eChallenges e-2012 Conference Proceedings
Paul Cunningham and Miriam Cunningham (Eds)
IIMC International Information Management Corporation, 2012
Copyright © 2012 The Authors www.eChallenges.org Page 1 of 8
eBusiness in Fashion Industry:
Interoperability Standardisation Meets
Industry Supply Chain
Piero DE SABBATA1, Arianna BRUTTI1 Mauro SCALIA2, Karolina KRZYSTEK3,
José Ignacio AGUADO4,Marco RICCHETTI5, Martin BAKER6
1ENEA, Bologna, Italy firstname.lastname@example.org
2Euratex, Bruxelles, Belgium, email@example.com,
3CEN-CENELEC, Bruxelles, Belgium, firstname.lastname@example.org
4AENOR, Madrid, Spain, email@example.com
5Hermes-Lab,Milano, Italy, firstname.lastname@example.org
6TOR, Birmingham,UK, email@example.com
Abstract: This paper presents the eBusiness Reference Architecture resulting from
the European initiative eBIZ-TCF and the following pre-standardisation initiative,
CEN WS eBIZ – eBusiness in the Textile, Clothing and Footwear sectors, both
funded by the European Commission DG Enterprise. The reference architecture
implements a standard based interoperability approach to the problem of enterprise
interoperability. The paper presents both the aspects related to the technical contents
and objectives of the architecture as well as the assessment phase of its validity and
suitability for the industry (implementation in real business, benefits, etc.). Upgrade
and fostering of the Reference Architecture currently run under the format of
Workshop of CEN – the European Committee for Standardisation.
This paper presents the case of the eBIZ-TCF Reference Architecture, an initiative aiming
to create a favourable environment for e-Business within the Textile Clothing and Footwear
(TCF) supply chains through a standard based interoperability approach.
European manufacturing SMEs need to create flexible and reactive industrial networks
to remain competitive on the market and to gain advantages from new business models and
new connections established within the industry networks.
The case deals with the initial activities under the eBIZ-TCF project (www.ebiz-tcf.eu)
as well as the current pre-standardisation initiative, CEN WS eBIZ – eBusiness in the
Textile, Clothing and Footwear sectors. The second initiative is running under the format of
a Workshop of CEN – the European Committee for Standardisation- and aims to achieve
consensus on common B2B processes and data exchange formats.
The paper, after an introduction of the objectives and of the current status of art
(paragraph 2), presents the chosen approach (paragraph 3), the results in terms of outcomes
(paragraph 4) and the measured benefits through 17 pilots (paragraph 5). In the conclusions
(paragraph 6) learnt lessons and next steps are presented.
2. Status of Art and Objectives
Collaboration between IT systems can be obtained through at least two different paths :
Integration (where the concepts are tightly coupling, coordination, coherence and
uniformization of elements of the IT systems) and Interoperability (where the concepts
relates to loosely coupling, coexistence, autonomy and federated environment).
Copyright © 2012 The Authors www.eChallenges.org Page 2 of 8
The Interoperability approach aims to affect only the interfaces between the systems, so
that they could remain independent systems, better able to operate within open
communities. It can be achieved via integrated, unified or federated approaches, according
to the role of common models and formats for data exchange (see  for details). The
integrated approach to Interoperability can be implemented through the adoption of
standard specifications for the systems’ interfaces at different levels (organisational,
semantic and technical levels whose elements define an interoperability framework ).
Industry has implemented a wide range of different solutions that could be categorised
(according to ) in: slack (data exchanged through natural language or unstructured data
files) or unregulated interoperability (ad hoc peer-to-peer solutions), semantic
interoperability (use of semantic technologies) and standard based interoperability
(common models through standards).
The cost of the unregulated interoperability solutions have been examined in :
despite their very low initial threshold their costs increase exponentially with the number of
the participants and the dynamicity of their relationships.
