Ability to adapt the supply chain important for sustainable small-scale textile industries

“The results of my research show that there are several decisions that affect how different supply networks look and each decision is related to the others. This is something that is especially important for textile companies to understand when developing small-scale production supply chains.

Examples of influencing factors driving companies to consider production relocation and increasing customisation are pressure from consumers, global risks and the demands to reduce overproduction. Other factors that drive such decisions are performance goals such as quality, delivery speed and reliability, flexibility, environmental sustainability, and product/process innovation.”

Innovation and environmental sustainability are prioritized

“My research indicates that in high-cost contexts like Sweden, product/process innovation and environmental sustainability have a higher priority and that cost challenges are reduced with product segments in small series. Although several priorities appear to be conflicting when pitted against each other, the results suggest that these tensions are reduced in connection with high product customisation capabilities.

Although different companies appear to be good at sensing tensions linked to goals and processes, their ability to manage these and to adapt their products and operations varies. A greater awareness and understanding is thus required, especially regarding how companies should balance levels of development and overcome challenges related to such changes.”

In her research project, Sara Harper has been able to confirm the connection between the models for small series production and local production and identify various tensions that come from clashes among processes, and among goals such as quality and environmental sustainability, innovation, flexibility, and costs.

“My research shows that companies would benefit from having the capacity to identify and manage different kinds of tensions. The results of the project can serve as support for the textile industry and similar industries when it comes to designing and adapting supply chains. The insights can also benefit socially and environmentally within Europe and in other high-cost contexts through strengthened competitiveness in manufacturing and purchasing.”

The research has largely been carried out within the EU programme Horizon 2020 in the project Fashion Big Data Business Model.

How do you experience the time and the research environment at the University of Borås?

“It has lived up to my expectations, but has occasionally been overwhelming. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have had this doctoral journey.”

What is the next step for you as a researcher?

“I will apply for funding for continued research. I will also look for other opportunities to be able to contribute to both academia and business, especially within the Sjuhärad area.”

Sara Harper's doctoral project connects to several of the global goals within Agenda 2030, especially goal 12 on responsible production and consumption.

Sara Harper defended her doctoral thesis on 22 September at the University of Borås.

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Thesis title: Supply network configuration for small-series apparel production in high-cost contexts: Opportunities and challenges from selected EU countries

Research project Fashion Big Data Business Model

Principal Supervisor: Rudrajeet Pal, Professor

Co-supervisor: Vijay Kumar, Senior Lecturer

Research area: Textiles and Fashion

Research group: Textile Value Chain Management