Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Zara methodology of leveraging technology.

Zara is a clothing company.

They're owned by Inditex Corporation, and headquartered in a poor area of Northern Spain. They are a few decades old, and are now the number one retailer of clothing in the world.

How is this pertinent to table top war games? Good question. I'll get there.

Zara got to where they are through intelligent application of technology to create an infrastructure that does what the business needs it to do in order to maintain their competitive advantage. They've built this system from the ground up, over decades. They can go from an idea to clothing in a store in less than three weeks. It takes most of their competitors between two and ten months to do the same thing. Most fashion is on the higher end of that range. Most manufacturers have to try to either guess what will be popular in half a year, or make their designs popular through fashion shows around the world. It's not very effective, and definitely not very efficient. Many fashion retailers sell most of their inventory on mark down, or end up writing it off. It eats into what is usually a healthy profit margin that can generate great livings for a lot of people.

Zara is also able to sample customer input from each store, finding out what people would like to buy, often simple changes to already designed and manufactured clothing. Imagine walking into a store and seeing a style that reminds you of something your favorite celebrity wore at an awards show two weeks before. Imagine picking it up, trying it on and thinking "Wow, if this neckline was a little different this would be perfect! As it is, I'll get it anyway, I just wish it could be so..." Imagine walking out of the changing room to pay for the article of clothing and having someone ask you "What did you like about it? What would you like to see different? Tell me about the color, the hemline, the neckline."

That would be a powerful thing.

Imagine you swing back by two weeks later and a very similar article of clothing is on a rack, with the exact neckline you were wishing for the first time.

That would be a VERY powerful thing. That would probably make you a semi regular customer for as long as you can afford the clothing there. These are the types of things that help Zara sell the vast majority of its clothing at full retail price, within days of it hitting their stores.

That's all that you as a customer needs to see. That's what makes Zara such a potent force in the off the rack fashion industry.

There's actually more though.

Do you recall the factory fire in Bangladesh that killed a bunch of people? What about the building collapse that killed a bunch more? Do you recall the news stories about awful working and living conditions that factory workers that make consumer goods deal with every day?

I'm sure you do, they're everywhere. Any line of that last paragraph could be switched to have taken place in any of a couple of dozen nations that western companies contract their manufacturing to. These contract companies cut corners any way they can, often harming the people that work for them as well as the environment around them.

Not Zara. They do most of their manufacturing themselves, in Spain. They then run a world wide transportation infrastructure that allows them to deliver twice a week to every one of their retail stores. Manufacturing in the west is often thought to be too expensive, too difficult, too regulated, too anything else that's bad that a business minded person could think of. The benefits are often looked over. It greatly reduces lead time, increases the ability to make changes in manufacturing, and gives everyone employed the chance to be well taken care of to a standard that we in the west demand for our citizens.

So, my take aways from this so far are:

Their information system is designed to generate actionable customer feedback.
They manufacture in areas and in ways that they know are aligned with their social values.
The shortened lead time allows for rapid changes to products to meet customer demands.

So, why can't this be done with war games?

The more I think about it the more I think:

It can be.

It will be.

People are already stepping in that direction, it can be taken further, especially by a group willing to design it this way from the ground up, like Zara has.

Zara's US site is here:

An article about Wyrd Miniatures, which is using a method that greatly reduces lead time for plastic miniatures is found here:

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