On the other hand, the standard based interoperability is a prerequisite to get the full
advantage of the semantic interoperability () that has not deployed its full potential in
practical use (one of the problems being the needs for skills that are rare in IT industry).
In many domains standard based interoperability has been achieved through the
adoption of standards for eBusiness, it is the case of automotive industry (Odette) or for
large scale retail (EANCOM). Nevertheless there are domains where, presently, only
solutions based on slack or unregulated interoperability are in place: it is the case of sectors
where the supply chains are fragmented, the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) are
predominant and, in parallel, the needs for sectorial specificity cannot be disregarded.
This is the case of the Footwear (FW) and Textile and Clothing (TC) industries where
the European industry associations as well as other technological and standardisation actors
have been promoting initiatives on interoperability, both from the technological and
scientific point of view (European projects like Moda-ML, Shoenet, CecMadeShoe) and
from the standardisation side (CEN WS TexSpin, TexWEAVE, FINEC and FINEC2).
The eBIZ-TCF project from DG Enterprise. In order to tackle this problem, in 2008 the
European Commission (DG Enterprise and Industry) launched a first standard based
interoperability initiative to “harmonise eBusiness in the European Textile Clothing and
Footwear industry”, the eBIZ-TCF project. It gave an occasion to re-collect all the
outcomes of the previous initiatives, identify a common Reference Architecture (RA) and
put it in action with a large scale experimentation involving more than 150 organisations
within 20 European countries and whose results and cost-benefits analyses were collected
and published. This activity evidenced the largest benefits can be achieved when a critical
mass of adopters is in place.
The WS eBIZ initiative at CEN. Successively, two of the core organisations involved in
eBIZ-TCF (Euratex and ENEA) put forward a proposal to the European Committee for
Standardisation (CEN) to create a CEN Workshop to update the RA and foster the creation
of a critical mass of adopters.
CEN is a recognised European Standardisation Organisation with the primary aim of
developing harmonised requirements and testing methods for products and services in
Europe in form of European Standards (EN). Standard development procedure entails close
cooperation of all European Member States and takes on average 3 years.
Keeping that in mind, CEN decided that for new and rapidly changing technologies
harmonisation should be done in a lighter and quicker process. Against this background a
concept of CEN Workshop (CEN WS) was created which consist of giving a framework to
the industry representatives and other stakeholders to participate in a completely open and
transparent process of adoption of a harmonised deliverable.
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CEN WS EBIZ is the result: it is financially supported by the European Commission
which guarantees free-of-charge participation to all stakeholders and financing of a Project
Team of six experts who work together, with regular consultation of all workshop
participants towards upgrading the Reference Architecture.
CEN WS structure does not only guarantee neutrality and transparency of the results but
also access to communication and dissemination tools which are expected to facilitate wide
update of the Reference Architecture which will be available on-line free-of-charge.
The eBIZ Reference Architecture  is the major outcome of the eBIZ-TCF project; it
provides an open and public framework to enable interoperation between suppliers,
manufacturers and retailers. It was developed taking previous experiences and standards
into account, with the aim to use them in a common framework and suggest how they can
be implemented in actual TCF scenarios. Three aspects were considered:
business application layer: it is about business scenarios (processes, activities and
transactions), document models and document syntax/format;
middleware layer: it concerns collaboration's configuration and aspects of security and
reliability of data transport and related services;
communication layer: it looks at communication type (synchronous or asynchronous),
architecture (peer-to-peer, hub-based, etc.) and underlying protocols.
The result is an architecture composed of four different types of specifications:
business processes, expressed through UML notation and ebXML ebBP documents;
data models, provided as a set of document templates defined at logical level as well as
at syntactic level (XML-based and pre-existing EDI syntaxes);
collaboration and communication protocols, consisting of a set of recommendations
based on existing standard for the middleware layer;
product classifications, consisting of a partial overview of some existing
national/international classification systems and some suggestions to allow their use.
