We built our company from zero to millions with Tukatech

tuka1When Robert Lohman, environmental studies degree in hand, decided to enter the apparel manufacturing business, he had two goals. “We wanted to come up with a basics brand that was all organic,” he says, “and we wanted it to be made in Los Angeles.” That was back in 2010, and conventional wisdom would have dictated that someone with no industry background or training, going 100 percent organic with recycled material, and locating his manufacturing base in the heart of the Los Angeles garment district, would likely be out of business by 2011.
tuka5Conventional wisdom, in this case, would be dead wrong. Today, Lohman is CEO of the Groceries brand of men’s and women’s organic and recycled material tops. It can be found in over 400 stores worldwide, including Kitson and Planet Blue in Los Angeles and Barney’s New York and Opening Ceremony in Tokyo.

Groceries boasts annual sales in the seven figures, a 33,000-square-foot manufacturing facility downtown at the corner of Alameda and 7th, and 64 full-time employees. In addition to its own label, Groceries also sells volume private-label blanks to big names such as Paul Mitchell and Pearl Jam. The company is doubling its size every nine months. In other words, Groceries is a rousing success.

What accounts for it? To begin with, a strong corporate vision combined with a healthy dose of stubbornness. “We’d rather go out of business than manufacture nonorganic shirts and manufacture overseas,” Lohman says. “We will not go against our DNA that way.” And Lohman credits one other key component for Groceries’ achievements. “We really wouldn’t be here without Tukatech,” he says.

“Tukatech’s staff members were very cooperative during the installation process, and provided overall guidance and suggestions for our cutting room,” said Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director. “While our installation process is still continuing, we have already seen our pattern makers more than double the number of patterns they can produce in one day.”

Tukatech, a name well known and respected throughout the apparel industry, is the leading provider of fashion software and hardware technology solutions. The 18-year-old company, headed by industry veteran Ram Sareen, has built a devoted following among designers, manufacturers, and distributors worldwide, having sold some 19,000 systems and replacing over 5,000 competing systems in the process. Its advanced TUKAcad software is arguably the most instinctive and ultra-efficient 3D and 2D patternmaking, marking, and grading software on the market, while its SMARTmark module maximizes marker placement with surgical precision to make use of every usable square inch of fabric. Its advantages over its “very expensive and rigid” competitors are many, Lohman says, but for him two qualities were critical: TUKAcad is instinctive and easy to use with built-in videos and self-training audio help and support for every function, and Tukatech’s prices are affordable and terms flexible. Tukatech “allowed me to rent for $200 a month, which made so much sense to me since we were getting started from nowhere,” he explains. “We didn’t purchase any hardware, like plotters or digitizers, because we could use TUKAcenters. Suddenly, we had the same powerful tools big apparel companies used. That was empowering.”

Those advantages were key, Lohman goes on, because of Groceries’ ambitious, locally based, vertical-integration business model. “A lot of brands outsource their manufacturing, especially overseas,” he says. “We think you can be more profitable manufacturing in the U.S., and it reduces your carbon footprint.”

Still, the challenges are many. “We take on all the headaches that come with manufacturing here because we gain speed, the ability to react to trends, and also to manufacture at a lower cost,” Lohman says. The company also takes a smaller margin to be able to compete with nonorganics. “We focused on price point because we want to compete not only with other organic companies but with nonorganics as well. Since there’s no middle man, we pass that savings on to the buyer. If we didn’t manufacture here, we wouldn’t be able to offer this kind of pricing and have the success we’ve had in the market.”

tuka3Renting TUKAcad “gave us an efficiency as far as saving fabric, but, more than anything, it allowed us to work on our own timeline, even all night if we wanted to,” Lohman says. He has since bought the software, and, three months ago, he added the SMARTmark module. “It’s been another transformation in our company,” Lohman continues. “SMARTmark is TUKAcad on steroids. It is really and truly amazing.” What used to take 30 to 40 hours per week now takes “less than two hours.” Expecting a 5 percent fabric savings, SMARTmark is realizing near 20 percent, which should save Groceries an estimated 100,000 yards of fabric next year. “Efficiency is a huge part of being an eco company,” Lohman says. “We save money, use fewer resources, and create more demand for organic fabrics.” And that fits Groceries’ corporate goals to a T.

