making and other functions of 3-D, it’s not the most important result of the adoption of this technology. The incredibly complex development that reduces a complex product including design, machinery, process and colorization to a packet of binary code that represents a product in its entirety is a fundamental building block of the information age. The real impact point of 3-D design is not its function but the form of its output. In this vision of the real future, hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouse space and billions of dollars in inventory are reduced to tiny computer files accessed from a digital cloud through your phone, tablet or laptop. Millions of products accessible on-demand through digital manufacturing and ready for purchase when the consumer is ready to buy. Tons of waste and pollution disappear because products are produced on demand from local factories from vast virtual inventories available online or at your local store. Stores that using AR to provide the opportunity for shoppers to browse through hundreds more products than were ever available from racks and shelves. Products that are available digitally manufactured on-site or in a nearby Micro-Factory. These successful retailers no longer have to risk inventories built from long-range forecasts and rendered outdated by ethereal trends that shift with the speed of the Internet.
The Seismic Impact of Virtual Inventories
Building virtual inventories is the most important eventual output of digital 3-D design. As the companies who create this fantastic software begin to understand their overall role in the commerce of the information age they are extending their software to include both merchandising and manufacturing links. The ability of the virtual inventory to connect directly with digital manufacturing allows it to become a true infinite warehouse of products. Even more important is the demand link between virtual design and the retail and e-tail merchandising of products. Providing visual link that allows retail stores and e-tail providers to increase their selection through a highly efficient AR experience that allow the consumer to efficiently find exactly the product they want is the critical part of the extension of the 3-D digital design function. Using 3-D software as the initial point, vast inventories of products can be created through virtual design, sold through AR’s virtual sensory experiences and digitally manufactured on demand. In addition the further development of real-time digital design will allow consumers and buyers to customize product to fit their specific needs guaranteeing higher value and by extension higher profits. The digital design information handshake between virtual inventory and digital manufacturing will allow high levels of efficiency and accuracy while reducing waste and pollution in providing these custom products.
Pursuing Profit Not Just Lower Costs
In reality ” speed to sale” will always trump “speed to market” as the ultimate goal for visual design software. Creating an efficient path with intrinsic value as a path to the ultimate source of funds, the consumer, will always be a winning hand. Unfortunately, very few of the strategic planners in the visual design category are clearly pursuing the virtual inventory solution as their ultimate goal. In the end the ability to create more designs faster without linking them directly to merchandising technologies is likely to increase the risk of overproduction and possibly lower the sell-through rate at retail.
Is understandable why the software companies have focused on the process of design and development because these areas were both time-consuming and often the source of confusing or inefficient communication. Solving these problems could create a clear and quicker path through an expensive and difficult period of physical product development. Since cost savings was the focus of buyers at every level creating technology, which focused on saving time, and reducing confusion was a logical path. Now is the time for the visual software companies to begin to shift their target from just cost savings to increased measurable profits at the money generating end of the supply chain. Creating, digitizing and storing product in a form that can be easily manufactured and merchandised on demand puts virtual design software in the key role of generating profits. Capitalizing on this change in direction will put these companies in a leadership role as consumer goods commerce shifts from “supply and demand” to ”demand and supply” a paradigm which is the key to sustainability in the information age.
SOURCING at MAGIC Pioneers Integrated Purchase to Fulfillment Technology
Beginning next month SOURCING AT MAGIC will introduce brands and buyers to a new section on the floor dedicated to the evolution of technologies that create an integrated demand sourcing path from consumer merchandising through demand manufacturing and back to consumer fulfillment. This new fashion technology area will feature software and equipment dedicated to the new era of individualized high-value consumer merchandising. SOURCING AT MAGIC will continue to grow this section featuring new merchandising inventory and design technology twice year in February and August at MAGIC in Las Vegas.