5 Tips to Streamline Supply Chain Collaboration


If there was one word to describe supply chain management, it would be complex.

Supply chains are complex entities that require a robust foundation for them to function with maximum operational efficiency. 

Collaboration between fashion brands and their manufacturers is also a complex process – it requires equal participation on both sides and continuous communication through every development stage. There is often a gap in effective communication between designers and suppliers due to the usage of siloed tools such as spreadsheets and emails. The constant back and forth between the parties via these tools inevitably opens the door to inconsistencies, guesswork, and misalignment.

Fostering close relationships with your suppliers has massive potential to create value in supply chain resiliency.

Fortunately, as the supply chain and logistics industry continues to evolve towards technological innovation, many companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of improving communications with their suppliers. In fact, recent studies have shown that nearly 60% of companies today consider supplier communication and collaboration one of their top five supply chain priorities. 

It’s only recently that technology has made supply chain collaboration possible – but there is still a long way to go. Here is what true collaborative production in the supply chain looks like: different parties in your global supply chain working together in real-time to achieve shared goals. 

What does supply chain collaboration involve?

  • Mutual goals and accountability: It’s important that both the brand and supplier are on the same page regarding shared interests and mindsets. When all parties have an equal share of risk and accountability, it makes it easy on all ends to align product roadmap. 
  • Establishing a synergetic system: A partnership can go nowhere without mutual trust and respect. It becomes challenging especially when managing a global supply chain; partners may be all over the world, with different languages and different time zones. That’s why it’s crucial to create value and share it equally – with a workspace that enables open feedback and shared knowledge.
  • Accuracy: From the product information compiled in tech packs to purchase orders, it’s important to make sure a product has the right information, in the right place at the right time. Accuracy in supply chain processes reduces production and sample errors – and the cost that comes with it. So communication, even for the smallest detail, is critical. 

Here are 5 tips to help improve collaboration within your supply chain:

  1. Encourage transparency: From the very start, make sure you and your suppliers clearly communicate your supply chain policies, business goals, and performance expectations. If these expectations aren’t established, it’s inevitable to run into conflict in the future. Suppliers should have a clear understanding of how to engage with your team regarding communication issues and the expected turnaround time for a response.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive: No one can foresee major disruptions before they happen, but we can definitely prepare for them and possibly prevent them. When working with new suppliers, make sure that their supply chain operations align with your business objectives, have a risk management plan, and are able to navigate around challenges. Cultivate open communication with your suppliers to ensure that you are both ready for adaptation.
  3. Encourage data sharing: It’s important to establish key performance metrics that are easily visible to both you and your suppliers. When data is transparent and easily accessible, you can monitor your product timelines and production processes. Data sharing promotes coordination between partners and gain efficiency savings.
  4. Structured workflows: Collaboration occurs on all fronts when it comes to creating products. From tech packs, samples, quotations, and more, it’s critical that workflows are structured and defined by all parties. This means having clear timetables and clear trackable metrics that minimize room for error – especially when production process wheels are on full go. 
  5. Embrace a digital transformation: Softwares that provide the single source of truth for partners, operations, and product data are the key to supply chain innovation. Now is the time to close the communication gaps between brands and suppliers, and move away from the outdated ways to manage supply chains – think spreadsheets and email. Today, we have advanced digital technologies that are AI-powered and cloud-based to provide teams with a shared platform to exchange product information. Collaborative platforms open doors for real-time analytics and real-time communication. Embracing this digital evolution of supply chain management is the new way of streamlining collaboration.

Align your team and factories with Calico

So is it easier said than done? There is not an easy answer to that question. However, selecting the right tool to align your brand’s product development journey alongside your factories is a stride in the right direction.

Building collaboration in your supply chain is definitely not a quick fix, but it’s an effective one. And the payback? Substantial is an understatement.

The need for supply chain collaboration is now. Join Calico and experience the transformation first-hand.