Mambo changes its business stripes

Mambo changes its business stripes

Armed with a new database and a paintbrush, Mambo has designs on becoming an e-business

By Mark Chillingworth


Graphical artwork is the heart and soul of Australian fashion success story Mambo. Since its inception in 1984 Mambo has grown into an international company with 20 shops around the world. To cope with the growth, and the massive amounts of variable data a fashion company produces, Mambo needed a database solution that would make their business more accurate and lead them towards becoming an e-business.

Clothing design in the 21st Century is complex; a global marketplace requires a wide range of styles to suit the various seasons, ages, genders and a host of other requirements. As well as the clothes, a fashion house such as Mambo has to produce brochures, meet production and distribution details and forecast what the fickle tastes of youth will require next.

To cope with the modern marketplace, the management at Mambo found that they needed a system for controlling information and for generating management reports. The problem at Mambo was quite unique, it needed a database system that could connect designers, purchasing, production and distribution. A self developed system using FileMaker Pro already existed, but Mambo was finding that it lacked the structural integrity required for a business growing this quickly.

”It is all very well to put something together that will do the job, but when you have multiple users, it is critical that the information is cross-referenced,” said Joseph Suhr, a director with Key Software. FileMaker approached Key Software to answer the Mambo problem when Mambo felt that a FileMaker system was not going to solve their problems.

Mambo decided to evaluate different database systems, including Lotus Notes. A key requirement for the system was that the fashion house could include graphical representations of the art work designs and the completed garments into the database system. A design spokesperson for Mambo told Image & Data Manager magazine that designers create the artwork on the Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop applications and save a thumbnail sized image into the database.

Mambo had appointed an integrator and was “some way down the track” with implementing Lotus Notes when it discovered that Notes could not provide the images as part of the reports required by management. The ability to present the graphics was considered to be essential to the long term viability of the solution to Mambo. As a result, Mambo had to begin looking for a system again. As an experienced FileMaker user, it went back to the application and developers Key Software.

Mambo had been led to believe that a FileMaker solution would not communicate with their IBM AS400 mainframe system. Mr Suhr said Key Software demonstrated that FileMaker would communicate with the IBM system and that they could develop a FileMaker database solution, which was duly selected by Mambo.


Key Software developed SDS (Style Design System) for Mambo. The FileMaker system carries a sample production schedule, the designs, production information and the creation of catalogues.

”The FileMaker SDS provides Mambo with a system that easily handles the complexities associated with the creation and production of seasonal fashion items,” Mr Suhr said. He described the system as working like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for Mambo. “The system has been embraced by designers, management and accounting personnel because of its ease of use, its ability to produce detailed graphical reports and because it communicates the necessary ordering and accounting data required.” The FileMaker application also works across Macintosh and PC platforms, which was very important to Mambo.

The database now delivers managers and designers with examples of designs, including examples of the fabric, labels, buttons and zips; production information, analysis of customer orders and production orders to suppliers.

”We negotiate with suppliers to supply both completed garments and individual components depending on the type of item. The SDS system allows for both of these situations and provides reports that can be used by both piecemeal and full service suppliers. Once the goods are produced, the supplier ships the items to various distribution points,” said Shaun Cameron-Lee from Mambo.

When a new range has been designed, the SDS system reports on the quantities of components needed to produce the items in the range. These reports are then sent to the manufacturers that supply Mambo.

A critical improvement for Mambo was the ability to seamlessly integrate the SDS system with the accountancy BPCS system. A daily data extract is fed into the system automatically, or manual extracts can be carried out when needed. Before the SDS was implemented there was no synchronisation between the two systems.

”The synchronisation process works by issuing SQL statements that interact with a series of tables in the BPCS. These tables have been specially created to enable the transfer of the data between the BPCS and the SDS,” Mr Cameron-Lee explained. With the SDS system now up and running, Mambo is making strides towards becoming an e-business. Mr Suhr revealed that Key Software is working with Mambo to develop a Style Production System (SPS) to produce purchase orders and Web based systems are being considered.

Mr Suhr said the benefits have really been to standardise the process that was already there; to improve business rules to ensure consistency of information; to vastly reduce double handling of information and to ensure more accurate product costing.

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