Learning to Trust the Numbers

Almost all colorists were taught to review color using the traditional visual process. They’ve spent hours reviewing lab dips in a light box. They trust the physical samples they can see and touch. We talk to a lot of people who are skeptical to explore a digital process.

However, there are a lot of advantages to a digital process, including reduced lead times and increased quality. That’s why more and more companies are doing it. natific’s Kelly Mallory was Color Manager at VF Corporation supporting The North Face during the time they first started going digital with their color evaluation. Although it was a huge change, she learned to trust the numbers and can’t imagine going back.

“I remember the “aha” moment when I realized that digital color assessment was going to be more accurate than the visual assessment we were doing. I was visiting a mill and saw the color standard they were using; it was old, small, and very faded compared to the standard I had brought with me. If we didn’t even start with the same color standard, how would we ever align on an approved lab dip?

If the mill and brand have different standards, visual evaluation won’t work and it’s going to lead to unnecessary submits going back and forth—an inefficient process. Physical standards change over time and have variation even when they are initially produced. It was at that moment in the dyehouse that I realized the visual process had its share of flaws and that I needed to really explore digital assessments more.”

Kelly began to do deeper research each time her visual assessment didn’t agree with the numbers. She often found if her assessment didn’t match the mills numbers it was because they weren’t using the same standard. Either they had the wrong qtx file (which can occur if they read their physical standard and used it for the digital standard) or her physical standard didn’t match the digital standard.

Comparing physical standards between brands and dye houses around the world, isn’t an easy task. However, it is easy and quick to confirm that qtx files are the same. While the physical standard is a good reference tool, the digital standard eliminates variation and ensures everyone starts with the same exact color. This alone can help speed up the color development process.

In addition to digital color standards, switching to digital submits cuts weeks out of the development timeline. There’s no waiting for submits to travel across the world. Submits can be sent digitally if they’re within your tolerances and accredited dyehouses can even self-approve color, allowing you to spend less time in the color lab and more time working on projects and doing deeper dives into color issues.

“We were never able to work from home before we went digital because we had so many lab dips to review every day. After getting our main suppliers to submit color digitally, we were able to work remotely when we needed to and our whole work life balance shifted for the better! The team was much happier and didn’t feel as burned out. All of those who have reviewed color in a light box for hours, know how exhausting it can be!

After working with digital submits for one season, we realized our product didn’t suffer any extra matching issues as we were still able to visually review the submits that didn’t meet our tolerance requirements. Seeing the results of less submits to review, more time for projects, and no extra issues, I can safely say that nobody on my team would want to go back to the traditional visual way of evaluating color.”

Now Kelly helps show others that they can trust the numbers too because she knows firsthand what a difference it can make and right now digital color assessment is helping business continuity for our brand clients during this global pandemic.

Panel discussion highlights (video)

Last week natific held a panel discussion with some of our clients (Ryan Stanley (PVH), Marielle Newman (Under Armour), and Marielle Fietta (American Eagle Outfitters Inc.)) to see how they have been managing their color development over the past few months while working remotely. They help attest that business can continue to run smoothly if a digital color infrastructure and proper training is in place.

As Ryan Stanley put it, “the silver lining” for this situation is that those who might have been skeptical about digital color before have now seen how “for the past few months everything has been processed smoothly with 100% digital . . . Now when they’re coming back its ‘ok I don’t need to receive the physical for this anymore, I trust the digital data.’”

If you want to learn more about the benefits of digital color processes or want to hear what our panelists had to say during the discussion, contact us at support@natific.com.


Click to view highlights from the panel discussion!

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