The objective was to provide automatic development and validation tools with formal
descriptions of the specifications to be implemented by the applications. All these artifacts
were intended as application-independent supports for ICT developers to easily achieve
interoperability between different implementations . In particular:
the business processes are expressed by two standardized formalisms, ebXML ebBP 
and UML, that provide an unambiguous representation of the process models from the
machine and human point of view; each process was detailed in activities, each of them
with pre and post conditions and composed by a number of transactions;
the data models implementing the transactions of the TCF upstream areas are
supported through WEB references to documentation (XML Schemas, User guides)
published and maintained by the owners of the related IPRs (Shoenet and Moda-ML);
the data models implementing the transactions of the downstream area are represented
through syntax independent data models and XML implementation guides (Use
Profiles) developed on purpose; pre-existing EDI (WWS Profil) specifications as well
as XML Schemas (OASIS UBL 2.0 ) are referenced.
In this third case, due to the lack of an established sectorial specification, Use Profiles
specify how to use UBL language in the context of TCF industry . As UBL is a generic
eBusiness language, they reduce the ambiguity arising from different uses and
interpretations of the data dictionary. They suggest a common way to use UBL for the TCF
industry through a restriction of generic UBL documents.
With the same objective of easily achieving real interoperability the use of global
unique coding for product and party identification (GS1 GTIN and GLN) was assumed as
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mandatory in the relationships with retail organisations. On the other side, in manufacturers
networks, this was not possible because more flexible and expressive coding is required.
4.1 The Reference Architecture
Taking into account requirements and practices, the supply chains were categorised as:
manufacturing networks (upstream), characterized by specialized collaborations,
small number of actors, strong partnership and cluster of enterprises; here the priority is
to obtain maximum performance and flexibility and to quickly react to market trends;
sectors specific solutions are required by different production processes;
production to retail (downstream), characterized by large number of participants with
high turnover; here the priority is to have simple and scalable solutions.
Thus, the resulting eBIZ-TCF architecture was sub-divided into three main areas:
the common downstream supply chain networks;
the upstream supply chain networks for the textile/clothing sector;
the upstream supply chain networks for the footwear sector.
Table 1 witnesses the effort to tailor specifications for real business of each area.
Table 1. Upstream and Downstream Processes
Areas and Processes
Footwear upstream business process:
Textile Clothing upstream business processes:
Fabric subcontracted darning
Fabric subcontracted manufacturing
Knitwear subcontracted manufact.
Yarn subcontracted manuf.
On line stock service
Garment accessory supply
Downstream business processes:
Cyclic replenishment program –
Vendor managed inventory – VMI
Replenishment on customer
4.2 Online Resources
In order to support the implementers in the adoption of eBIZ-TCF Reference Architecture,
several artifacts (and tools based on them) were produced and published online:
human-friendly documentation: textual description and UML diagrams of business
processes and documents, implementation guidelines, ...
machine-readable documentation: ebBP representation of the business processes, XML
Schema and Schematron for the business documents and their Use Profiles, ...
validation tool: based on XML Schema and Schematron, it checks the conformance of
XML instances to the specification of eBIZ-TCF data models.
All these artifacts are semi-automatically generated starting from a common and shared
repository where all information are collected: this allows to reduce maintenance efforts,
ensures the coherence between different types of artifacts and reduces errors.
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5. Business Benefits
A crucial eBIZ-TCF project activity was the assessment of the Reference Architecture
towards industry needs, based on a number of real life pilots. A huge efforts was addressed
to this objective : seventeen pilots were set up (13 selected through a public call),
involving more than 150 companies, most of them SMEs. The network of pilots extends on
20 countries (18 EU member states plus Serbia and Turkey).
In each pilot a facilitator coordinated a network of firms: 13 companies acted as
facilitators; 47 were industrial producers or suppliers, 82 retail companies and 22 ICT
providers (6 of them acting as facilitators).
