Supply Chain
Connected Products Platform Illuminates ‘Soul’ of Garments by Improving Supply Chain Visibility

By enabling raw material traceability at scale, Avery Dennison’s atma.io helps brands account for varying environmental footprints through more granular supply chain data, and empowers consumers to hold brands accountable to their sustainability promises.

Does your product have a “soul?” Is it known, understood, or even knowable? The fashion industry, particularly fast fashion, has long suffered from products that have been so obscured in the complex quagmire of chain of custody that by the time they get to the consumer, the ‘soul’ of the garment has been lost.

“The level of complexity that each [element in the supply chain] has means there is an exponential number of control points by the time it gets to the consumer,” said Alex Thomas, VP of Global Quality at Gap Inc.

Across all sectors, the validation and authentication process remains an immense challenge — especially in complex supply chains. But with regulatory changes and customer demand, traceability mandates are knocking at the door.

What would it take to transform fashion’s manual, siloed and veiled supply chains into a verified and transparent chain of custody?

“The fashion industry network of multiple partnerships, combined with all our internal garment- and fabric-testing protocols, is reflected in an enormous amount of manual data that is not connected,” Thomas said. “So, getting a verified source of truth and linking it to a product — that’s a game-changer.”

‘A single source of truth’

Avery Dennison’s atma.io connected product cloud serves as the intersection between the physical and digital worlds. It distills all of the nebulous data hidden in a product’s value chain into insights for both consumers and businesses. The platform shows exactly what a product is made of, where it’s been, its various footprints and certifications, and proper end-of-life actions.

“atma.io serves as a single source of truth to put all of that product data in one place from all the different stakeholders in the supply chain, and make that available to consumers,” Max Winograd, VP of connected products at Avery Dennison Smartrac and co-founder of atma.io, said at a recent fall launch event. “With our platform, what was once a five-week process now takes five minutes.”

“Compliance is becoming an increasingly important topic,” Winograd added. “Consumer expectations are heightened, and there’s a bigger emphasis on meeting ESG goals.”

More and more countries require compliance certificates for imported goods, Winograd said, and digital product passport initiatives are popping up in Europe. Consumer perception is driving the trend at the other end of the spectrum — an indicator that a sustainable future for consumer products is circular.

“For us to be able to shift from being a mere consumption-based economy to a more circular economy, there needs to be more traceability and transparency,” Winograd said. “Traceability is the enabler for transparency.”

Products as a story

atma.io gets its name from the Sanskrit word for soul, “atma”. But it doesn’t merely illuminate a product’s provenance: It empowers individual products to become ambassadors for a better world. atma.io is the latest evolution in Avery Dennison’s years-long foray into creating more transparent supply chains through ‘smart’ products.

“We’re helping to enable the consumer to have a better understanding of the products they’re buying,” Winograd said. “It’s an opportunity for storytelling — an action-oriented approach that we’re really excited about.”

Providing granular product insights empowers consumers to become a part of the sustainability conversation and hold brands accountable to fulfilling on consumer demand for traceable and ethically made products.

“The products themselves become an enabler of sustainability,” Winograd said.

Avery Dennison’s latest atma.io release for fall 2022 focuses on enabling raw material traceability at scale — helping global brands streamline compliance, account for varying environmental footprints, and obtain more accurate supply chain data. The new rollout features a fresh integration suite with a new application programming interface (API) library and other tools to help brands accelerate connected products at scale, allowing seamless integration of transparency and traceability throughout supply chains.

The new features also provide integrated tools for facilitating climate action. Users can mint carbon-emission tokens natively on atma.io, with the ability to offset their footprint with carbon-reduction tokens from the same blockchain. The blockchain integration makes a product’s provenance data impervious to greenwashing and manipulation; and atma.io natively integrates into digital ledgers such as Hedera, creating immutable records.

And because atma.io integrates item-level data, it can be used in any business system and supply chain. Any user can take the carbon emissions data from all of its suppliers and craft a true scope 1-3 emissions report of any product. This is particularly helpful for products with the same SKU but shipped to different parts of the world, which means a higher scope 3 footprint.

Minding the ‘Gap:’ A business use case

Connected products link to what Gap Inc calls the “voice of the customer” — the company’s platform that reports feedback from retail and digital customers on fit, function, style and color. As a first use case, the apparel giant is exploring item-level traceability for several products in its Athleta brand; this holiday season the company will enable garment-specific fabric ‘DNA’ (testing performance data, mill and other manufacturing data points) to be viewable by consumers with the scan of a QR code — a tool growing in popularity for forward-thinking apparel brands. So, when a customer identifies a fit issue, for example, the item can be traced back to a specific fabric, test report and quality audit — providing much better oversight to make decisions on quality standards.

“It’s awesome to see apparel retailers like Gap Inc. embrace traceability technology and explore how they can ultimately go all the way back into raw material, put that data in one place, and use that data to drive different business outcomes,” Winograd said.

atma.io provides invaluable insights, such as identifying fabrics and testing standards on styles that are commonly returned. Being able to map data points such as factory and fabric origins and connect them in real time to consumer trends will be revolutionary.

“Connected products mean that we will be able to react much faster both to macroeconomic situations as well as customers,” Thomas said. “We can put it all together to find out what worked and what didn’t work.”

Transparency is also a way to strengthen supplier relationships. Thomas said Gap Inc. hopes to utilize tools such as atma.io to establish raw material connectivity in supply chains, allowing for greater customization and less waste.

Gap Inc. is currently exploring how to more thoroughly integrate atma.io into its supply chain, and will review the results of the first use case at the end of 2022.

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