by Gordon Steinecke, Vice President of Design at Rebel Athletic
Rebel Athletic was founded in 2012 with a simple goal: to provide the best cheerleading uniforms in the world. We produce uniforms for schools, professional sports and Allstar cheerleading teams, as well as gymnastics and dance wear, and recently expanded into mainstream apparel retail with an athleisure range for teenage girls.
Our product timelines are shaped by cheerleading competition schedules on the uniform side and consumer expectations of ‘fresh fashion’ on the retail side. With the help of Centric Software’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution for emerging enterprises, Centric SMB, our goal is to handle this time pressure and seasonality with the grace and accuracy of a cheerleader flying through the air! Here’s how.
Juggling with 6 month-seasons and 6 week-seasons
In the cheerleading world, everything is fast-paced. We work hard with customers to make their dreams a reality, making sure uniforms meet the highest possible design standards and hit tight production timeline targets. Ideally, the process from initial artwork to prototyping to final delivery takes less than 65 days.
Our production cycles depend heavily on our customers’ competition schedules. They order based on when their team needs uniforms to wear in the first competition of the season. Some will start at least six months before their first competition, which gives us plenty of time to finalize artwork, create prototypes and produce orders.
However, we also have customers who wait until the last second! Sometimes we have as little as 45 days to complete artwork, prototyping and bulk production. This is a highly pressurized situation, and we used to struggle to push out orders, especially as we have peaks in demand when everybody needs new uniforms for the start of the competitive season.
Speed, Complexity and Spreadsheets
Keeping up to speed and handling seasonal demand was difficult when we relied on spreadsheets and manual systems, and a lot of information fell through the cracks. Because we have to turn around orders so quickly, and orders come in every single day, there’s no down period. We were suffering from information overload as the company continued to grow and got to the point where we needed a PLM solution to stay on top of product development.
We chose Centric SMB because of its ability to effectively track products from inception through to delivery, the way it connects users across departments in real time and its intuitive, visual, web-based interface. With Centric SMB in place, we want to streamline and expedite communication between departments, with our own factory in China and with external suppliers around the world. Rather than sending multiple versions of spreadsheets back and forth and waiting for email replies, we can connect people in a real-time environment.
With greater transparency and faster input from our factory and suppliers about available materials, costs and timelines, Centric SMB makes it easier to manage pricing and hit product milestones. Centric SMB’s planning and calendar capabilities also help to anticipate seasonal fluctuations and act in time to prevent bottlenecks.
Expanding into Multiple Business Models
Our retail segment mirrors the uniforms arm of the business, with extremely fast-paced product development and launch. We put out 2-3 capsule collections every month with anything from 5-15 looks designed around different themes, operating on a ‘fresh fashion’ schedule that is geared towards online retail and pop-up stores.
We frequently refresh our designs and create a lot of limited edition runs so that nothing becomes stale. Our young customers are all about speed and trends and Rebel Athletic has to stay relevant. We’re expanding from apparel into bags, cosmetics, accessories, keychains, teddy bears, phone cases, shoes and more. Since most of our users don’t deal with all of these products daily, it can get confusing.
Centric SMB is the digital foundation we need to handle speedy product design and development that moves rapidly through collections and seasons while also managing a large volume of constantly changing products in new categories.
With Centric SMB, anyone in the company can quickly search for and locate relevant product information from other departments and users. This is particularly important for our marketing teams, to pull accurate product images and design buzzwords to plan seasonal and collection-based marketing campaigns.
The major benefit of Centric’s uniform PLM solution for Rebel Athletic is that people can find the exact information they need in a matter of seconds so that they can focus on what’s important: creating the ultimate in quality uniforms and delighting our young consumers with a constant stream of fresh fashion designs.