June 12, 2003, 12:00 AM

Wilsons Leather moves web-based sourcing further upstream with suppliers

Instead of catching problems at its distribution center, Wilsons is communicating more with factories to speed up or slow down production as needed to meet demand.

With 40 suppliers in China and India, Wilsons the Leather Experts Inc. is relying more on its web-based sourcing system to manage production of leather garments and accessories at the factory level before supply problems become known at its distribution center, Scott Christian, director of supply chain systems, said in an interview at the Retail Systems 2003 Conference and Exposition this week.

Christian notes that, in addition to concerns about limiting travel abroad due to SARS and terrorism, Wilsons has been concerned about reducing the number of production and delivery discrepancies that often aren`t realized by Wilsons` buyers and merchandise managers until shipments arrive at distribution centers. "Now we`re pushing problem-solving further upstream," he said. "We`re seeing ahead of time what might be a problem at factories before a shipment gets to our distribution center."

Wilsons uses the e-SPS web-based sourcing software from New Generation Computing Inc. Last year, it expanded the e-SPS system to its garment factories and this is year expanding it to accessories suppliers. This is replacing a system under which its suppliers tracked production schedules on spreadsheets. When discrepancies arose in the past, Wilsons and its suppliers might spend days trading phone calls and fax messages to sort out production problems. But with suppliers entering their production data on set daily schedules to the e-SPS system, Wilsons can see and act on discrepancies within the same day and avert problems.

"Now instead of putting out fires at the distribution center, we`re communicating with suppliers earlier in the game such as when they`re cutting raw materials to make garments," Christian said. That helps to avoid late shipments and shortfalls, but it also enables Wilsons to alert a supplier about halting production when sales forecasts come in lower than anticipated.

 

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