The Harvard Center for Textile and Apparel Research originally focused on the competitive dynamics of the retail-apparel-textile channel—in particular, how technological innovations and information technology are transforming the way retailers plan and order apparel merchandise, and in turn, the way manufacturers forecast demand, plan production, and manufacture and distribute apparel products.
A book based on this research, A Stitch in Time, Lean Retailing & the Transformation of Manufacturing: Lessons from the Apparel and Textile Industries incorporates predictive and prescriptive insights about information-integrated channels in a variety of consumer product industries. Published in 1999, the book predicted many of the changes in supply chain dynamics and challenges facing producers that arose in subsequent years.
Researchers at the Center have created models for evaluating the impact of manufacturing lead times on channel profitability, critical to the development of new planning and sourcing strategies. In addition, they have developed advanced computing techniques to increase the efficiency of existing apparel pattern layouts for automatically making these markers.
The Center has expanded its area of research to include the competitive dynamics of large-scale builders of residential homes. As with the retail-apparel-textile channel—the focus is how technological innovations and information technology are improving the efficiency of homebuilders. In 2011, members of the Center published Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better: Lessons from the Harvard Home Building Study.
The Center has also examined public policy implications, including how international trade policies affect the future location and growth of the global apparel and textile industries and how conditions for apparel workers might be improved through regulation and monitoring.
Funded since 1990 by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, the Center draws its members from Arts and Sciences, the Business School, and other faculties of Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Miami.