In 2016, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) began working with leading brands, and technology companies like PTC, and Substance from Allegorithmic, to build an industry-led platform called Material Exchange (ME), which allows for the rapid search and visualization of materials, automates data input and improves communication between brands, material suppliers and manufacturers.
Whether it’s a large company or a start-up, anyone can use the platform to search for materials in real time across a multitude of global suppliers that upload material images and specs into the system. Filters include things like type (leather, textile, PU, etc.), pattern, color, country of origin (to help shrink supply chains), to help narrow down searches. Users can also communicate with suppliers, asking questions, or requesting a single physical swatch be delivered, helping increase sustainability through reduced waste.
Impacts for development
Product teams from footwear, apparel and accessory brands can search all suppliers who provide this visibility as well as toggle search preferences to only look at approved supplier offerings. This also allows product development and material directors the ability to see who is looking at what materials as well as all communication with suppliers on the platform. The platform’s security measures prevent brands from seeing materials developed exclusively for other brands, and suppliers from seeing materials from other suppliers to prevent collusion or knock-offs.
Wasted time gets reduced and so do labor costs related to data processing and managing material specs, which can cost large companies and suppliers hundreds of thousands per year, as it allows brands to pull down material specs directly into their product lifecycle management (PLM) software, or by Excel.
See the Intro to Material Exchange video: https://vimeo.com/278741517/0d624ce57b