The word “e-sample” sums up how some leading fashion brands are effectively communicating about sample fit and quality across diverse cultures and geographies. It also perfectly describes the core technology of FastFit360; so much so that the company registered e-sample® as a trademark.
But what does it really mean to e-sample? First and foremost, it is a solution for reducing the multiple iterations of styles shipped around the globe, which in turn reduces lengthy and costly style review and approval processes. Instead, fashion brands and their international production partners communicate about real samples in real-time in a cloud-based computing environment.
Think of it this way. The “e” in “e-sample” ties to the fact that initial review of samples can be performed electronically, reducing the need to ship as many physical samples via air or sea. You also might say the “e” stands for easy because e-sample technology lives on FastFit360’s social communication platform, which makes communicating about sample changes as easy as chatting on Facebook or Twitter.
Implementing an e-sample process does not mean you will never receive a physical sample again. Production of a physical sample still occurs — always. However, your company will see a reduction in the number of samples your suppliers must ship and increased quality in the physical samples you receive. One FastFit360 client reduced product development time from nine months to three months. Another leveraged e-sample technology to reduce its number of sampling rounds from 27 to 12.
What are the steps in e-sampling? Every company’s process will vary, but the progression below summarizes an abbreviated standard operating procedure:
- The production partner makes a sample, and then captures 360-degree images or videos of the physical sample. The vendor can capture these images or videos through FastFit360’s FastFit® Studio solution, a turn-key product for photography and videography under consistent lighting and backdrop conditions. Or the vendor can use its own devices, such as smart phones, digital cameras, iPads or digital video cameras, to capture the images and video.
- To ensure the product images are consistent and calibrated, FastFit360 provides customers a Product Protocol to train all teams, offices and suppliers on the product images required for an e-sample.
- Using FastFit360’s proprietary technology, the image or video file is compressed and uploaded to FastFit360 Cloud for sharing with designated partners.
- The fashion brand can access the cloud platform online from anywhere, in real-time. Within a secure, cloud computing environment, the brand annotates the sample product images or videos to request corrections and changes.
- Communication and collaboration about the sample/iteration continue in the cloud in a social environment similar to that of social media sites like Facebook.
- After an e-sample is approved, meeting all specifications and quality requirements, the vendor is cleared to ship a physical sample for final review.
E-sampling can be used for all phases of the sample workflow, including:
- Design can review prototypes as e-samples to ensure the design aesthetic of the product is achieved.
- Technical design and product development can view fit samples to review specific issues (such as torqueing, drag, balance) that are visible on an e-sample.
- Quality teams can review Pre-production (P.P) and Top of Production (T.O.P.) samples to ensure the product meets the standards of the approved product at inspection.
- Distribution teams can access the cloud software to view the history of the product, review approved styles and compare them with the bulk deliveries at the distribution center to ensure received product complies with what was sealed or approved.
In closing, e-sample technology alleviates much of the time pressure, communication challenges and costs associated with traditional apparel sampling. Early adopters have cut sample production time in half, and dramatically reduced the number of samples required for style and product approval.