TALG Takes a Holistic Approach to Omnichannel
No models walk these particular “runways,” but TALG’s 240,000-square-foot facility keeps the fashion industry moving.
Fashion model Heidi Klum’s introduction to Bravo’s “Project Runway” television series best sums up the world of fashion: “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out.” From manufacturers to retailers, companies in the apparel industry with a weak omnichannel solution may quickly find themselves out of the game.
“The biggest thing for any client, even the emerging clients right now, is they have to be very strong at omnichannel,” The Apparel Logistics Group (TALG) Senior Vice President Aric Schwab says. “They have to be able to leverage the e-commerce market, but they also have to have the ability to work with wholesalers and specialty stores. We are focused on providing support across the board.”
With roots in the apparel industry dating back more than 70 years, Lewisville, Texas-based TALG is a world leader in third-party logistics (3PL) and supply chain outsourcing for clients that manufacture and distribute apparel, footwear and accessories. A subsidiary of The Apparel Group Ltd., TALG’s facility and processes were originally designed around a single customer, wholesale solution. Today, the company is transitioning its facility and process into a modular, multi-client omnichannel solution.
“We are very comfortable jumping back and forth with the same client from an e-commerce focus to a wholesale focus,” Business Development Manager Ken Bloomberg says. “It’s our general experience that competitors are strong usually in one channel, but not necessarily both.”
TALG specializes in the import, customs clearance, receipt, warehousing and fulfillment for products shipping to individual customers, major retailers and specialty stores. “We have in-house experts at every part of the supply chain,” Schwab notes. “We have a full scope of services we can provide our clients, finding where they have needs and providing solutions for them.”
TALG is improving its more than 200 employees’ skillsets, developing true cross-functional teams that are customer-centric. “We are increasing communication and transparency with our customers and then staying in front of their needs by discovering what their challenges are,” Schwab says.
For example, clients may start with TALG to solve their logistics challenges, but by digging deeper they can discover other areas where TALG can be of use, including sourcing, production forecasting or foreign trade zone (FTZ) support. “There are a lot of pieces to the apparel industry,” Bloomberg notes. “In manufacturing, things can invariably go sideways. It’s not ‘Does the client have a problem? But ‘have you seen that problem before and how can you solve it?’ That’s a core piece of what we do.”
The Total Package
As a supply chain management partner, TALG’s best practice of always adding value to the customer experience is leading to the expansion of its domestic 3PL footprint and increasing the scale of the solutions it offers. “Our goal is when a client starts with us in one area, we don’t want them looking outside our company for other solutions,” Bloomberg says. “All our value-added services are one point of differentiation for TALG.”
We have longstanding customers that started with us for only wholesale fulfillment that now do most of their volume in e-commerce. In addition, some of those same clients are now taking advantage of our sourcing, FTZ services and in-house custom embroidery.
From design to the final customer’s door, TALG supports its clients nearly every step of the way through the supply chain. Sitting on 15 acres in north Texas, TALG’s 240,000-square-foot facility operates three shifts, seven days a week. “We have a large set of in-house resources to assist our clients and when we do not have that expertise in-house, we are able to rely on our network of partners, including Matthews Automation Solutions and Schorr Packaging Group, that are also industry leaders,” Bloomberg says.
“Our firm is well-known in the apparel and manufacturing world,” Bloomberg adds. “We work with emerging companies and the scale we give them allows them to focus on what they are good at. Most native online sellers are good at website design, marketing, product and merchandising, while execution in the back office is almost as important if not more so, especially when you have people used to Amazon’s model of expecting delivery in one to two days.”
Fulfillment, accuracy and timelines are driving TALG to invest and implement new processes within the company. Having worked in wholesale and retail supply for nearly 30 years, Bloomberg says the lead times and customer focus are more exacting today than ever before.
In the past, a retailer would receive a truckload of product once a month, but now they are more lean and agile. Companies break down their shipments to the store level and prefer weekly replenishments.
“Even with specialty stores that might be ordering 10 to 20 times the quantity of a typical e-commerce order, the service is the same,” Bloomberg says. “That specialty store is surviving based on customer experience and we are fulfilling to that need. We are focused on developing responsive service level commitments and shipping orders accurately and on time.”
“E-commerce will continue to grow and if you are not staying in front of it then you are going to fail,” Schwab adds. “We are sensitive to the fact that our customers have to maintain a retail relationship and those needs are changing.”
Scaling its Solutions
“We know confidently we have an excellent solution that’s unparalleled because of our expertise,” Schwab says. “My challenge is getting to mass market and a larger client base. Scalability is a challenge because there is a danger when you scale you can harm quality and capabilities. We are leveraging systems, software and process to free up human capital to grow quickly.”
TALG is committed to continuous improvement through investment in its people, process and technology, which gives it the ability to provide client-focused solutions for omnichannel fulfillment. “We are leveraging all our systems to lessen any manual and redundant work, letting the systems do that so we can deploy human capital to solve more complex issues,” Schwab explains.
Last year, TALG invested $2.5 million in capital improvements, including the expansion of its outbound audit area and VAS services area, re-engineering of its outbound shipping area and adding a direct-load small parcel line.
“Our company plans to continue to make appropriate investments in material handling equipment, systems and processes in order to meet the growing demands of our customers,” Bloomberg says. “By using our 3PL, our clients do not need to budget warehouse-related investments, leaving them the ability to invest their capital in product and marketing.”
The company also updated its warehouse control system to increase throughput and upgraded its pick-wall processing module for high-volume, small package processing. Its ongoing focuses are to optimize reserve and active locations for increased capacity and continue lean management training for all TALG managers.
“We are addressing things from a lean perspective,” Schwab says. “Companies normally do this to become more profitable and efficient, but that should be an externality of the focus, which is adding value to the customer experience.”