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Dr. Martens is a global brand with a rich and diverse heritage and a contemporary relevance. Acclaimed for its bootmaking innovation, the company’s deep-rooted links with the working class, music, sub-cultures and self-expression have kept the brand at the forefront of youth culture for over 50 years.
Dr. Martens shoes and boots were originally designed for workers, but quickly became a fashion hallmark of youth culture, worn by rebels, non-conformists and free-thinking individuals of all types for more than five decades. The company began in the late 1950s as the fusion of a family-owned British bootmaking company with a German innovation: the air-cushioned sole. Today, the company manufactures in Europe and Asia, and Dr. Martens sells its products all over the world.
“A shoe is an incredibly simple-looking item, which is actually a very complicated thing to make,” says Mike Watson-Smith, sourcing director at Dr. Martens. Each Dr. Martens shoe has dozens of components, and with different materials, outsoles, trims, stitching, laces, and a variety of colors, the product line is quite extensive and complex. As the business has grown, Dr. Martens has branched out far beyond boots to a broad variety of footwear and accessories.
For each new product line, the company must track information for about 1,000 stock keeping units (SKUs). As the seasonal nature of the fashion industry requires continuous innovation, Dr. Martens is constantly reinventing its products in keeping with trends and customer desires. “We have something like a thousand SKUs live on our system at any one period of time,” says Watson-Smith. “Because of seasonality, we are actually working on three seasons at any moment in time. We can be tracking 2,500 to 3,000 SKUs.”
Product development at Dr. Martens begins with the design team putting together a seasonal trend catalog that gives initial direction. Designers then develop sketches of new products with details of the last, materials, colors and other items. The product development team then adds details like edge treatments, thread sizes, buckle finishes, size ranges and embellishments. The designers and product development team work together to determine the styles and color palettes with which they want to go forward.
The development team then compiles a complete technical specification for each selected style and color that is used to produce samples. The samples are the focus of additional meetings, where they are evaluated to select the final styles for production. Once the product line is approved, the development team must ensure that the specification for each SKU is 100 percent accurate, then deliver them to the sourcing team, which creates the production specification.
The pace and complexity of the design and development process drives many changes, based not only on style, but also on availability of materials and on the processing capabilities of factories. Dr. Martens found that the tools and systems they were using were inadequate in managing these changes, resulting in errors and miscommunications.
Like many companies, Dr. Martens relied on multiple sources of information, many forms of communication and disparate systems to run the business. “We had databases in various places, sample ordering systems that were in different places and a specification system that was actually just too flexible, with no rules attached to it,” says Watson-Smith.
Managing change was even more difficult, with more complex product information and a global supply chain. “As our business started to grow, we opened up to new suppliers, and we realized that when we sent them out the same information, either it wasn’t complete or it wasn’t consistent,” explains Nicola Pichel-Juan, sourcing systems manager at Dr. Martens.
“We had various spreadsheets with different catalogs of trims and hundreds, if not thousands, of emails. So, if we were producing something in a factory, and there was a query, sometimes it could take hours to actually get to the piece of information and figure out what happened.”
Dr. Marten’s suppliers had no direct access to the company’s systems and product information. “We were in a situation where we were basically exporting paper documents to our factories in the Far East,” says Chris Nash, IT (information technology) development manager at Dr. Martens. “They could easily pull an old piece of paper out of the filing cabinet and misread a specification – pick up version two instead of version six – and mistakes were made.”
Dr. Martens began searching for a new system that could improve the accuracy and consistency of product data, streamline communication and collaboration, and improve change management. The aim was to have all the information in one place – all the relevant product data and version histories – and to give the people who use the system the tools they need and the right level of detail.
After an assessment of available systems and an in-depth evaluation of two of them, Dr. Martens selected Teamcenter® software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software to establish a single source of product data to support their global operations. “Teamcenter gave us the greatest possibilities for a product lifecycle system – the ability to track samples, costing, bills of materials (BOMs) for the factory,” says Watson-Smith. “There is a line-planning capability as well, which will help other parts of the business and integrate other parts of the business.”
“We really wanted something that we could see the discipline of how it works, as well as the structure and the process,” says Pichel-Juan. “That was the real thing that attracted us to Teamcenter. We liked the engineering background of Siemens Digital Industries Software, and we could see the data structure quite clearly and how the process flow worked, which was something that we didn’t get from the other solutions that we reviewed. ”
For the system implementation, Dr. Martens relied on the PLM services of Accenture, a global consulting and systems integration alliance partner of Siemens Digital Industries Software. Accenture has focused expertise in rapid deployment of footwear products using Teamcenter and industry-specific process knowledge, along with broad experience in supply chain collaboration, system configuration and deployment.
“Accenture has experience in installing and configuring the software and putting it into other companies,” says Pichel-Juan. “They have an understanding of how the implementation process needed to work and they’ve acted as consultants as to what the best practice is.” Watson-Smith reiterates the value of Accenture’s consulting: “Accenture has been brilliant. There has been a voyage of discovery along the way, and they’ve been patient. They have been quick to respond, and very professional.”
The implementation of Teamcenter at Dr. Martens is helping the business in many ways. For product specification, the company now has better definition and more accurate data, with a level of detail that tracks each component and links it with suppliers. “Already we’ve seen an improvement on the information value, like the base information that comes to us for us to start building specs,” says Louise Bosworth, senior development manager at Dr. Martens. “That, straightaway, is a time saving.”
With a single source of accurate product information, Dr. Martens is streamlining communication and collaboration with the global supply chain. “Teamcenter has helped us to give the factories real-time communication with all of the changes that are tracked internally for Dr. Martens,” says Nash. This capability will enable Dr. Martens to answer questions and establish key performance indicators for its suppliers. The result is improved product quality and lower costs.
“We’re going to have visibility into data wherever we are in the world,” says Pichel-Juan. “Our teams in Asia, for the first time, will have live access to data instead of having to wait eight hours for someone to come in and answer a question. Being able to manage our data through an IT system and basically having everything in the same place is going to be hugely beneficial.”
“Teamcenter will up our competitiveness in terms of lead time and in terms of being able to innovate,” says Watson-Smith. “Teamcenter is one of the things that will allow us to stay relevant, to stay competitive, because it will allow us to improve our speed to market.”