Diary of a Supply-Chain Intern: Mia Fowler (Fashion Design Graduate)
As the Torque-sponsored Athleisure Award winner at the 2022 Fashanne Awards, Mia Fowler (Fashion Design graduate, NTU) was invited to Torque for a two-week internship. The first week was spent getting a crash course in all things third-party logistics and, importantly, showing how integral the supply chain process is to the fashion industry. We asked her to keep a diary of her time, which you can read below. Seeing the supply chain through a fresh pair of eyes and a designer's eyes specifically has been both insightful and energising.
It was a pleasure having Mia join our team for two weeks; she made quite an impact during her time with us, and she's already missed!
Monday 15th August
Day One: Welcome to work!
Today I was introduced to the world of work and had my first taste of what goes into supply-chain and providing the high level of service that Torque's customers need.
Everyone I met today was so friendly and welcoming, and everyone wanted to know more about me, my time at Torque and beyond. I couldn't have asked for a better start, especially since it's my first time working in such a large office with hundreds of staff.
Ollie Winstanley (Head of Business Relations) introduced me to the family-style brand values that make Torques. They want to make their 1300 employees as happy as possible as well as their customers. I saw this throughout the week when working with the marketing team, witnessing how much time and effort they put into employee satisfaction and engagement.
Before ever stepping foot into a workplace, I only really saw marketing as social media and content creating, but when working with the team at Torque I realised that it's more than that. It involves working with the employees to satisfy their needs and promoting the company through branding and internal and external promotion.
Tuesday 16th August
Supply chain: A giant jigsaw
After gaining my degree, I only really understood the design side of the fashion industry, so coming to Torque and seeing how each brand is processed and how their products are cared for is eye-opening.
Looking around the Thread section of the warehouse, I could feel how passionate the employees were; as Tanya showed me around, she encouraged 'bold' ways of thinking, supporting Thread's values.
Looking behind the scenes has allowed me to see how Torque works a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Each department comes together, fitting into place to create the whole supply chain picture and provide the best service for the customer.
Freight and fashion: a symbiotic relationship
Tuesday afternoon was spent with the freight and courier departments, and I got a fashion industry perspective that I'd never considered. Talking to Simon from Air Freight and then Brian from Sea Freight highlighted the differences between the two. Companies judge the freight times and prices in advance, which is why trend forecasting is so important, trends need to be decided upon months in advance so they can be in the warehouses in time for the season.
A crucial part of the Air Freight department was dealing with regular customers and building relationships, creating customer loyalty. Providing reliable services means that the customer will come back.
Simon demonstrated how demand affects the department. The more need there is for a product, the faster the customer wants stock. Due to the lead times, Sea Freight may not be suitable as the item may no longer be fashionable or selling as much by the time it arrives. Simon was so passionate about the company and allowed me to get involved, and I found this part of the supply chain exciting.
In comparison, Sea freight is used primarily for large quantities of stock but must be ordered months in advance, showing the importance of seasonal trend forecasting (i.e., predicting that khaki will be popular in 3 months to allow the supplier to ship in time for that season)
Essentially, a customer has to decide between speed and cost.
Courier: From click to consumer
Steve introduced me to the courier department, which is the other side of the journey to freight.
The courier department starts at checkout for the consumer, and this is where scanners and efficient planning is most valued! The systems used are essential to ensure the most effective way of working, keeping walking to a minimum and picking rates high. What I found amazing was the amount of walking the pickers do, with 10,000 steps being the minimum!
Each order sheet allows the picker to quickly find the order items, and the use of 'SKUs (unique product codes) ensures the correct items are packed.
The items are then packed beautifully and sent by the courier and service of the customer and consumer's choice (i.e., next-day delivery or 2-4 days), keeping everyone happy.
Wednesday 17th August
Employee Happiness: Mummy Marketing
Working with the marketing team has given me more understanding of Torque than anywhere else. Torque is like a massive family, with marketing being the organised parent who keeps everyone as happy as possible. Seeing their planning in the marketing content planning meeting and the effort they put into everything really puts the scale of the business into perspective and shows how much they dedicate to keeping everyone happy.
Customer Insights: Seeing Sweaty Betty
In the afternoon, I visited the Castleford site, where I was greeted by more helpful and committed staff. Ross gave me a tour of the warehouse, and he knew exactly how each customer worked and differed from one another, whether that be the way they're packed and stored or their return method with quality checks throughout every process. He showed me their dedication to efficiency with high-tech packing machines and smart storage.
I was allowed to shadow a Sweaty Betty warehouse operative who was very efficient and showed me in detail how effective their system is in ensuring that the Sweaty Betty customer has the correct items. Walking around with her put into perspective how much work is put into efficiencies in the warehouse.
I also witnessed how friendly everyone is, with most people knowing each other's names, especially in their department (no matter the size)!
Thursday 18th August
John introduced me to transport and how Torque moves stock all over the country. Something I would never have considered to be a big task was revealed to be one of the most planned out and complicated processes. Things like gaining an 'O Licence" (very important!…) or tracking vehicles, and dealing with unpredictable circumstances are all involved in the management of the Transport Department.
Procurement: parcels, paper and packaging, oh my!
Before my time here, I didn't even know what procurement meant; however, as soon as I saw Ann and Katie's desks, I knew that it was something to do with packaging as they were piled underneath stacks of packaging samples. Meeting with Ann, I learned a lot about how different brands require different things and laws requiring all plastic to be at least 30% recyclable.
FSC paper, messages on the packaging about recycling, ensuring that all packaging is recyclable, and sourcing items for the offices and warehouses are all part of the procurement process and ensure the Torque cust
omer has the best and most cost-effective service possible.
A designer's point of view on processing
My last department visit was processing. This is where my specialities lie. I was excited to look at the sewing machines, ironing boards, steaming, mould removal, ozone cleaning, metal detectors, and embroidery machines. I loved getting my hands dirty, CAT boots on and venturing into the Ozone machine. Seeing what Torque can offer their customers and the team's hard work in their roles demonstrates how valued each customer is.
The whole area runs smoothly, with products moving from quality control, to sewists, and then the rest of the team takes the items to hang and be steamed or ironed. A big part of this process is to ensure that only the smallest amount of waste occurs in the supply chain.
This department, in particular, demonstrated the small details put in, and from a designer's point of view, it has shown me what I would have to consider when considering the care of all the garments.
Friday 19th August
A new uniform for Torque
Using my design skills and new supply chain understanding I have been tasked with designing a sustainable Torque uniform for the business. Today I began work on the uniform, considering what I had seen throughout the week and issues and preferences the staff has raised about adaptions and updates.
Visit Fashanne Awards to learn more about the Fashion Designer of the Future Awards.