Life cycle assessment (LCA) - web application for OEKO-TEX®

Powerful software development partnership with Swiss textile certifier

The situation The apparel sector is one of the main contributors to global emissions. Production facilities are confronted with the challenge of measuring and reporting their own environmental impacts. Supply chains operate globally and standards vary between continents, countries and even regions.

OEKO-TEX® offers standardised solutions that enable companies to optimise their manufacturing processes and help bring high-quality, sustainable products to market. Currently, 21,000 manufacturers, brands and retailers in more than 100 countries work with OEKO-TEX® to ensure that their products are tested for potential harmful substances.

The challenge Reducing the harmful impact on the planet has become one of the major challenges in the industry. So far, companies had to rely on in-house calculation models to determine their ecological footprint. Varying measurement methods, environmental standards and currencies cause further effort and consume time and resources of both companies and certifying institutions.

The journey

To support factories in collecting reliable environmental data, OEKO-TEX® aimed to introduce a Carbon and Water Footprint Tool. The “Impact Calculator” was designed to enable producers to identify their main potentials for reducing carbon emissions and water consumption. Alongside the Impact Calculator, OEKO-TEX® aims to support the STeP by OEKO-TEX® certified factories, increase their environmental performance and ensure smooth communication.

“The joint work is always goal-oriented, professional, and innovative. The development of the Impact Calculator has been incredibly exciting, and we look forward to further developments that can promote transparency and impact measurement within the textile industry.” says Alisia Mätz, Product Manager STeP at OEKO-TEX®.

In mid-2021, OEKO-TEX® contracted with openFORCE to develop a screening life cycle assessment (LCA) web tool for facilities. A concept based on methodology and data models had previously been created by OEKO-TEX® together with the consulting company Quantis. Starting from a green field openFORCE began to develop an interactive web application. There were no restrictions from the client regarding frameworks or technologies. openFORCE development team was given freedom to creatively develop a web application with a solid technical background.

About OEKO-TEX®

With 30 years of experience, OEKO-TEX® is a global leader in enabling consumers and businesses to protect our planet by acting responsibly. OEKO-TEX® offers standardised solutions that enable companies to optimise their manufacturing processes and help bring high-quality, sustainable products to market. All services in the OEKO-TEX® portfolio serve to strengthen the systems, processes and products of our customers and - ultimately - to create more sustainable companies. Currently, 21,000 manufacturers, brands and retailers in more than 100 countries work with OEKO-TEX® to ensure that their products are tested for potential harmful substances. At the same time, millions of consumers around the world use the OEKO-TEX® labels to guide their purchasing decisions. OEKO-TEX® certified products and suppliers can be found online in the OEKO-TEX® Buyers' Guide at OEKO-TEX® Buying Guide.

The approach

Within eight months, the team managed to develop a flexible, scalable and intelligent web tool that was made accessible to facilities participating in the STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification in early 2022. How did they accomplish this? They managed to grow the initial three-person team into a dynamic software squad of 14 team members by release date. When openFORCE further estimated the potential of the Impact Calculator, a larger team was assembled to meet all the requirements of OEKO-TEX®. The software development team is quite diverse and includes one product owner, two UI/UX designers and eleven software engineers, from junior to senior level. Due to the strength of openFORCE's sister company openDEVS, the team also includes freelance developers. They speak German and English and work in three countries (Austria, Germany, Italy).

After initially carrying out classic 14-day scrum cycles, the team changed into a 21-day cycle to optimize development time. Ending with a review of the developed artefacts by OEKO-TEX®. openFORCE product owner Sebastian shares insights: "We really pushed the initial development by stretching the scrum process and adapting it to our specific requirements. At some point, we individually decided which meeting formats suited us best and created our own version to improve our output and engage with the client in the best way possible."

In the same way, individual standards were established in the dialogue with the client. “Since OEKO-TEX® invested a crucial amount of time in introducing us to the main ideas of the tool, we were free to develop it. All requirements and stories were written by us. Planning was performed internally after consultation with Product Manager STeP Alisia Mätz. After completion of the artefacts, there was a fine-tuning meeting with OEKO-TEX®," Product Owner Sebastian summarises the agile project process.

“The joint work is always goal-oriented, professional, and innovative. The development of the Impact Calculator has been incredibly exciting, and we look forward to further developments that can promote transparency and impact measurement within the textile industry.” says Alisia Mätz, Product Manager STeP at OEKO-TEX®.

The project also enjoys high priority for the software developers at openFORCE. The development of the Impact Calculator is regarded as a dynamic full-stack project. The team develops holistically. There is no firm frontend/backend slip. Due to the dynamic team structure the assignment of tasks is also very fluid. " This allows us to be flexible and efficient in creating an exciting and intuitive artefact in the shortest possible time," emphasizes software engineer Michail.

The solution

common tech stack
enables scalability of the developer squad
local deployment
using Hashi Stack tools
intuitive
and responsive tool
initial insights
into carbon emissions and water consumption

openFORCE initially set up a team of three experts to start modelling the web application, consisting of a product owner, a UI/UX designer and a software engineer. The team understood that the application needed to be highly scalable, so a cutting-edge but also common tech stack was chosen for the task. By leveraging technologies such as Angular, Node.JS and Prisma, a robust foundation was created for a cleverly designed web application. In addition, the development team opted for a local deployment using Hashi Stack tools and a self-maintenance solution.

The Impact Calculator came into life. It appears to be an intuitive and responsive tool. As facilities enter their data into the online tool their inputs are used to update the original data estimates. These iterative improvements will contribute to building a benchmark with one of the most reliable climate impact databases in the industry. The results of the tool provide companies with initial insights into carbon emissions and water consumption at the company level and per kg of materials produced. It calculates impacts by production process step compared to impacts that occur outside of a facility's direct influence, such as raw material production and transportation.

The effect

The Impact Calculator enables textile manufacturers to assess and evaluate the materials and process steps that contribute the most to their overall environmental impact. Participation is voluntary and available to all textile manufacturing facilities that apply for or already hold a STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification. Production managers gain a better understanding of production-related carbon emissions and water consumption. With the help of the available data, they can determine which processes have the highest environmental impact. Of course, this can also be used retrospectively to identify where improvements have already been realised.

The outlook Following the first release, the excitement is high. In an online event, OEKO-TEX® presented the new Impact Calculator to the public in February 2022. Initial feedback suggests a positive impact on future users. Apparently, the tool succeeded in striking a balance between user-friendliness and a high level of detail. A more extensive rollout is planned by Oeko Tex, which will certainly generate more feedback.

The openFORCE team continues with the development of the Impact Calculator. A lot has been done since the release of the beta. The team has been split into two separate teams that are each working on the stability and functionality of the application.

"For us, the success factors were the informal dialogue with OEKO-TEX® and efficient recruiting and scrum processes. The team itself was self-organised and independent in recruiting new software specialists. The only pillar was a certain degree of leadership by the product owner. One of the most important aspects was the cultural team fit and the willingness of each member to adapt to the flexible scrum process. We were brave enough to use our tools and at the same time follow our instincts", summarises product owner Sebastian.

Following the beta release, the development partnership between openFORCE and OEKO-TEX® will continue. The Impact Calculator will become an essential service of OEKO-TEX® and its institutes, eventually sparking a small revolution in the textile industry.

Alisia Mätz

Product Manager STeP at OEKO-TEX®

“The joint work is always goal-oriented, professional, and innovative. The development of the Impact Calculator has been incredibly exciting, and we look forward to further developments that can promote transparency and impact measurement within the textile industry.”

Otto Meinhart
GESCHÄFTSFÜHRER

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