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Making productivity gains business as usual with AI

Solutions specifically address fashion sector needs rather than conforming to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

28th December 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  London


Drawing on Microsoft’s Azure AI solutions, the new Coats Digital AI Assistant is being introduced to improve customer service and open up new opportunities across the fashion supply chain. 

Customers worldwide can now access information instantly on any Coats Digital solutions using natural language questions relating to product documentation, training materials and more. Introducing an AI-powered knowledge base delivers a more seamless, user-friendly and productive experience to customers.

“The collaboration with Microsoft has helped us to begin to ultimately shape AI solutions that specifically address fashion sector needs rather than conforming to a one-size-fits-all approach,” said John Powell, senior director of software engineering at Coats Digital. “We have a powerful ecosystem of solutions that we can now look to elevate with the use of AI tooling, the Azure infrastructure and the support provided by the Microsoft team.

“The most compelling thing is that the AI revolution is in full flight at the moment. By coupling the capabilities of Microsoft with our knowledge and skills in the apparel industry, we’ve been able to bring AI’s benefits directly to shop floor workers across the globe. This is just the beginning and we look forward to pioneering innovation for the fashion supply chain in the years to come.”


Coats Digital maintains a vast knowledge base of product documentation and training materials, known as Docs. The company’s engineers saw a great opportunity to harness this information to enhance customer self-service and productivity, especially for new customers, with the use of AI. Drawing on its strong working relationship with Microsoft spanning numerous projects, Coats  explored new ways to tackle this development challenge. Microsoft proposed an eight-week innovation sprint focused on emerging Microsoft Azure capabilities such as Azure AI Services and Azure OpenAI Service. 

“In a nutshell, we wanted to use AI to improve customer onboarding and offer an optimum navigation experience with regards to our extensive database of product information and training materials,” said director of software engineering Jonathan McCormack. “With our new AI Assistant, customers can now instantly discuss their needs conversationally with a customer-facing virtual assistant within Docs, which responds with the most applicable training materials or documentation from the company’s extensive catalogues. By understanding user intent, Docs delivers highly relevant results,  which is a vast improvement over traditional keyword searches.”

By simplifying exploration of its knowledge base, Coats has increased engagement with its tools and features. Customers can consequently now fully use resources that they had underused before. The assistant has also unlocked capabilities that were easily missed in extensive documentation, guiding users to maximise reference materials.

“Docs is our first port of call when dealing with customer inquiries and we can now input customer questions directly in the AI Assistant to quickly access the wealth of knowledge available, while encouraging  customers to do the same themselves,” said Coats director of customer support Steve Ede. “Azure AI will continue serving as the launchpad for rapid innovation.”

Next on the road map is employing similar strategies to enhance the internal experience from production systems and sales channels.

“Microsoft’s commitment to working with partners and customers is helping to drive real digital transformation for people, organisations and industries across the globe,” said Microsoft chief data officer Eric Kalin. “Coats Digital is designing a future where productivity gains and customer delight are business as usual and where companies across the fashion industry can take advantage of aligned technology collaborations not as a bonus, but as an indispensable growth strategy.”

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