Spatch: a new email communication tool for supplier collaboration

Jo Hughesinnovation, mobile apps

Spatch

Anyone who has had the arduous task of trying to manage product development workflow, especially supplier collaboration, through email will know how inefficient and difficult it can be. With bulging inboxes, it is all too easy to miss important information leading to missed deadlines or other costly mistakes such as a change to the to tech pack that goes unnoticed.

Recently featured on TechCrunch’s round up of Techstars 2014, Spatch is redefining email as we know it. Built as a “communication platform”, Spatch is an app that enables you to manage email and communication more efficiently and effectively by adding structure to content and analysing inbound messages to pick up key and actionable phrases, which can then be synced with a calendar or any productivity tool of your choice. It is backwards compatible with email meaning that you benefit regardless whether all recipients and senders are using Spatch.

When composing a Spatch message you have the choice to identify your intent: message, schedule, FYI, request, share or connection. Depending on your selection, the compose form you are presented with will be different. If you were to select “Request” then you are able to add structured information such as due date and request details then the receiver of the message, either in Spatch or email, gets the options to accept, reject or complete the request, feeding back to your Spatch. Document, images and links can also be structured within Spatch, so that they can be managed effectively.

When receiving an email from someone not using Spatch, Spatch will analyse the contents of that message and highlight the key and actionable phrases. By taping on the highlighted text you can create an action, adding it to your Spatch to-do-list or any other productivity tool.

Whether Spatch to Spatch, email to Spatch, or Spatch to email, it allows you to very quickly scan and action the most important information contained within the message.

Now imagine how this could be used in product development. Imagine being able to send a sample request to a supplier as an email that structured all the key information into a form: the style number, the sample request details, the due date, the attached tech pack. This is all automatically fed into your workflow calendar and the structured data elements allows you to quickly search by the key information and keep all style related communication organised and managed.

Now take it one step further and imagine this in the context of PLM. One of the key challenges of implementing PLM is the roll out across the supply chain. There will always be suppliers, for whatever reason; poor internet access, irregular use, that will never use PLM. For them emailing tech packs will remain the norm and someone within the master company will be responsible for manually updating the sampling details and critical path in PLM – far from efficient and open to mistakes. Spatch could be a game changer. By sending the supplier the tech pack via Spatch, or at least Spatch-like technology, all the communication could automatically be fed back into PLM. The “Request” message type in Spatch could contain structured data that mapped back to the fields in PLM, such as sample due date and when the supplier had accepted and acknowledged the request. All the email communication for the style between the master company and supplier could be automatically stored against the style in PLM – no longer would you have to accept that the communication around some styles and some suppliers would either have to remain outside PLM or would have to be manually inputted. This technology could really help to make reality fully “joining the dots of the supply chain” that to date, as remained more idealistic than realistic. The potential is huge.

Whilst Spatch is only in prototype stage at present it is turning a lot of heads in the app world. Upon launch companies such as Virgin, Facebook and Skyscanner have all agreed to use the product once it is released, believing that it will make their teams up to 30 – 40% more efficient. Co-founder and CEO Mick Hagen has already developed and sold Zinch, a social network for high school students, to Chegg for $45 million so the credibility and experience is there to make Spatch a commercial likelihood.

Spatch are trying to secure extra funding to further develop and take the app to market, so any PLM vendors out there reading this – might be worth a conversation!

For more information visit http://spatch.co/ or check out the the Spatch presentation at the TechStars London demo day below.

Jo Hughes on sablinkedin
Jo Hughes
With a background in fashion design, Jo has worked with many international retail and apparel companies, implementing solutions to help them work more efficiently to develop products.

She has a detailed understanding of the apparel product development process and the supporting systems including PLM, PDM, CAD and 3D garment design.