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A Clothes Call


 

When told that a photo would be taken of him to accompany this article, Ron Daniels, CFO of Astro Apparel, laughed, saying, "Just get a picture of Brad Pitt." That's the sort of wry sense of humor Daniels has.

 

But when it comes to business, he's dead serious. After all, he's charged with ensuring the company meets its financial goals while also distributing quality apparel products. That's certainly nothing to joke about. That's why he and others within Astro are always looking for ways to keep up with and respond to industry trends, both in terms of business methodologies and technological solutions.

           

Regarding the former, Astro has outsourced its clothing manufacturing, helping keep costs low for itself, its customers and the buying public. And regarding the latter, Astro has begun building an integrated business system that makes it more nimble-and better able to react to industry changes.

 

While many companies would deploy a one-size-fits-all ERP solution to achieve its integration goal, Astro decided instead to look toward a more niche application suite. This came in the form of Comprehensiv from IBM* business partner Xperia Solutions. Although Xperia is now in the process of broadening the scope of its software offerings, hoping to reach customers in other industries, one of its main focuses remains on the clothing business, something Astro has come to fully appreciate. Now, thanks to its combination of the Xperia software and the IBM eServer iSeries* system on which it runs, Astro has a perfect technological and business fit.

Keys to the Business

The Scranton, Pa.-based Astro is a relatively small company with around 60 to 70 employees, but its presence in the apparel business is far reaching. It has two well-known brands, Bensol and Rifle, which it distributes to everyone from large department stores to small boutique shops. It also has the warehousing, distribution and administrative responsibilities for Kaynee and Concorde companies (of which Astro is a partner).

 

Astro, which has been operating for around 50 years, began as a domestic sewing shop, manufacturing and distributing its own line of clothing. About 10 years ago, however, Astro decided to outsource the sewing, going with less-expensive plants in countries such as "Italy, the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico and a slew of other places," Daniels says. The products are then imported to Astros Scranton headquarters, where they're warehoused and distributed for each of the Astro-related divisions.

 

Although no longer directly involved in the needle-and-thread end of the business, the company is still considered a manufacturer. As Daniels explains, "In a true business sense, were a wholesaler, but in the apparel industry, were referred to as a manufacturer. Contractors have the actual sewing machines and are making product, and manufacturers such as us distribute the product."

 

 

"This has helped me become much more efficient. I used to keep copies of all requests until I got used to the idea that I could just pull it up on the screen. We have been very successful in making our office as paperless as possible. -- Ron Daniels, CFO, Astro Apparel

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.



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