The Complexity of Order-Processing in the Apparel Industry
India-based Ecotech IT Solutions develops enterprise resource management software to manufacturers and exporters in the apparel industry. Ecotech customers need to process apparel orders with a wide range of specifications and many variables. Each garment order may consist of as many as 100 different items that must be estimated and budgeted correctly in terms of quantities and costs. The overall cost also needs to be compared to customer price quotes, and items must be procured from different vendors across the continent as well as distributed to production facilities in many countries. Arrival of raw materials also has to be tracked to ensure production and shipments occur on time.
The flagship software product that accomplishes all of this for Ecotech is called STAGE—Software for Textile and Garment Exporting. "We continuously work with customers to develop new STAGE application enhancements," says A.P.S. Velu, Director of Business Development for Ecotech. "This is a constant challenge in the apparel industry where manufacturers and exporters have to manage complex orders that can consist of a wide variety of fabrics, accessories, colors and sizes. The variables of the apparel industry may be greater than other industry. Every item—from shirts to pants to dresses—has a large number of item definitions."
Because of the complexity of the solutions that Ecotech deploys, the company needs to focus its resources on developing and enhancing its end-user-facing STAGE software. "To do this, we need a programming tool that is simple to use and allows us to develop applications rapidly," Velu says. "Just as importantly, we need our application to integrate easily with a reliable database platform that is easy to deploy and support. We don't want our developers spending any of their time worrying about the database."
Industry Complexity Requires Simple yet Robust Database and Development Tool
When Ecotech first launched company operations in 1994, the company sought an application development tool that would allow programmers to quickly develop and enhance applications. Ecotech considered a development tool from Oracle but strategically chose to rely on Sybase PowerBuilder. Due to the success Ecotech experienced with PowerBuilder, choosing SQL Anywhere from Sybase seemed like a natural fit.
"The combination of PowerBuilder and SQL Anywhere is ideal for a company like ours that develops complex ERP software solutions," Velu says. "Because both technologies offer powerful features while at the same time are simple to use and support, we can focus all of our development energies on our own software. This allows us to launch new products and improve upon existing solutions to meet the needs of customers as effectively as possible."
Since integrating STAGE with SQL Anywhere, Ecotech has been a staunch supporter of the Sybase database platform. "One of our customers previously used an Oracle database, but we convinced them to change to SQL Anywhere because of how easy the database is to manage," Velu says. "We also showed them how our software works more effectively with Sybase."
Over the years, Ecotech has declined business opportunities in which customers preferred a database other than SQL Anywhere. "We want STAGE to perform only in the optimal environment that SQL Anywhere provides," Velu says. "Changing to a different database would create a big programming expense, and we also know that our customers would incur higher costs as far as the expertise needed to support complex databases from other vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft."
Key attributes of SQL Anywhere cited by Velu include its ruggedness and how it is virtually maintenance-free. Customer databases rarely crash, and when they do, it's usually because of hardware. When hardware crashes do occur, SQL Anywhere provides the extra benefit of facilitating the data-restore process.
PowerBuilder's rapid-application-development capability has also proven valuable, especially when Ecotech customers request a change or new report. "With PowerBuilder we can react very fast," Velu says. "The development tool lets us easily create data windows and pull new data. It's very user-friendly, and because it allows us to update applications fast, we impress customers with our turn-around times. In some cases, we have created new, complex reports in a matter of days."
Giving Customers the Ability to Transact More Business with Fewer Resources
Previously, Ecotech customers needed additional staff resources to manage their business activities, but the STAGE-SQL Anywhere combination lets them efficiently transact more business with fewer resources while also ensuring greater profitability. "STAGE and SQL Anywhere give our customers control over their business and ensure profitability through cost and budget analysis," Velu says. "Fewer resources are required to manage the overall production process. Rather than collating information across departments and locations, apparel businesses can focus more resources on securing new business."
The Ecotech-Sybase solution also established order-tracking connectivity among all departments so that orders can be viewed by key stakeholders from start to finish. This creates transparency across all departments, which helps reduce redundant work. Allowing businesses to prepare reports easily and quickly is also a big advantage compared to manual spreadsheets, especially with all the variables involved in the apparel industry. Managers can run reports that automatically summarize and analyze order status, and if they see anything unusual, they can then drill down into the data for specific information.
"We give our customers much more information than they used to have access to," Velu says. "They now have greater control over every order so that they can ensure profitability. We have been able to reach this level of success by focusing our development efforts on STAGE. Sybase has helped by giving us an easy-to-use development tool like PowerBuilder along with a database like SQL Anywhere so that customers can run our software without having to worry about the database."
Velu says the Ecotech-Sybase combination has produced the type of ERP solution that a complex industry like apparel must have. "Many companies, such as SAP and Microsoft have general ERP products, but they do not necessarily work well for specific industries, such as apparel. But the combination of a company like ours—which possesses the necessary industry domain expertise to write effective applications—supported by SQL Anywhere, a database on which those applications can run consistently, produces the precise type of ERP solution the apparel industry needs to be profitable."
Like a custom tailored suit, The STAGE solution powered by Sybase, has established the perfect fit. Moving forward, Ecotech plans to continue to rely on SQL Anywhere and PowerBuilder as it grows its business and continues to acquire larger customers. “The Sybase partnership is a key element in our future company strategy,” says Velu, “We have every confidence that we can accept larger customers with more intricate solution requirements because of our expertise in the industry and the power of our Sybase database platform.”