The U.S. apparel manufacturing industry, with labor costs 35% to 50% of production cost, is struggling for survival. Traditional practices, variable raw materials, and lack of standardization have contributed to low levels of technology adoption. Strategies and technologies found successful in other industries (e.g., JIT, CAD/CAM, bar coding) are being introduced in apparel manufacturing as Quick Response (QR). Apparel manufacturers must determine if successful products will be outcomes of technology transfer. An empirical study of apparel manufacturers examined relationships between implementation of new strategies and changes in product line characteristics. A stratified random sample of apparel manufacturers was drawn from two U.S. states. A mailed questionnaire was used to collect data and resulted in an adjusted return rate of 52% (n=133).
Factor analysis on QR strategies and technologies list indicated the presence of five areas of operational activity. Two of the operational activities (i.e., Computer Information Usage and JIT Activities) were used to examine the relationship with four change variables (i.e., Customer Services, Product Features, Quality, and Price). Results of MANOVAs indicated that implementation of QR factors related to changes in product line offerings. Computerized Information Usage was related to increases in product quality. Changes in Customer Services, Quality, and Price were related to implementation of JIT Activities. In a highly competitive market, apparel manufacturers must evaluate the impact new technologies will have on products they produce and customers they service.