This article is reprinted with permission from The Sourcing Journal.
An innovative approach to product quality in recent years has brought Gap Inc. the power to connect with its customers—emotionally and physically.
Headquartered in San Francisco, Gap Inc. is the largest clothing company in America, with purpose-driven, billion-dollar lifestyle brands you’ll know: Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta. Its global sourcing headquarters is in Hong Kong, where the team manages the product engine and leads a complex network of suppliers in more than 25 countries.
In a unique collaboration with textile quality management firm SgT, Gap Inc. has put itself ahead of the game by employing new practices that—among other key benefits—ensure critical quality control at the right moment in the product development lifecycle. Gap Inc. understands that monitoring quality too late in the process costs time and money.
“Most companies focus on quality of finished products—garments, footwear, and accessories—and when problems are found at that stage, it’s too late to do anything about it,” said Alex Thomas, vice president of global quality for Gap Inc. “Garments with yarn or fabric defects are usually rejected, which doesn’t help our brands or our customers. Process management and moving quality up the supply chain are absolutely essential in getting great quality right the first time to our customers.”
The challenges Gap Inc. faced were not uncommon in the textiles industry. But in order to get products right the first time, Gap Inc. turned to SgT as a strategic partner. The solution (the details of which are protected by a non-disclosure agreement) has made a substantial difference to its quality output.
"With SgT...we were able to do more than just inspection"
Back in 2018, Gap Inc. was expanding to suppliers in new locations. As the company was working with new mills and factories, it needed quality support that could provide visibility over its entire supply chain and weed out risks sooner rather than later.
Gap Inc. reached out to SgT for its targeted expertise. Grounded in three decades of experience, SgT—part of WORMS SAFETY, the first worldwide alliance of specialists in safety and quality management—is the sole player globally to focus on both apparel and footwear quality. SgT offered Gap Inc. something it had never received before: an approach to quality management beyond the execution of final inspections. A combination of a global network of local experts, fast deployment, and tailor-made solutions supported an innovative strategy that completely changed how Gap Inc. managed quality. The effect was significant.
“With SgT, for the first time, we were able to do more than just inspections. We now have an integrated partner to become a technical interface with us, the vendor, and the execution element,” said Thomas.
The first benefit for Gap Inc. came quickly
As Gap Inc.’s operations were spread out over more than 25 countries, it was hard to pinpoint when and where risks originated. SgT’s network of local experts enabled Gap Inc. to tackle these challenges immediately, swiftly adapting its strategy to the specificities of a country, a supplier, or a style.
“Our quality experts know each country’s textiles, apparel, and footwear production challenges because they’re from each locality and have worked for factories before,” said SgT’s technical director. “They can also visit any factory quickly, which is key, especially when travel is restricted.”
This fast deployment of SgT’s local technicians was pivotal to Gap Inc.’s plan to safely scale up production more speedily.
“Within our organization, it could take months to hire, train and deploy talent to look at our quality of product, and to get inspectors and auditors available in all countries,” Thomas said.
This was just one of the quality transformations that SgT introduced to Gap Inc.
The best practices behind the results
SgT’s ability to bring a results-oriented proposal to Gap Inc.’s supply chains stems from more than 30 years of experience in the textile quality field.
“We don’t provide one-size-fits-all quality management; on the contrary, we think far beyond that and take the perspective of our clients first,” said SgT’s technical director. “Each client has a unique supply chain and sourcing strategy involving particular risks. To get concrete results, it’s fundamental to propose agile and tailor-made solutions based on each client’s singular challenges.”
The results of this collaboration continue to emerge. Since beginning its partnership with SgT, Gap Inc. has decreased the rate of specific defects from 15 percent to 2 percent. Keen to see how far this forward-thinking strategy can take them, Gap Inc. is now deploying this approach on a larger scale.
SgT is the textile quality specialist of the WORMS SAFETY Alliance, the first worldwide alliance of safety and quality management specialists. Founded in 1990, SgT’s world-leading quality management solutions specialize in textiles and apparel (garments, footwear, bags, and accessories). With a network of local, experienced experts with boots on the ground in more than 80 countries, SgT’s tailored, technologically enriched, and prevention-focused approach helps brands secure compliance, safety, and quality at every stage of the supply chain — from raw materials and development to finished products.
SgT’s innovative and confidential solutions transform textile quality output.