Lohman also credits Groceries’ success to “immense help” from Sareen and Tukatech’s strong customer support. “We made good business decisions manufacturing here it’s not just a gimmick,” Lohman says. “But I’m not sure we’d be able to exist without Tukatech. We couldn’t compete with much larger companies, wouldn’t have the flexibility to produce and design. It’s very empowering for a small company to have that much strength in that type of software. Those are the words flexibility and empowerment that are the keys to our success.”

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Forbes Magazine Review: New York’s Fashion World Discusses Technology Disruption

The #1 business issue: a perfect fit = a perfect sale

Providing consumers with correctly-fitting clothes is one of the top business issues in the industry, and a key opportunity for technology disruption using better data.

Common sense dictates that good fit is key to fashion purchases, but it’s also backed up by the hard data. Customers who try on clothes in fitting rooms have a conversion rate of 67%, compared to just 10% for those that don’t. Concerns about fit is the number one reason consumers report being reluctant to purchase clothes online. Returned items is one of the biggest costs for online retailers, with return rates of 15-50% depending on the type of item, and 60% of the time that goods are returned, poor fit is cited as the reason.

Conference attendees said it’s not only about transparency and efficiency. Sizing is a delicate subject, and the way products are sized is part of a brand’s image.

Customers prefer to buy clothes with smaller sizes on the label, and this has lead to rampant size inflation over the years. A woman’s size 10 is now 4″ wider than in 1975 – and even men’s sizes, ostensibly marked in inches, have grown larger.

The general consensus was that the future will see retailers moving away from defined “sizes” to a more general notion of “fit.” To achieve this, the industry will need better tools to gather and store the real measurements of clothes and customers.

Various companies at the event discussed their approaches to fixing the problem, and gathering “point of fit” data (who didn’t buy, why, and what garment didn’t fit, etc.)

Styku proposes perhaps the most interesting idea from a technology perspective. The company enables consumers to scan themselves using the Microsoft Kinect image-recognition device originally designed for the XBox games platform.

Styku CEO Raj Sareen says that “through the XBox, Microsoft is the largest body scanning company in the world” because 1% of the XBox user base (around 350,000 people) have used the device for this purpose. Once they have been scanned, consumers can visualize how clothes would look on a virtual model that matches their own dimensions.

Styku was recently chosen by Microsoft as one of the most innovative uses of the Kinect platform.

Read the full article

Los Angeles Based Styku Selected as Finalist for Microsoft® Accelerator For Kinect™ Program

From a pool of nearly 500 applicants, Styku was chosen to participate, along with ten other finalists, in the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect powered by Techstars. Techstars, a famous technology incubator, was handpicked to mentor and accelerate companies in developing revolutionary products using Kinect. Styku’s smart fitting room was the only fashion-focused application selected.
Styku uses Kinect technology to scan a body for measurements. Then, using advanced 3D apparel technology, Styku allows customers to create personalized avatars to digitally try on clothes, showing them how a garment would look on their exact body shape and providing size recommendations based on fit.
The Styku system can be installed in an existing dressing room, or customers can scan themselves using Microsoft Kinect for Windows at home. Body measurements are then extracted and used to create a custom 3D mannequin and an online profile accessible via the Internet or mobile device.
Styku’s smart fitting room benefits both consumers and online retailers, as customers can buy with confidence when purchasing apparel online and retailers can expect fewer returns. At a retail location, there is no need for shoppers to try on multiple sizes, as a quick scan provides a list of sizes and inventory of clothing in the store that would best fit their body. Additionally, the technology has the capability for consumers to design clothes to their preference at home and have them ready to ship in less than four hours.
“Utilizing the technology available on Microsoft Kinect for Windows, we were able to build a multi-channel, multi-platform digital fitting room that can truly change the way consumers shop and benefit the retailer by reducing online returns,” explains Raj Sareen, CEO of Styku. “We are grateful for Microsoft’s dedication to innovation and are honored to be selected to receive guidance from the industry’s best as we refine our technology and make it widely available to consumers and retailers.”
The Microsoft accelerator for Kinect is a program that supports companies interested in leveraging Kinect technology. The eleven applicants chosen to participate relocated to Seattle from April to June, where they are provided office space, $20,000 in funding, plus access to Microsoft technical resources and executive mentors. The three-month program will culminate with a demo day in which participants show off their wares to Microsoft executives, investors and media.
About Styku To learn more about Styku, please visit Styku.com or schedule a private demonstration by writing to info@styku.com. You can also watch a video demonstration on Styku’s website.
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EPIC GROUP to See Epic Growth in TUKATECH Partnership