Pilots were monitored during and after the project implementation; within each pilot
participating firm had to adapt their pre-existing systems to support eBIZ-TCF
specifications in order to collaborate with the other participants.
Use in real business environment. All the pilots but one reached the stage of actual
use in day by day business (the failure was due to internal problems not related to the RA).
In a few cases some document was not fully operational as its use was not envisaged by
companies. In two cases the use was limited to experimentation, in two other cases the
eBIZ compliant system was running in parallel with legacy systems.
The architecture resulted suitable for different application models: 8 pilots used a P2P
model while 9 were based on Hub communication model. Two of the pilots reported the
support of both communication models.
Migration from legacy systems. A detailed analysis of the legacy data exchange
systems before the adoption of eBIZ was carried out on 13 companies. Two were using
almost exclusively email while in 3 companies email was predominant. In 2 companies
phone/fax was were still dominant while in 2 cases legacy EDI systems covered around
100% of orders management. Thus 9 companies out of 13 were either new to EDI or poorly
Rate of adoption. The actual rate of adoption of eBIZ was measured as % share of
orders processed through eBIZ, out of the total numbers of orders received/sent by the
company. The pilots showed a high variance around the average (from 100% to less than
1%). The high variance is mainly related to the former use of electronic document
exchange: companies new to EDI tend to show a low current rate of adoption; companies
already running extensively legacy EDI systems show very high current rates of adoption.
Increased efficiency and gains from the adoption of eBIZ by the companies were
assessed looking at orders processing time. Eleven out of 13 companies provided reliable
data on processing times before and after the adoption of eBIZ. Most of them reported huge
time savings, in more than 1/3 of pilots the decrease in processing time was over 80%.
All companies upgrading from telephone/fax systems had remarkably huge savings in
processing times, while companies upgrading from email centred systems reported mixed
results, from a remarkable 25%-30% to very huge gains (80% a textile upstream pilot).
Although assessment answers from the pilots were based on sparse evidence and
expectations, there was consensus for a substantial shortening of response time: as far as
quick orders are concerned the response time halved. Companies working mainly on
classical seasonal pre-orders report gains from 10% to 20%.
The evaluation of the advantage in terms of lower cost of software development and
thus lower implementation costs for the companies was not trivial and evidence was
anecdotal. In most cases the IT providers had no specific experience in developing EDI
software or were not ready to provide reliable estimates (nevertheless their implementation
one IT provider specialised in upstream networks reported a 30% drop in the cost of the
service for customers in comparison to traditional EDI solutions;
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two IT providers whose core business was the development and sale of ERPs mentioned
that the eBIZ module can be offered as a free upgrade;
one IT provider specialised in downstream networks stated that the deployment of the
eBIZ solution to a new network partner (store/supplier) can require from half to 1/3 of
the analysis man-days of the traditional EDI solutions because of its standard and more
flexible features. The IT provider reported a yearly rate of partners turnover for their
customers around 15% (that require the deployment of new software)
The assessment of economic benefits in monetary terms for the Pilots was limited to the
static gains relevant to the order processing time.
Dynamic advantages (new services, customer fidelisation, ..) are, in the long term, by
far more important than static advantages, however the reliability of dynamic advantages
calculations in a very limited span of time after the adoption is largely unreliable and could
be based only on uncertain guesses.
The Pilots different characteristics trigger different potential advantages. Some Pilots
were unable to provide reliable figure for the ex-ante/ex-post calculation as they never took
into consideration the hidden costs of traditional order processing before. In this
framework, calculation of sample statistics can be non representative and misleading.
Thus a case history approach based on detailed and real business information was thus
adopted with Pilots’ Case histories.
Case 1. 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.
At the end 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. The potential gain,
when all the orders will be processed through eBIZ, is estimated in 400 orders’manager
man days, that is over 100.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.
