Enterprise reporting sits at the heart of any business. It provides a honest picture of a company’s performance, highlights gaps and bottlenecks and whether they are on track to meet their business objectives. But at TAL Apparel, which was experiencing increased complexity of business, enterprise reporting itself became a bottleneck. So, it partnered with IBM to deploy a cloud-based data management platform, and have not looked back since.  

Business challenge

The fast-paced fashion industry expanded the volume of transactions, increased computation workload and lengthened the execution times for all reports, resulting in performance bottlenecks and high IT support workloads.

Transformation

IBM’s solution sped up report creation, reduced bottlenecks, and replicated data in near real-time using in-memory technology, while having the ability to scale to future demands by adopting cloud technology.

Results

Accelerated overall reports by 5 times on average, sometimes reducing report generation times from 20 hours to 20 minutes.

Removed data bottlenecks that slowed all reports when they access the same data.

Reduced IT support workload, freeing up the IT team’s time for other tasks.

Business challenge story

When measuring success becomes slow.

In fashion, seconds matter. The industry operates at a very fast pace, accelerating demand and increasing the number of transactions.

 

TAL Apparel thrived under these demands. Founded in 1947, it is now one of the largest integrated textile and garment operations in Asia. It manufactured over one billion pieces of garment since 1983, and has more than 26,000 employees working in nine factories and five offices in seven countries. 

 

Global brands, such as Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Charles Tyrwhitt, Nordstrom, Patagonia and more, depend on TAL Apparel’s manufacturing capabilities. One in every six dress shirts sold in the US market is from the company.

 

To ensure it is on track, TAL Apparel relies on over 800 reports. This includes around 400 to 500 submissions at every month end from the entire Group. They examine sales, expenses, shipments, cost of goods sold, and inventory, conduct actual vs budget analysis for financial reporting and management reporting.

 

The insights within these reports help its senior management to track and drive company performance, forecasts more accurately, and manage business outcomes more precisely.

 

However, business growth meant more data, which meant enterprise reports took longer to produce.

We were under pressure during each month. With the increase in the amount of data and transaction volume, our users experienced longer execution time for all enterprise reports,

said Kai Yuen Kiang, vice president of IT, TAL Apparel

With some reports accessing the same data set, it created a data hot spot when one took too long. “We noticed the reporting platform was facing performance bottlenecks, some long-running reports locked out records and in turn caused time out in other reports. When the end users tried to re-submit, it triggered more lock-out effects,” said Kiang.

 

“This lengthened the report queue, overall report execution time, users logged performance tickets and expedite report execution requests, overloaded the IT team. We started researching for solution,” he added.

 

It was when TAL Apparel came across IBM’s proposal.

Transformation story

Accelerating reporting with cloud flexibility and in-memory speed.

 

Performance was the key reason that TAL Apparel chose IBM. Specifically, Kiang and his team was looking for fast performance under peak loads. Equally important was the ability to replicate from the company’s ERP platform in real time since many of the enterprise reports depended on the latest figures.

 

TAL Apparel also wanted the solution to be compatible with their IBM Db2 database since all the existing reports were running on this platform. Changing to another database needed a large report update for all reports.

 

Essentially, TAL Apparel needed a smarter approach to enterprise reporting that produced near real-time reports, was able to work large, shared data sets and had minimal impact on the overall database infrastructure.

 

IBM designed a cloud approach with Db2 Warehouse on Cloud, a fully-managed cloud-based data warehousing that ran on IBM Cloud in Hong Kong. It used in-memory technology together with columnar and database compression to reduce data storage space while accelerating lookups and queries.

 

Infosphere Data Replication offered a highly scalable solution for data replication in near real-time. It gave TAL Apparel the ability to support big data integration, continuous availability, warehousing and business analytics. More importantly, it allowed zero-downtime migrations and upgrades, ensuring the operations remained online 24/7.

 

Since the solution supported Db2 SQL syntax, the original reports were kept intact during the migration with minimal additional work required for re-coding or troubleshooting. This ensured that the entire implementation, from concept to production, could be completed in one and half years using an agile methodology.

IBM team was really professional from the start; we worked very closely from the selection stage. IBM team was able to evaluate and test the performance. They also planned the implementation well and were responsive to any issues. When there were any technical issues, we also had access to the IBM research and development team

said Kiang

Results story

Running enterprise reports 5 times faster.

 

The solution worked. TAL Apparel saw an average 5 times improvement in enterprise reporting times. In some cases, the improvements were vast.

 

“The results were great. Some reports that took 20 hours were now completed within 20 mins. Even on average, we were able to run 4-5 times faster [than previously],” said Kiang, adding that the new solution increased user satisfaction while eliminating instances where other reports were timed out.

 

IT team workload plummeted. This allowed the team to focus on IT projects that improved the company’s value proposition. “By decreasing the workload of the support call, the team can focus more on new projects and capabilities,” said Kiang.

 

Kiang and his team are now looking to further improve cost efficiency in the future. “I am also looking forward to the availability of the Flex option in the region, which allows further elasticity that avoids overprovisioning cost,” said Kiang.

About TAL Apparel

A truly global company, TAL Group offers quality garment manufacturing, innovative products and services across stages of the apparel supply chain. Our manufacturing operations under TAL Apparel Limited with 11 factories across Asia made us the leader in our industry. In wholesaling, The Apparel Group Limited based in the U.S. works with some of the world's top brands and retailers offering services such as design, merchandizing and logistics management.

Solution components

  • IBM Db2 Warehouse on Cloud
  • IBM Infosphere Data Replication
  • IBM Cloud