Epic Group's headquarters in Hong Kong.

Ram Sareen, Founder and CEO, Tukatech, and Ranju Mahtani, CEO, Epic Group, pose with a rickshaw at Epic’s Central Hub in Hong Kong.

Los Angeles, CA- Tukatech is pleased to announce that the Epic Group, one of Asia’s most prominent garment manufacturers, has converted all of their CAD systems to Tukatech’s TUKAcad. The Epic Group has a reputation for utilizing advanced techniques and cutting edge technology to produce highly technical garments for a global customer base.
Based in Hong Kong, Epic was founded in 1971 and has manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Epic Group produces over 4 million garments each month, many of which are treated at the company’s in-house facilities that specialize in wet and dry processing, embroidery, printing and wrinkle-free post-cure treatments. CEO Ranju Mahtani and his team have focused on developing and improving the science and technology of garment production, and believe that switching to TUKAcad was the next logical step in operating cutting edge production facilities.
The Epic Group is no stranger to CAD technology, and until recently, utilized garment production software from Lectra, Gerber, Assyst, Optitex, and Morgan. Ranju Mahtani, the CEO and founder, Managing Director, Dinesh Virwani, and the rest of the leaders at the Epic Group decided to convert all of their systems to Tukatech’s TUKAcad, the garment industry’s most powerful pattern making, grading, and marker making software.

Epic Group's factory in Bangladesh.

Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director, with Ram Sareen, Founder and CEO, Tukatech, at Epic CIPL, Epic Group’s flagship production facility in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The decision to switch was an easy one, as Tukatech’s software has improved efficiency and saved millions of dollars for garment manufacturers all over the world. TUKAcad’s 2012 edition will give Epic Group’s pattern makers the ability to quickly and easily build accurate patterns, calculate and make adjustments for shrinkage, easily verify grade on the blocks, verify measurements as per requirements, make corrections and alterations to existing patterns, and better utilize fabric during the marker making and cutting processes. TUKAcad 2012 is also fully integrated with TUKA3D, Tukatech’s standard setting three-dimensional garment designer and fit simulator. Epic Group has many facilities around the world, (CIPL, EGMCL, Epic Vietnam, and PGCL) and by replacing the multitude of CAD systems previously in place with TUKAcad, the company has instituted a standard software throughout their operation, improving both communication and compatibility between each unit.
“Tukatech’s staff members were very cooperative during the installation process, and provided overall guidance and suggestions for our cutting room,” said Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director. “While our installation process is still continuing, we have already seen our pattern makers more than double the number of patterns they can produce in one day.”
The Epic Group is always a step ahead of the trends in the garment production industry, and their implementation of Tukatech’s system is only the latest evidence of their forward thinking attitude. The Epic Group is a leader in providing fair and ethical treatment to their employees, and in 2006, the company’s flagship Bangladesh facility became the first in the nation to receive LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for CIPL Project. LEED certification is awarded to manufacturing facilities that have been developed with and facilitate ecologically friendly production practices, and Epic Group’s Dhaka facility was certified in May of 2011.
“Tukatech is proud to work with the Epic Group, who are not only a leader in the garment industry but proponents of advanced manufacturing and processing technology,” said Tukatech Founder and CEO Ram Sareen. “Based on our experience in converting competing CAD systems to our TUKAcad software, we are confident that the Epic Group will see improved efficiency, enormous savings, and an even stronger output in a few short months. We have been working with Epic teams and implementing solutions for the last three months, and will continue to develop better solutions with them.”

