eBIZ phase I

Compleated in 2010, the first phase of the eBIZ initiative starts in early 2008 when the European Commission, DG Enterprise (now DG Grow), entrusts to a three partners consortium (EURATEX, CEC, ENEA) the responsibility of a pilot project to: Harmonise e-Business (i.e. digital data exchange) processes and data exchanges for SMEs in the textile/clothing and footwear sectors in the Single European Market.

Winning a Commission public tender, the project (eBIZ-TCF) is the first initiative of its kind attempting to create a single digital language for the fashion industry. The project does not re-invent the wheel, create new software or standards but it brings together all previous similar exercises carried out in Europe.

Tasks of this pilot phase include:

  • analyse the level of e-business adoption in the sectors across the EU,
  • developing a technical Reference Architecture to allow e-business interoperability across the sectors whole supply chains,
  • testing and improving the Reference Architecture with fashion companies using e-Business in real business operations;
  • runing an information campaign to raise awareness on the benefits of harmonised e-Business for the fashion industry


In two and half years the eBIZ-TCF project accomplishes  all its tasks, achieving 2 major results:

  1. The first eBIZ Reference Architecture is released. It is a guiding technical document which describes a coherent framework of existing specifications to enable interoperability in e-Business. This means that companies which use eBIZ-compatible-softwares can easily exchange digital data (e.g. orders) all across the Textile, Clothing and Footwear supply chains.
  2. The eBIZ Reference Architecture is used by more than 180 fashion companies and their usual IT solution providers, in every-day business operations.

eBIZ pilot’s summary

The 17 pilots of eBIZ-TCF project demonstrated the validity of the eBIZ Reference Architecture, the inter-operability of different systems and value of digital-data-exchange for companies.

The 17 eBIZ-TCF pilots run in two steps.

First step (July – October 2008): 4 pilots run with real business to test the validity of a draft of the Reference Architecture, particularly with regard to interoperability between systems. The eBIZ-TCF project team learned a great deal on how to manage the technical cooperation in pilots, particularly with companies having low or no knowledge about e-Business (digital data exchange)

•    1 pilot in textile/clothing upstream (manufacturing of fabrics and garments)
    •    2 pilots in footwear upstream (manufacturing of footwear)  
    •   1 pilot in downstream (from manufact. to sales) cross border (Italy and UK)

Second step (February – September 2009): 13 pilots for a deeper integration between companies of step 1 and a much larger number of new companies. The new comers were selected after a public call for expression of interest which resulted in as many as 21 proposals for new piltos. This huge response proved high interest in the sector, however due to budget constrains only the best 13 pilots proposals were selected. Proposal ranking was made based on the compliance with the eBIZ-TCF objectives.

 •    6 pilots in textile/clothing upstream
    •    1 pilot in footwear upstream
    •    6 pilot in downstream

Overall 17 pilots with companies/ organisations from 20 countires (18 EU member states plus Serbia and Turkey) tested and demonstrated the validity of the Reference Architecture, particularly with regard to interoperability of systems.

MM510-010-v2-pilots1

The pilots run successfuly involving more than 150 organisations in the role of:
  •    13 facilitators
    •    47 producers and suppliers of fashion goods
    •    82 retail companies (*)
•    22 IT solution providers (6 of which also counted as facilitators)

(*) The retail companies (shops) formally involved in the pilots were 82, however the actual number of companies involved is higher (aproximatelly 180) because sometime only a subset of the participating retailers was formally included in the pilot.

All pilots demonstrated interoperability between the partners differetn software systems (e.g. the ERP). In the second step, real business documents were exchanged between two pilot networks, this demonstrated full business-proof interoperability.

Only minor deviations from the original pilots workplan occured, usually due to external factors. For example in a few pilots some companies dropped out either hit by the 2008 crisis or changed ownership. In almost all cases the companies withdrawing from the pilot were quickly replaced.

Quick replacement was another evidence of the high business interest in eBIZ.

No major problems were found in the Architecture technical specifications, some concerns in downstream pilots affected coding and numbering systems (e.g. product classification, product identification and location identification). As a result, much clearer guidelines were given in the final version of the Architecture.

Case histories

Detailed reports of some of the 2010 pilots.

Italian Textile eBIZ A network of textile and clothing companies in Italy and Bulgaria exchanging order, order response, order status, despatch advice documents and a “defects map” compliant with the eBIZ-TCF reference architecture.
Portuguese Footwear eBIZ The network extends over the whole footwear pipeline and includes shoemakers, shoes component manufacturers, wholesale shoe traders and retailers in Portugal and Spain and is based on the ShoeBiz platform which has been adapted to comply with the eBIZ-TCF architecture.
Fashion Sector in Finland The network is built around Texmoda Fashion Group, the largest textile and clothing service and buying group in Finland and exchange catalogue, order, order response, sales report, invoice and inventory report.
Consorzio IPSA A consortium formed by four Italian enterprises operating in the textile industry, in order to design and implement a state of the art B2b cooperation system based on the ICT technologies.
They exchange orders, order responses, order changes and despatch advices using both ‘web mode’ and ‘P2P mode’ communications.
e-Business in Greece and Hungary The network is built by NNS Consortium around NOTA S.A, a pure SME company in the textile /clothing sector, the network includes suppliers (upstream) as well as retail organisation (downstream).

