Massimo Brandellero is the founder of The ID Factory, an Italian Benefit company that has developed a digital platform to manage the supply chain of companies and brands in the clothing and footwear sectors. The entrepreneur is an expert in new technologies applied to the fashion sector, also active inthe Fashion Revolution community which sees companies, designers, producers, workers and consumers united in pursuing development goals according to more equitable and sustainable social and environmental criteria.
What made you decide to deal with traceability?
“It all started towards the end of November 2012 when I was in Hong Kong for work and I found myself in the same place where a few days earlier Greenpeace activists had demonstrated showing the “Invisible fashion victim” sign against the use of toxic substances that pollute water in the textile supply chain. This moment marked the beginning of the Detox my fashion campaign which has radically changed my way of seeing fashion and doing business.
At the time, I was working in the leather industry, supporting the procurement department of numerous European shoe brands that purchased finished products from Asia and the East, acting as a link between Asian factories and brands. The Detox my fashion campaign coincided with the beginning of a change but it was shortly thereafter, with the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh and the birth of the Fashion Revolution movement that radically changed the approach to the supply chain concept of the entire fashion industry. In this type of environment and in an ecosystem that was opening up to a new awareness, The ID Factory was born”.
The digital platform your company has developed offers “unprecedented global supply chain management”. Could you explain to us what it involves?
“The ID Factory is a digital platform that allows complete traceability and digitisation of the production chains of major fashion brands which, by their nature, have such a fragmentation as to generate extreme management and monitoring complexity. Digitising the supply chain allows brands and all stakeholders involved to exchange strategic and operational information to improve both the communication between the players in the chain and the operational management of the supply chain, as they are: faster, more flexible, accurate, efficient and sustainable”.
Who are your customers?
“Today The ID Factory works with over 500 companies and brands in the apparel and footwear sector including Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Geox, Tamaris, S.Oliver and many others. The platform is jointly used by brands and their production chains for a total of 320 manufacturing companies and 252 suppliers of raw materials”.
What are the major obstacles encountered in implementing a traceability system in the supply chains of the leather/footwear sector?
“Technology in itself makes sense to exist when it facilitates and not when it creates obstacles and complexity; however, as in all sectors with a strong tradition such as leather and footwear and as in all cases of radical change, the problems are mainly due to the mindset of users: once this is faced, obstacles become challenges”.
What are the advantages for the companies involved?
“As mentioned, the digitisation of the production chain makes the operational management of the supply chain faster, more flexible, accurate, efficient and potentially more sustainable. In a nutshell, ad hoc and real-time planning allows a flexible reaction to changing demand or supply situations, while the collection and analysis of big data provides end-to-end transparency in real time along the entire supply chain. Furthermore, the integration of data into a ‘supply chain cloud’ ensures that all stakeholders lead and decide on the basis of the same information. Ultimately, digitisation offers greater visibility, transparency and traceability at every step of the production process starting from the raw materials”.
Does traceability really mean more sustainability?
“The two words are for sure not synonymous, but I would say with equal confidence that traceability is the necessary and fundamental condition to be able to think of facing an evolution process that aspires to sustainability. We cannot improve what we cannot measure and we cannot measure what we cannot track. Traceability makes it possible to guarantee the origin of a product or raw material and can therefore reduce risks by quickly identifying “defective” products removing them before they are placed on the market. It also helps companies improve the efficiency and relevance of quality controls, minimising non-conformities. But above all, traceability makes it possible to measure the environmental and social impact associated with the manufacturing of a product, making it possible for companies to identify development areas and allow a progressive sustainable transition. I would therefore say that there can hardly be sustainability without traceability”.
What impact will the new technologies have on the fashion sector in the near future?
“According to a McKinsey report, in 2020 the global profit of the fashion sector fell by 93% compared to 2019. The pandemic has shown the lack of flexibility of the fashion industry to adapt to changes and technology is more than ever the solution to the problem. Business intelligence tools integrated with supply chain data management platforms can be a solution but there will be increasingly more technologies to support Fashion Tech. For example, Blockchain technology has great application potential. In recent years we have heard about Blockchain in relation to its most famous application, bitcoins. The areas of application, however, are not only in the financial sector: the traceability of information contained in the register is one of the features of the Blockchain network and traceability is one of the key points of the food and fashion sector, where this technology can bring huge benefits. The screening test carried out by the MISE (Italian Ministry of Economic Development) has shown that the best protective strategy for Made in Italy passes through transparency. Thanks to the Blockchain Technology, every step of the production and supply chain can be registered in a fully scalable, permanent and tamper-resistant ‘universal ledger’”.
What will happen in the next few years?
“The right question to ask is perhaps: do we believe that new technologies will stop? We are certainly just at the beginning of a paradigm shift both in the way of living and in the way of understanding business. Today, new technological borders, social, environmental and economic needs converge in an evident direction: the collective awareness that only through sustainable development will we be able to guarantee equal or better opportunities for future generations”.