The Scabal case: exclusive fashion deserves its own production

juin 04, 2015

It was a cold December day in 2008, almost Christmas. My first meeting at Scabal’s headquarters in Brussels. Scabal is a producer of exclusive cloth and suits within the luxury fashion segment. That’s where I heard about Tailor Hoff for the first time, the German Scabal division that produces those luxury suits. The suit is following a trail like a snake throughout the production factory. Hundreds of employees are working there in Saarbrücken. The legacy IT system did not register this, SAP should. It was the start of 6 amazing years, 10 to 20 visits each year in Tailor Hoff.

Why did I write this blog? This kind of detailed production set-up within fashion is rather exceptional. Buying-selling, that’s common! But exclusivity means own production. Subcontracting, that’s for mass production. Personal reason: it was one of my top experiences within Delaware Consulting.

IT in Tailor Hoff is more than production. But this article only dives into the production part.

Leonardo DiCaprio or Barack Obama

During one of my visits I saw a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s when I realized that cloth selling is still a main Scabal business. Originally Scabal was a cloth merchant and supplier of fabrics. Currently fabrics are still produced in the UK and cloth selling is still a major part of the company value. Famous people like Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio wear suits made of Scabal cloth. But both have their own tailors, instead of Tailor Hoff.

Your personal suit

“Everything starts with master data. If you don’t have good master data, you cannot do anything in IT projects.” This is what Jean-Luc Bourlard, former IT manager, repeated several times during our evening drinks in the hotel bar. But the next morning the huge production trail was snaking its way along hundreds of small activity posts. Conclusion: we needed a whole master data project to determine bill-of-material and routing.

Moreover, your exclusive suit is unique. The resulting product configurator reflects this complexity. Within your personal sales order, your choices are documented: model, color, cloth, size, the options you choose… If your demand is excessive, the product configurator will forbid you certain combinations. Particular models do not allow particular sizes or options.

Your personal suit needs one piece of cloth. You don’t want any slight difference in color for your jacket or your trouser. Exclusivity – for Scabal – also means only delivering the cloth from their own cloth production facilities in the UK.

One production order for your suit is not sufficient. You don’t want your trouser and jacket being produced after each other. You want a collective cutting of your suit. And afterwards parallel production for the suit parts. That’s why suit production is in fact a production order network, like airplane production parts. Even your jacket parts themselves are produced in parallel: body, arms, lining (sewing) …

You ordered special options, a particular model, type… Based on the commercial product configurator choices you made, all needed activities along the production trail are selected. If you need special buttons, the activity to attach them should be retrieved. Detailed inventory of all activities and confirming them afterwards on employee level, allows accurate cost follow-up. And allows paying the employees for their work.

Scanning stations on the production floor

In a second step in the sequence of production projects between 2008 and 2014, the legacy shop floor system was replaced by SAP. The production trail contains hundreds of small activity posts. Clustering in larger scanning stations for activities done by the same person, allows to confirm all activities in one scanning station at once.

The employee only scans the overall scanning station when all activities are done. But in the background all deeper level activities belonging to the scanning station are confirmed. This means the perfect match between lean production shop floor but detailed lower level engineering information behind.

Where’s my suit on the floor

20 scanning stations on the floor to produce one suit. Several weeks to produce a suit. High valuable cloth. Conclusion: a lot of WIP on the floor. Special reporting allows to quickly visualize all that WIP. You urgently need your suit. Delivery date is close. Your suit becomes critical. We can see directly in reporting where your suit is on the production floor at each moment. And follow it, speed it up when needed.

Demanding exclusive customers need accurate planning

Hundreds of activities are needed to produce your exclusive suit. Capacity planning on that detailed level is not feasible. An algorythm is sorting all suits for which the cloth is already delivered in the production plant. Prioritization is done based on exclusive suits (MTM) firstly and mass production (RTW) afterwards. Of course urgent delivery dates are taken with priority. Moreover the planning algorythm only allows a predefined number of each of the suit parts (jacket/trousers/waistcoat)/day to flow into production. Assume all urgent suits contain by coincidence a jacket as a suit part (some with trousers or waistcoat, some not). Then, it could happen that production for the jacket is overloaded but there’s still capacity to produce additional trousers or waistcoats the same day. In that case, less urgent suits with trousers only or with waistcoats only are flowing into production. Until the daily target for those suits without jacket is reached. But as a rule, all suit parts for one suit are always running the same day into production. We release the suit at once. Cloth cutting is the reason, which always occurs together for all suit parts of the same suit.

Determining those maximum targets/day/suit part is a capacity planning based on experience. It is taking into account the parallel process of suit part production (jacket, trouser, waistcoat).

Subcontracting? Not with my suit!

Of course, your exclusive suit will not be subcontracted. It will be German made in Tailor Hoff. But less exclusive Ready-to-Wear (RTW) can be subcontracted. That way even more capacity is free to meet your sharp delivery date.

To be precise, based on the commercial choices you make (option, model, type…) the product configurator determines whether subcontracting is allowed or not. If you are really demanding: no subcontracting!

But even in case of subcontracting, Tailor Hoff controls the buying process of the critical components. Of course the cloth always stays own Scabal production. Based on your commercial choices in the sales order, all needed suit components are derived again with product configuration.


Scabal aims to evolve even more within the top level luxury segment, producing exclusive MTMs. As a result, own production of these exclusive suits will remain key. Tailor Hoff is looking upon a bright future within the Scabal group. It’s absolutely the goal to keep the advanced production knowledge inhouse.

If you are interested in more details, you can always contact Delaware Consulting, which could bring you also in contact with Scabal if desired.


Author: Wouter Dessein. You can follow Wouter Dessein on Twitter (@DesseinWouter) or connect with him on LinkedIn