Economic benefits

The eBIZ adoption brings benefits which may vary on their extend and rapidity based on the fashion companies’ legacy systems. Here they are.

Benefits commonly associated to the electronic documents interchange are relevant to:

  • Increase in efficiency, by decreasing operating costs. These benefits can be labelled as static benefits and can be measured according to a “before and after” approach. They mainly improve the cost competitiveness of the company.
  • Increase in effectiveness, by reducing lead time, response times and increase flexibility. These benefits can be labelled dynamic benefits and enable companies to provide better services to the customer. Due to their enabling nature, the actual positive outcome will only accrue to those companies that implement coherent market strategies. They improve mostly non-price competitiveness.
  • Reduction of software implementation costs. The XML based eBIZ Reference Architecture implementation has generally lower software development costs and lower deployment costs in comparison to the existing EDI systems.

The eBIZ adoption brings benefits which may vary on their extend and rapidity based on the fashion companies’ legacy systems, and for instance:

  • Fashion companies new to electronic documents exchange, the upgrade to e-Business, from communication tools like fax/ phone/ email, generates the widest leap in terms of improvement. Benefits are large and normally gained in the short term;
  • Companies formerly using legacy proprietary electronic documents exchange systems but new to an open standard system. For these type of companies benefits are lower in the short term and express their potential as the company business network increases (new customers, new suppliers) or in the long term thanks to lower software maintenance and development costs.

The companies involved in the pilots focused mainly on the improvement of orders processing. A survey carried out on a sample of participating companies immediately after the implementation showed large gains from the eBIZ adoption in orders processing time.

MM510-014-v1-business
Gains in order processing time from adopting eBIZ in a sample of pilots participants.


Real cases from the pilots

Medium-large clothing:
A Medium-large clothing company, exchanging order documents with a medium size textile company. Both based in a “high labour cost” European Country and using a fax/email system for document exchange before eBIZ.

benefits-graphics Pagina 08

At the end of the pilot implementation, the eBIZ compliant system covered around 30% of the overall customer orders and around 10% of the overall orders of the supplier. The gain in order processing time is calculated in 80% for the supplier and 50% for the customer. Assuming this rate of adoption, the actual cumulated gain for one year can be calculated to around 100 orders’manager mandays. The potential gain, when all the orders of the two companies will be processed through eBIZ, exceeds 400 orders’manager mandays, that amount to over 100.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.

Early evidence from the pilot show errors in order processing dropping from a 10% average to virtually null.
The average response time for an order halved.

Small footwear company:
A Small footwear company, exchanging order documents with a very small component supplier and selling to a small chain of large surface specialised stores. Both based in a “low labour cost” European Country and using a fax/email system for document exchange before eBIZ.

At the end of the pilot implementation, the eBIZ compliant system currently covered just a small fraction of the overall orders for all the participants. The companies involved are very small and need strong support to expand the number of suppliers/customers committed to eBIZ. As the legacy systems were very inefficient (mainly phone/fax) the gains in order processing time experimented with the pilot implementation are huge (over 90% of time is saved in order processing). Given the current low rate of adoption, the actual cumulated gain for one year are limited to around 10 orders’manager mandays (expected to grow to 20 days within 2010). The potential gain, when all the orders of the two companies will be processed through eBIZ, on the other hand is substantial, exceeding 380 order manager mandays, that amount to over 40.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.
Early evidence from the pilot show errors in order processing dropping from a 10% average to around 1%. The average response time for an order halved.

Large retailing chain of independent stores:
A Large retailing chain of independent stores, order and stock availability documents are among the stores the central buying organisation and the apparel producer. The retailers and the buying organisation are based in a “high labour cost” the clothing producer is based in a “low labour cost” European Country and using a fax/email system for document exchange before eBIZ.

At the end of the pilot implementation, the eBIZ compliant system currently covered around 1% of the overall orders of the central buying organisation, a coverage of 30% is expected within 2010. The gain in order processing time is estimated to around 75% for the central buying organisation and higher for the clothing supplier. Assuming the expected end of 2010 rate of adoption, the actual cumulated savings for one year can be calculated to around 220 orders’manager mandays that amount to over 23.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.
The potential gain, when all the orders of the two companies will be processed through eBIZ, exceeds 750 orders’manager mandays, that amount to around 85.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.
The average response time for an order dropped dramatically from a full day with very long dead times, to around 5 minutes.