Shelley E. Kohan Senior Contributor, Forbes
Carhartt, a glob al premium workwear brand that’s known for making durable products, just announced a pilot that will lead to the ability for customers to customize styles to meet their work and outdoor apparel needs. The company, family-owned and founded in 1889, has been providing rugged merchandise for people working in many industries that require lasting apparel, accessories, shoes, PPE and bags.
Insights from current customers prompted customization
In an exclusive interview, the senior vice president and general manager of global products at Carhartt, Alex Guerrero, said, “The way we create products is through feedback from our core customers called the Carhartt Crew, and customization was a need that developed from the insights of real workers.” The Carhartt Crew is a volunteer-based community of real, hardworking people dedicated to pressure-testing the products and discovering new ways to make them more durable, comfortable, and functional for generations to come. The feedback is provided to the company so it can continually update products to meet the customers' needs.
Guerrero discussed how the evolution of the workgroup has changed and includes a more diverse customer base in terms of size and demographics. The performance functionality of their work clothes has also evolved to take into account greater weather variability as an example. He stated, “The customers include more women, and a wider range of sizes are being requested.” One of the advantages of customization is it allows the company to offer specific size cuts for its most popular products.For example, a pant that was traditionally offered in inseam sizes of 32 or 34can now be ordered in size 33.
The founding principal and expanded ecosystem
According to the company, what started as founder Hamilton Carhartt’s goal of building a better bib for railroad workers has since evolved into innovative workwear known for its enduring quality and value. To continue its 133-year commitment to serving and protecting hardworking people, Carhartt has teamed up with DXM, a company that provides localized on-demand manufacturing at scale, to create a pilot program that allows consumers to customize select workwear items without leaving their homes.
The DXM customization software which is embedded on the Carhartt website gives consumers the power to design products based on work function or application of how the clothes will be used. For example, an oil rigger can increase the canvas weight and add military-grade CORDURA reinforcements for enhanced durability or a left-handed carpenter could move the hammer loop to the left side of a work pant for added convenience. A 3D model on the website provides a360-degree view as product features are changed in real-time.
By partnering withDXM, Carhartt can easily master customization without having to build out software, supply chain and production facilities themselves. DXM is an expert at scaling customization and plans to provide a 4 to 7-day turnaround time once the business is running at full capacity.
Matthew Wallace, CEOof DXM, said, “As a founding member of DXM, Carhartt has been an incredibly valuable partner in our mission to help bridge the gap between brands, retailers and their consumers to enable localized, on-demand manufacturing.”
Carhartt’s customized pilot
The initial pilot program was offered to 600 Carhartt Groundbreakers (loyalty members) and will be rolled out to all customers soon. The pilot included customizing one of three classic Carhartt products based on personal needs and preferences, including:
· Short-Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt –options include a range of fabric, colors and other add-on features including pockets, a drop-tail hem and CORDURA® reinforcements.
· Relaxed Fit Work Pant – options include two canvas weights and add-on features including reinforced pockets, hammer loops, double fronts, kick panels and CORDURA® reinforcements. Pant sizes are available in one-inch increments.
· Relaxed Fit Jean – options include two types of denim and other add-on features including reinforced pockets, hammer loops, kick panels and CORDURA® reinforcements. Pant sizes are available in one-inch increments.
“Though custom apparel isn’t new to the market, the workwear category has been missing this level of data-driven detail,” said Guerrero. “We pride ourselves on creating durable gear that people can trust, but Carhartt isn’t the hero of the story here, the consumer is. Our partnership with DXM empowers consumers to meet their individual needs like never before.”
DXM provides solutions to customization’s biggest challenges
Typically, customization adds costs to a business. Many companies have issues with scaling a mass customization effort and the challenge of managing customer expectations can be a concern. However, DXM can keep costs low through its proven successful process using just-in-time inventory manufacturing at scale. Wallace said, “DXM’s approach has been successful in over 20 organizations where advanced automation and just-in-time inventory management has allowed for shorter lead times on product manufacturing and less inventory carrying costs.” Managing customer expectations are centered on delivering a custom product that has high value at a reasonable price within a short delivery time of fewer than seven days.
Guerrero enthusiastically said, “Carhartt is very excited about the partnership with DXM and it uses an ecosystem model which allows us to provide a customized product that serves and protects workers in a cost-efficient manner.” Wallace added that providing custom workwear products is a win for the customer, a win for Carhartt and a win for the wholesaler which produces the product.
DXM CEO Matthew Wallace has been selected to be on the advisory board of a group of textile collaborators led by Walmart, whose goal is to bring manufacturing back to the US.
Case Study - DXM is a pioneering example of a new format for integrated brand and supplier relationships