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How long after Christmas is it ok to have your present delivered?

Early December 2011 my sisters and I thought of a great Christmas present for our parents: Jeans that fit 100%. I had read about this new concept of made-to-measure jeans developed by a rather new company, which I will call Denim Comp. in this blog.

When I originally read about Denim Comp., I immediately wanted to buy something from them. The idea was fresh and so "today": Shopping with a little bit of luxury experience and, as a result, you receive jeans that don't wring or feel wrong, at a reasonable price. But as it was close to Christmas, I had made a promise to myself: I will not buy anything for me, I'll only buy for others. So, I ended up buying gift cards for my parents from the online service and had them delivered to my home.

"Someone must really love you to have given you this great present"

That is what the gift card said. Additionally the promise was: choose from eleven colors, five cuts, four effects and countless tuning options and have your perfect jeans delivered home in an average of 6 weeks of your fitting.

Body measuring in April - delivery in June - right?

So, it took my parents a little time before they had time to take the 200 km drive to the store, where their measurements were taken. Eventually they got there in April. They were measured by a lady in the store and they selected the colors, fits, effects and tuning of their jeans. They were told that the jeans would arrive in 6-8 weeks. To put it short: my mother's perfect-fit jeans should have arrived by the end of June. They arrived on December the 10th.

 

Tailor-made jeans with the help of RFID


Denim Comp. is the perfect example of a company who could fairly easily fix their process problems with the help of RFID. In my mother's case, I estimate that they would have been able to deliver the jeans some 38-50 days earlier. They would have saved an awful lot of money, their reputation and they would have been able to keep the money I originally paid them for the jeans.

My mother's red, custom-made, high-wasted jeans

End of April
Measurements have been taken and delivery is promised in 6-8 weeks → latest in the end of June

At this point everything is still going fairly well for Denim Comp. When a new customer comes to the store, they are given an identity in the store's CRM-equivalent system. This would be a great place to issue an RFID card with the customer number written to it. Make it a credit card -type, which will be shipped with the sewing instructions to the subcontractor. When the subcontractor finishes the jeans, the RFID card should be put in the back pocket. This way, when the jeans arrive, they are scanned and the database of arrived items is updated. Before you ship them to your end customer, remove the RFID card from the pocket and recycle it to save costs.

July 17th
Jeans delivered: they have a low waste and they are too wide (the ticket sent with the jeans stated that they should have a high waste).

July 30th
New measurements were taken. Confirmation of the delivery date: week 36/37 (so anytime between September the 3rd and 14th)

In this case the RFID card would have been re-written with the right measurements and preferences and send with sewing instructions to the subcontractor. Again they would add the RFID card to the back pocket, so that they can be scanned at arrival and immediately updated in the system.

September 14th
The jeans had not been delivered as promised. A call to Denim Comp. revealed that the jeans had actually arrived, but they did not match the description, so quality control had stopped them. Denim Comp. promised to give us information on how the process was going.

When the jeans arrive, you scan them and the RFID card shows the jeans have arrived to your office. Once your quality control notices a problem, they scan the RFID card again and add the information "wrong make" to this particular pair of jeans. The system is now able to inform the end-customer that a problem has been detected (Denim Comp. has the customer email data in the CRM-equivalent system). The RFID card is again sent back to the subcontractor with details about how to fix the problem. In my mother's case, the jeans were due to be delivered in 4 weeks, this would have been October the 12th. Scanning the delivery from the subcontractor would have revealed the truth to Denim Comp. "We are missing this particular pair of jeans." Where is it? Instead, they had to find it out from me - again loosing weeks for keeping the promise made to the customer.

October 23rd 
Still no information about the jeans. I chose to send an email to Denim Comp. to state that the jeans were already 2 weeks overdue. I received an automatic reply saying that they would answer me in 24 hours.

October 24th 
The email had been sent in the morning, so I waited until the afternoon and called Denim Comp. The number given to me in the previous email did not work, so I called another number. Finally an answer, but I was informed that I needed to talk to someone else, so I was given a new number only to be totally dumbfounded: The person on the line did not work for Denim Comp, she worked for SHOPPING CENTER.

October 25th
Finally I got a hold of someone who knew something: "I'm afraid it looks like the jeans were never made, the measurements were sent further, though."

By scanning the RFID cards of all items arriving from the subcontractor, information about the missing jeans would have reached Denim Comp. and they would have been able to re-order them immediately.

October 26th 
Denim Comp. decided to refund the money, yet still send us the jeans. New delivery date: November the 9th.

November 9th
No sign of the jeans.

December 3rd
I called Denim Comp. "I thought the jeans were delivered a long time ago" said the person answering the phone.

When making a stock take of all the jeans in the stock room, Denim Comp. would have noticed that there is an extra pair of jeans there and someone would have started to wonder where these jeans really should be and corrected the mistake.

December 4th 
Denim Comp. calls me: "The jeans exist, but they are a bit too long." They were to be shortened and then shipped to my mother arriving by December the 10th.

December 10th 
Delivery, at last! The jeans fit and my mother is actually very happy with them.

Why is RFID a no-brainer for the likes of Denim Comp?

  • Denim Comp. works online and complaints are easily spread and found by potential customers.
  • Denim Comp. is currently losing customers due to unreliable deliveries.
  • Denim Comp. would stop losing money by delivering what was promised, instead of ending up refounding or handing out gift cards.
  • When using an internal system as described here, the costs of implementing RFID are reasonable, I would guess on a ROI in less than 12 months - just look at American Apparel.

Denim Comp. has a good concept and a good product. They have every chance of succeeding once they get their information flow and deliveries sorted out. And there is no better agent for this than RFID.

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