How to Gain Confidence in Color Across Your Supply Chain

Think consistently accurate color evaluation is a myth? How about transparency between brands and mills? While this can often feel like the case, it isn’t true— the right tools and data at your disposal can make all the difference. And having access to experts who can help tailor solutions to your needs and set up your workflow can be the difference between a failed approach to color management and a successful one.

 

Here at Datacolor, we’ve seen the full gamut of approaches to color management.

 

We’ve seen bright papers inside light booths, light booths beside windows, spectrophotometers being used as bookends, and operators dressed in brightly colored clothing while evaluating colors. These are just a few conditions to avoid if you want the most accurate measurements possible.

 

And we’ve seen our fair share of visual color evaluations being performed.

 

We’ve also seen many color labs that are set up for accurate, repeatable measurements and serve as an example anyone in the industry could learn from.

 

But no matter where you fall here, even the best approach to color evaluation is only effective if it’s true across your entire supply chain. And therein lies the challenge.

 

I covered this topic at the 2019 AATCC International Conference. During the session, we discussed how color can easily become a bottleneck. but there is a clear opportunity to improve transparency and implement an approach to color lifecycle management that fosters confidence, not frustration and missed deadlines.

 

The Stakes are High for Today’s Mills and Brands

 

Globalization, consumer behavior changes and technological innovations are all driving mills and brands to move faster and adapt quickly.

 

Here’s just one example: Mills and brands today are heavily focused on supply chain transparency—when it comes to both overall business strategy and daily operations. Their consumers consumers want to know that the raw materials being used are coming from sustainable and ethically sourced products and that suppliers are engaging in ethical business practices. This is a relatively new challenge for the supply chain, but they’re engaging in it because it’s right for the environment and for their consumer base.

 

Beyond this, we know that 54% of online purchases are returned due to incorrect color or size. And that each round of a physical color approval in the production chain can add two or more weeks to the timeline. The takeaway? Getting color right—and getting it right quickly—is critical to all the players in the textile supply chain.

 

So how do brands thrive in this environment? How do they make sure they deliver the desired product to the consumer in a timely fashion, while balancing cost and quality? They have to adopt an agile, digital system that can effectively allow them to control their costs, let them monitor their resource allocation and quality, and monitor their supply chain.

 

Are You Losing Weeks of Productivity with Visual Color Evaluation?

 

At many companies, color doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s often the last piece of the puzzle and color decisions can be highly unpredictable. There is also an emotional aspect involved in telling a brand’s seasonal color story.

 

All of this causes so many problems—from inspiration to final product—when color is evaluated visually. After all, everyone sees colors differently and a range of physical and environmental factors can influence color perception.

 

When you engage in a visual color evaluation process, you’re engaging in a process that’s:

  • Highly administrative
  • Time intensive
  • Time consuming
  • Can yield inconsistent results.

 

When this is the environment for making key decisions at a mill, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to achieve the correct colors. If decisions are made based on subjectivity, timelines increase and you’re faced with inconsistent results and costs. Cost, quality and time are all impacted positively or negatively depending on whether you’re using subjective methods of color evaluation or objective, digital methods.

 

How do we Ensure Consistency Across the Whole Supply Chain?

 

It’s one thing for a brand to adhere to a strict process for color evaluation. It’s another thing for a mill to do the same. But how do we connect the dots across the supply chain to ensure each decision related to color is made based on data and not subjectivity? How do we instill confidence at brands and mills around the world that the colors getting approved are the colors that should be approved?

 

There are many factors that can influence key decisions: fabric type, lot size, brightness, dullness, metamerism, submits received and more. Differing opinions about these factors quickly leads to subjective decisions—which leads to longer turnaround times and inconsistent results.

 

For color confidence to become a reality, all players involved must unlock the power of data to drive effective decision making. The right data allows you to get objective results, which in turn helps brands choose the right mills at the right cost that will deliver products on-time. And it helps mills showcase their capabilities.

 

Another piece of the puzzle: conducting regular color management and lab audits. Audits allow brands and vendors to significantly reduce the time and cost of product development by ensuring their supply chain is qualified and capable of meeting expectations for color quality. These audits should cover factors like:

 

  1. Environment: Is it regularly monitored for cleanliness and consistent conditions?
  2. Equipment: is the equipment professionally cleaned, calibrated and certified?
  3. Operators: Are operators trained, continuously educated and color tested on a regular basis?

 

With these processes in place, mills will be able to proactively identify opportunities to improve their overall operating efficiency. They’ll be able to use these capabilities to market themselves as best in class for processes, people and technology. And they’ll be able to gain more business.

 

On the brand side, the potential is equally rewarding: ensuring the supply chain can deliver on color quality expectations, delivering right first-time product and identifying contingency sourcing plans thanks to visibility into qualified mills.

 

Stop Wasting Time on the Impossible

 

There are multiple aspects to eliminating speed-to-market challenges. One of those is feasibility. So much time can be wasted while brands and vendors establish if a concept is feasible or not before it is finalized. Time spent creating and shipping samples can cripple a production schedule—especially if those samples end up not being feasible in the end.

 

Digital color management allows you to check if a specific color can be achieved on a chosen substrate. Not only does it save time, but it also reduces costs by eliminating unattainable color and fabric combinations. It also ensures the color team is involved in the decision making process from the early stages.

 

Making Color Confidence a Reality for Your Entire Supply Chain

 

Consistently accurate color evaluation is possible. But it requires access to the right tools, data and expertise. This is what your approach to color could look like with these resources in place:

 

  • The ability to objectively manage color for more product types
  • Making more informed decisions by leveraging data
  • Managing color more effectively throughout the entire product development workflow
  • Empowering your supply chain

 

Learn more about Datacolor’s approach to instilling confidence in color lifecycle management here.