What is now Datacolor Color Lifecycle Management started with four employees and a chalkboard in a small meeting room in Raleigh, North Carolina.
But a chalkboard was all those four Datacolor employees needed as they sat down to plan. There was a wide range of experience amongst them: R&D, product development, web design and support.
The project was led by Dustin Bowersox, who joined the company just eight months prior. He was far from new to the industry, though. As Senior Color Manager at Target, he oversaw global color strategies for the company.
In that role, he saw first-hand an opportunity to streamline color communication in a way that hadn’t been done before. He saw colorists at brands doing the same assessments as a cut-and-sew vendor, who did the same assessments at a dyehouse or mill. Meanwhile, the consumer just wants a quality product that is on trend.
An Industry Long-Overdue for Change
“The current process adds so much cost. And it’s done because there’s no clear way to communicate color quality on a consistent basis from dyer to vendor to brand decision maker,” says Dustin. “I’ve been in situations where I’m measuring samples from morning to night.”
“There are other ways a color teams’ expertise should be used. These teams should be focused on ensuring the customer has a great experience and will come back to buy again. Things like addressing color fastness issues and making sure fabric and color combinations work.”
It wasn’t easy for brands and mills to communicate about color in an efficient way. Brands didn’t have real-time visibility into color operations at mills. Instead, batch issues might be discovered days later, when production was well underway and starting over would be costly. Unless something changed, Dustin knew that expert colorists everywhere would continue to be tied up measuring samples for hours on end—and still running into quality control issues.
And each visit Dustin took to a mill came with a familiar sight: a wall of certifications from different brands, representing countless hours the employees of that mill spent on assessments—and the brand’s colorists spent on mill assessments. But all those assessments weren’t helping the mills showcase their capabilities and gain new business. The way he saw it, from brands to mills and everywhere in between, everyone was losing out. The current process was begging to be overhauled.
A system for making that possible would become a reality over the next year. For now, there were four people and a chalkboard in a small conference room in North Carolina.
Building Upon a Company Legacy
Even at Target, Dustin knew Datacolor well. He knew that he could always rely on Ken Butts and Tom Stutts—two textile team members with a combined 60 years of experience at the company—to answer any question and provide invaluable information about color management strategies and tools. He knew that this was a company with a longstanding reputation for equipment and service and a global team of color experts.
Now it was his turn to build upon this reputation. He had a strong base to start with—including a team of textile experts around the world with the technical expertise to perform comprehensive audits at local mills, and teams across the company eager to roll up their sleeves and contribute to something brand-new.
Dustin joined Datacolor at a turning point in the textile industry, with the average size of color teams shrinking, and demands for faster and faster production timelines putting tremendous pressure on brands and mills. The way he saw it, the industry was desperately in need of a solution that facilitated communication throughout the entire supply chain.
“It’s What You Do with the Data”
“As a textile brand and as a mill, you have a lot of data that comes at you on a daily basis,” Dustin says. “But it’s what you do with that data—do you have the ability to aggregate it, dissect it and objectively make decisions to improve product quality and shorten timelines? That didn’t exist out there. There weren’t tools to easily compare color lot to lot, machine to machine and operator to operator.”
Transparency is one thing. Ease-of-use is another. Dustin’s team wanted to deliver web-based tools that would give them unprecedented visibility into their production data. After initial installation, brands and mills would benefit from instant access to updates and simple user management.
Oh, and they set out to do it in a little more than a single year.
“What Works in One Country Won’t Work in Another”
But could the team make it work? To find out, Dustin spent a month and a half flying around the globe sharing the concept of the solution we now know as Datacolor’s Color Lifecycle Management. He got to know the many faces of Datacolor and see their passion for meeting customer expectations first-hand.
“What works in one country might not work in another,” he says. “And that’s what our team members around the world are really good at. They take our global company strategy and make it work for their local market. They fit it to what brands and mills in each region need, from Europe to South America to Asia.”
New Challenges and Aggressive Timelines
Yet if you ask Dustin to tell the story of how Color Lifecycle Management came to be, he won’t tell you about his own work. He’ll tell you about the software R&D team taking a sketch from a chalkboard and “delivering a solution in a way that’s so dynamic and so spot-on with what we intended”.
He’ll tell you about Milagros Watts, a Datacolor team member for nearly 30 years with a wealth of knowledge in both applications and product management. “As we balance the old with the new, Milagros has been there, making sure what I’m proposing can work smoothly with our existing software and instruments,” he says.
According to Dustin, that “old meets new” approach has challenged him and his coworkers in ways they never expected. But it also proved what they were capable of achieving.
“We’re all committed to bringing something new, instead of just adding features to something that exists. This isn’t a minor tweak,” he says. “It’s been a delicate balance of trying to respect quality processes and individual expertise, yet working against aggressive timelines that we’ve never seen before from a new product perspective.” He estimates that more than 50 people have worked on getting Color Lifecycle Management ready for launch in the past year alone.
Reflecting on the work that was already put into Color Lifecycle Management, Dustin is quick to clarify that although this is a new frontier for Datacolor, it’s built upon the same three pillars that have guided our solutions for over 45 years: lowering costs, delivering quality and increasing speed.
To learn more about Color Lifecycle Management, go to datacolor.com/clm.