Advancing e-Business among Textile and Clothing SMEs in Greece and Hungary using UBL and ebXML

In 2008, the European textile and clothing industry (according to data provided by Euratex, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation) was comprised of 160.000 companies that employed a total of 2.350 million employees.
The textile and clothing supply chain in Europe is characterised by a large presence of small and medium size enterprises, with an average number of 16.6 employees per company in the EU of 27. Long term trends of globalization and trade liberalization have challenged the competitiveness of the textile industry in Europe. More recently, the economic and financial crisis has significantly affected the textile and clothing manufacturing activity in Europe.
Innovative e-collaboration combined with other new manufacturing and supply chain paradigms can provide some of the answers to strengthen or re-gain global competitiveness.
Successful companies in the fast-moving fashion business respond quickly and efficiently to changing market and consumer requirements and reduce over-stock by fast re-ordering and delivery. SMEs can achieve this by operating in networks of virtual vertically integrated companies that collaborate using B2B e-business technologies. A key enabler to the adoption of these technologies is interoperability of business processes, business information and IT systems based on commonly agreed open standards.
Achieving interoperability in the Textile/Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industries in Europe has been the objective of the eBIZ TCF project, a 2-year cooperation project launched in 2008 by the European Commission. The project aimed to boost and harmonize e-business processes and data exchanges resulting, among others, in the elaboration of a reference architecture to support interoperability and e-business collaboration in the TCF industries.
Within the context of the eBIZ TCF project, SMEs in the textile and clothing industry in Greece and Hungary have carried out a pilot implementation of the eBIZ TCF architecture, under the acronym NNS. The core of this pilot project was NOTA, a producer of women underwear/nightwear in Greece, and the pilot involved some of NOTA's suppliers and customers in Greece and Hungary. The project was coordinated by a University Research Group with broad experience in the apparel industry and an IT facilitator with strong experience in e-business standards and practical deployments. The main objectives of the pilot were:
(1) to validate the eBIZ architecture;
(2) to address the specific requirements and characteristics of SMEs; and
(3) to confirm the business case for e-business in the textile and clothing industry.
The NNS pilot adopted the eBIZ architecture and deployed a solution based on the eBIZ profile of Universal Business Language (UBL, an XML standard), ebXML Messaging (ebMS, a robust messaging protocol for electronic business) and the GLN and GTIN identification standards. The pilot involved deploying low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf ebXML messaging endpoints at the locations of the industry partners and configuring them according to the business processes in the eBIZ architecture, using ebXML standards. UBL import and export functionality was developed for the ERP systems used by the industry partners, and scripts were written to integrate the communication product and the ERP systems. The pilot confirmed the applicability of the eBIZ architecture, and provided feedback to the eBIZ architects during the project.
The NNS pilot is all about e-business among small and medium-size companies. This means that any solution must be low-cost and very easy to install, configure and use. It should support outsourced (remote) management, and provide very simple and robust interfaces. In NNS, a simple UBL file drop and pick-up were used along with content-based routing, providing a simple interface for SMEs that is even easier than email. The configuration is robust, can handle intermittent connectivity and does not require a fixed IP address or URL.
Finally, the NNS pilot confirmed the economic benefits of electronic business. The pilot confirmed a strong reduction in processing time for orders. Extrapolating from the limited exchanges in the pilot, NOTA could save up to twenty thousand Euros annually by processing customer order electronically. Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
OASIS sites: OASIS | Cover Pages | | AMQP | CGM Open | eGov | Emergency | IDtrust | LegalXML | Open CSA | OSLC | WS-I