Building a Culture of Collaboration: How Cisco Spark Helps Del Brenta Keep Pace with the Fashion Industry
As a manager, director, or department head, how many times has an employee said: “That’s not my job”? This is a common gripe that anyone who has direct reports has heard at least once. But the problem isn’t an employee-specific one; it’s a company culture problem.
Collaboration, for many of us, isn’t something we experience until we arrive in the workforce. In school, we compete for grades against our classmates. In sports, we may have a team goal of winning, but often we’re trying to be the best individual player on the field.
At Del Brenta, a leader in Italian-made and international fashion creations, we manufacture heels, wedges and platforms for the biggest footwear brands in the world. Our industry, the fashion industry, moves at lightning speed, so collaboration and efficiency is critical to our business.
We, like many businesses, use the processes behind enterprise resource planning (ERP) to draw a line that links everyone in the company. This practice helps us connect the dots of each step in manufacturing to identify which employee owns which function to ensure everyone is doing their part to increase our efficiency.
However, when we mapped out our production process, we noticed a large amount of time was spent just on communication. Our clients had to travel back and forth to our office for design meetings; internal communication was limited to email, which was inefficient and often resulted in lost or missed communication; and when working with design files, it was difficult to have real-time collaboration. We knew we needed to fortify our processes with technology that would be beneficial to the entire company, so we set out to find the ultimate teamwork tool.
When we are considering a new tool or process, we always ask the question: “Will this be helpful for one, two, or many steps?” If the answer is two or more, we move forward. We don’t do stuff just because it’s new or cool. We do stuff because it’s useful and adds value to the company.
The Ultimate Collaboration Tool: Cisco Spark
When we started looking for collaboration technology about six months ago, we saw a lot of cool products. But none came close to the functionality and usefulness we found in Cisco Spark. As a platform, it connects everyone in the company directly—it’s 100 times easier than email and it’s safer than a phone call because it’s written and can be tracked. We like to call Cisco Spark the professional WhatsApp.
To take a heel from concept to creation, it requires collaboration across many different teams. From accounting to sales to operations to logistics, it takes the entire company working together to deliver a final product to our customers. And more so, it requires an efficient communication process between us, our suppliers, and our customers.
Supplier Collaboration Reduces Waste
We work with a select group of suppliers to make the molds for our heels. Production happens in-house, but we need to work closely with our suppliers to minimize waste and decrease our delivery times. As I stated earlier, fashion moves very quickly, and with Cisco Spark, our team in the technical office can share their screen while they are working on the CAD file and collaborate in real time.
Now, our COO no longer needs to travel back and forth to check on production status, saving us time (a 10-minute conference call versus 5 hours of driving back and forth) and money, and the results from this efficient communication has decreased our risk of mistakes in the manufacturing process greatly. Before Cisco Spark, we had about a 10 percent error rate with our molds, but now, we’ve reduced that to about less than 1 percent.
Considering the speed at which we need to deliver to our customers, this reduction in wastage allows us to move much quicker and ensure our customers receive a perfect product on time, keeping them happy and our business moving smoothly. Now, when we ask our customers when they need delivery, and they say ASAP, we know we have the tools and processes to deliver on their requests.
Real-Time Customer Collaboration
Speaking of customers, with Cisco Spark we’ve also seen dramatic gains in efficiencies in this area of our business as well. To illustrate, I’ll share a new project we’re currently working on. We will be placing Cisco hardware in the offices of our customers so we will have a dedicated phone line. Using Spark and the new hardware, we will be able to simply pick up the phone and connect directly with our customers with just one click.
In addition, we will be utilizing Cisco Spark Board and the Cisco DX80 so customers can show the details of their requirements directly to the team that makes the products. So, if there is an issue with how a heel fits or looks, they can speak to one of our footwear artisans, and we can work through the changes live, without any travel or cumbersome email chains.
(Claudio – Del Brenta's footwear artisan)
In the past, customers would have to physically travel the two and half hours to our office, stay overnight, and then drive back. By giving them a way to complete this process in just minutes, it saves our customer an entire working day and the travel costs. We are always willing to host our customers, but this new opportunity to utilize technology to increase efficiency gives them another option to work in the same room (digitally) without having to leave the comfort of their office.
By having this equipment also in our prototyping office, we can facilitate instantaneous feedback during this phase of production. We can build the prototype together, so they can work hand in hand with our artisans to ensure the final product is exactly as they want it. This step is the most critical phase in the styling of the heel, and with this technology our customers in Paris, London, New York, and across the world can approve the final design immediately and we can move the process forward in just a matter of hours.
Cisco Spark Board
Now, while we always choose technology based on its usefulness and not its cool factor, I must admit, the Cisco Spark Board is incredibly cool. If you’ve ever had a white boarding session at your company, you know what happens after the meeting concludes: someone takes out their phone, snaps a few pictures of what’s on the board, and then emails it to everyone. These shared images are easily lost in the shuffle, and often, all that terrific information on the white board is buried in our inboxes in just a matter of hours.
With Cisco Spark Board, as you draw on the board, the information is instantly available to all meeting attendees. No more emailing or texting, and it can be saved and shared in one, easily searchable space. Plus, remote attendees can write on the same board with their mobile phones or PCs and everyone can work together in real time.
This is incredibly valuable when it comes to prototyping. Cisco is also currently building out the functionality to allow us to write directly on pictures, so we and our customers can sketch product changes together and all have the same final dimensions immediately.
Combined with our processes, Cisco Spark is changing the culture of collaboration throughout our company. Every employee is now empowered with the tools to maximize their individual efficiency while working together to drive the overall productivity of the company. Our suppliers love it, our customers love it, and Del Brenta is a better, more cohesive company, all thanks to Cisco Spark.