About Epic

Established in 1971, Epic has successfully transitioned from being a buying agent to being a large multinational company with world class manufacturing facilities in Asia employing over 15,000 people.

About Tukatech
Tukatech is a Los Angeles-based company that provides 2D and 3D software solutions and manufacturing equipment to garment producers. It also provides web-based product development services and PDM/PLM systems, supported by brick and mortar centers strategically located in garment hubs worldwide. With over 12,000 systems sold and about 3,500 competitive systems replaced, Tukatech is the fastest growing garment CAD/CAM company in the world. Tukatech has been ranked by Apparel Magazine

BRANDIX: Sri Lanka’s Largest Garment Manufacturer switches to TUKATECH and sees 33% increase in factory efficiency.

Dhananjaya Rajapaksha, CEO of Brandix Casualwear

After a successful test run, Brandix installed Tukatech’s TUKAcad system, streamlining their design process, increasing the success rate of fit approvals by 180% and improving overall productivity by 33%

Brandix, one of the largest garment manufacturers in Asia and the largest in Sri Lanka (suppliers to Victoria’s Secret, M&S, GAP, Banana Republic, Dillards, and more), recently installed Tukatech’s apparel software system resulting in dramatic improvement in the efficiency of their product development and production processes.

TUKA systems were initially tested by Brandix’s Denim division and showed dramatic results in the quality of patterns and the speed and efficiency in which they were produced. “We are now getting more than double the production of patterns that fit the first time, saving a large amount of fabric, and better utilizing our human resources. These changes motivated us to look at TUKA systems for our company,” said Iswaran Senthil, CEO of Brandix Denim. “Besides providing us with CAD-CAM systems, Tukatech offered valuable consulting, engineered the work flow and the pattern room, and even increased productivity in our cutting rooms.”

Though they had invested a significant amount of time and manpower into their previous CAD systems, Dhananjaya Rajapaksha, CEO of Brandix Casualwear, could not ignore the incredible changes made in the denim division, and decided to move forward with Tukatech.

Tukatech’s team provided in-person support to make the transition between CAD systems as easy as possible and worked with the staff of Brandix to customize the system to their specifications. “Tukatech CEO Ram Sareen sent his technical team from the United States and India to our offices, and many of our requests for what we wanted to see in the software were accommodated.”

“Tukatech’s team worked with us and we had a very fast implementation. I have a lot of years of experience, and I know what my team needs. Tukatech was able to give us exactly that,” said Thushad Saumydasa, Head of Product Development.

Brandix Casualwear, primarily a producer of women’s bottoms and very technically complicated products, had seen many of their customers shifting their business out of Sri Lanka to countries where garments could be produced at a cheaper price. Dhananjaya knew that in order to stay competitive, he would need to increase the efficiency of his operation by 33%, and Tukatech helped him meet his goal.

With TUKAcad and SMARTmark quickly installed, Dhananjaya was able to increase the factory’s efficiency by 33%. “I’m happy to say that we did meet our goals, and Tukatech was a part of that.”

Since the installation, Dhananjaya and his staff have expressed their satisfaction with the system, saying that it has automated much of what they once did manually, despite the fact that prior to installing Tukatech they had other CAD software, and they further stated that TUKAcad has broadened the use of CAD software throughout the company.

“Today, our people are using Tukatech’s CAD to a much larger extent than they were with our previous CAD system,” said Thushad.