Case 2. A Small footwear company, exchanging order documents with a component
supplier and selling to a chain of large surface specialised stores. Both based in a “low
labour cost” European Country and using a fax/email system before eBIZ.
eBIZ compliant system covered just a small fraction of the overall orders for all the
participants. As the legacy systems were very inefficient the gains in order processing time
have been huge (over 90% of time is saved in order processing). Given the current low rate
of adoption, the measured yearly gain is limited to around 10 orders’manager man days but
the potential gain, with all the orders processed through eBIZ, is substantial, exceeding 380
order manager man days, that amount to over 40.000 Euros of labour cost in just one year.
In both cases 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.
The analysis of the pilot cases has evidenced two problems and one result:
- the mandatory adoption of product identification encountered some resistance from
the firms, mainly for organisational (too many codes) or economic (cost) reasons
- lack of critical mass of adopters hampers the benefits for the adopters (in some cases
it has been possible to see the follow up two years later: were the weight of
connected partners was meaningful the system has been maintained and fostered,
where only a couple of partners was involved there were no further developments)
- on the other side the RA demonstrated to be easily implemented, even when the
firms were not usual to EDI technologies and approaches.
6. Current and Future Development
The current CEN WS eBIZ initiative aims at upgrading the Reference Architecture in order
to consolidate it within 2013 and to boost eBusiness adoption in the TCF sector.
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Firstly the work carried out by a team of experts consist of production of software
artifacts to support new requirements with updated -but back-compatible- specifications.
New requirements emerged in the recent years are, for example:
RFID devices in the intercompany logistics, brings in the concept of single item
identification across the supply chain communications. The impact on the flows of
information through different companies is analysed in order to extend the existing
RA, for example by managing the new identification standards (like EPCGlobal);
supply chain optimisation or co-designing of products and open innovation require a
closer integration between final goods producers and their suppliers
new European directives and experiences on e-invoicing towards the public
administration should be considered as an opportunity also for the Business to
Business invoicing becoming a leverage to foster eBusiness
public consultations have evidenced some difficulty due to the variety of
transmission protocols that are allowed.
Secondly, the project aims to achieve a definition of an interoperability testing procedure
via a new testing and validation software tool (freely accessible) to validate conformance to
the eBIZ-TCF Reference Architecture with supporting artifacts, both for single documents
as well as sequences of documents.
As a result of the intensive validation activity of the eBIZ-TCF Reference Architecture, the
following benefits were demonstrated and measured by the pilots:
Increase in efficiency, by decreasing operating costs. These benefits, labelled as static
benefits, were 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, labelled as dynamic benefits, 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 eBIZ Reference Architecture
implementation has generally lower software development costs and lower deployment
costs in comparison to EDI systems. They lower the threshold for eBusiness adoption.
Because benefits may vary on their extent and rapidity based on the fashion companies’
specific conditions, the eBIZ experience allowed to learn some lessons:
patterns for benefits in eBusiness adoption:
o Fashion companies new to electronic documents exchange; the upgrade to e-
Business, from tools like fax/ phone/ email, generates the widest leap in terms of
improvement. Benefits are large and normally gained in the short term;
o Companies formerly using legacy proprietary electronic documents exchange
systems but new to an open standard system; benefits are lower in the short term and
become relevant as the business network increases (new customers, new suppliers)
or in the long term thanks to lower software maintenance and development costs.
need for critical mass and governance: the standard based interoperability approach
need a critical mass of adopters to make actual its benefits, at least at single network
level consensus of a relevant share of the participants is needed; the consequence is the
need for independent promoters and governing bodies, like standardisation bodies, to
facilitate the creation of such critical mass.
Copyright © 2012 The Authors www.eChallenges.org Page 8 of 8
From the operative point of view the running CEN WS eBIZ is expected to facilitate the
adoption of the RA, to bring the results of the previous projects forward and to capitalise
the benefits of the standardisation and interoperability in a fragmented business sector.
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