“The feedback I’ve gotten from my managers is that the new Tukatech system has more functionality compared to the previous CAD systems they had and it is much easier to manage and use,” said Dhananjaya. “The most encouraging thing I’ve heard from employees is the way that the implementation of the system was handled. Tukatech’s interactions with our technical team were very beneficial. They listened to what we do and customized the systems to our needs. Many of our requests regarding the software were addressed during this period.”

“I see vast improvement,” said Thushad. “With Tukatech, everything is automated and very accommodating. Many things that I used to do manually are now automatic, and that means I can direct my attention to other matters.”

“We are in the fashion apparel industry, and fashion keeps changing fast. We must also be fast,” said Dhananjaya. “Tukatech allows us to be faster, more efficient, and ultimately improves our bottom line.”

About Brandix Casualwear
Brandix Casualwear forms the core of the Brandix group, and supplies woven bottoms, basic pants, cargo pants, 5-pocket jeans, shorts and skirts to the world’s top brands. Its seven production facilities include a state-of-the-art, fully automated denim facility which is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Adding yet another milestone, Brandix commissioned its Green Factory in April 2008, setting a new benchmark as the first one of its kind in the country.

About Tukatech
Tukatech is a Los Angeles-based company that provides 2D and 3D software solutions and manufacturing equipment to garment producers. It also provides web-based product development services and PDM/PLM systems, supported by brick and mortar centers strategically located in garment hubs worldwide. With over 12,000 systems sold and about 3,500 competitive systems replaced, Tukatech is the fastest growing garment CAD/CAM company in the world. Tukatech has been ranked by Apparel Magazine as the #1 Apparel software company in the world. For more information, visit Tukatech.com.

Tukatech and Styku Make a Big Splash at Magic 2011

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Tukatech and Styku attended the Magic 2011 Apparel Industry Trade Show in Las Vegas, showcasing their innovative fashion technology solutions to a receptive gathering of international apparel leaders.

Tukatech and Styku were the only technology providers invited to exhibit at the show, and were given a central booth location in the Sourcing area to introduce manufacturers to the the companies’ respective digital apparel solutions. Vendors and executives from several countries attended the trade show, and almost every brand and retailer involved with major label manufacturers had a chance to see Tukatech’s products.

Tukatech’s booth featured Styku’s new in-store body scanning technology, the fastest and most inexpensive scanning that exists. Styku’s technology can be installed in any fitting room with no footprint, and it allows customers to create physically accurate digital avatars that enable them to virtually try on clothes through retailer websites.

The Styku system relies on a computer touchscreen, which gives customers complete control of the scan in the privacy of their own fitting room. Once scanned, Styku utilizes Tukatech’s 3D engines to perfectly render the look of a garment and provide information about the garment’s fit. Magic attendees were eager to try out the scanning system and create their own digital avatar.

“In store scanners are the perfect way for retailers to capture the attention of online buyers,” said Styku CEO Raj Sareen. “By allowing customers to scan themselves in the privacy of a fitting room, our system removes much of the hesitation they may feel about full body scans. And customers know that once they have created on online avatar, purchasing apparel online is much easier.”

Tukatech and Styku’s technology was one of the show’s biggest hits. Executives from a variety of apparel brands, retailers, and manufacturers were excited to discuss future business opportunities with Tukatech Founder and Chairman Ram Sareen and Styku CEO Raj Sareen.

About Tukatech

Tukatech is a Los Angeles-based company that provides pattern making, grading and marker making software, 3D apparel prototyping systems and manufacturing equipment.  It also provides web-based product development services and PDM/PLM systems, supported by brick and mortar centers strategically located in garment hubs worldwide. With over 9,000 systems installed, and thousands of competitive systems replaced, Tukatech is the fastest growing garment CAD/CAM company in the world.  Tukatech has been ranked by Apparel Magazine as the #1 Apparel software company in the world.

About Styku

To learn more about Styku, please visit the website and schedule a private demonstration by writing to info@styku.com. You can also watch a video demonstration on Styku’s site.