FAQs

About the OAR

What is the OAR?
The OAR is a go-to source for identifying apparel factories and their affiliations by collating disparate factory lists into one central, open-source map, listing factory names, addresses, affiliations and a unique OAR ID. 

Who owns the OAR? 
The OAR is not owned by any organization. It is a neutral, non-profit organisation, with a multi-stakeholder Board of Directors representing civil society, the open data sector, factory groups, industry MSIs and brands. The OAR is funded by the C&A Foundation and developed by Azavea, a geospatial software firm and certified B Corporation based in Philadelphia.

The OAR no longer has any relationship or affiliation with Sourcemap.

Who owns the data in the OAR?
All the data in the OAR, including the OAR IDs, is open and licensed under the Creative Commons Sharealike 4.0 license

What does “Public List” mean"?

Increasing numbers of fashion brands and parent companies are now publishing their supplier lists and sharing that information publicly on their websites. (Fashion Revolution provides analysis of the latest figures.)

As we build the Open Apparel Registry, and raise awareness of the tool with stakeholders from across the fashion industry, the OAR Team has uploaded many of these publicly available supplier lists to the site, in order to populate the tool with data and train the algorithm. Where data has been uploaded by the OAR Team in the name of a brand, this is marked with “Public List” to indicate that the brand itself has not uploaded the data.

I’m a brand whose list has been uploaded by the OAR Team. I’d like to upload our supplier list and maintain it myself. What’s the process for that? Will there be two different versions of our brand and supplier lists on the OAR?

The OAR Team can hand over control of the Public List account to your brand team, and edit the account name to reflect that the list is being managed by your brand. Please contact us to arrange this switchover.

Data in the OAR

We've updated our supplier list since it was published on this site. How can I ensure that factories with whom no longer work with aren't listed as one of our suppliers?

For contributors uploading supplier lists to the OAR yourself, the OAR now offers a “replace list” function. Having logged into your OAR account and navigated to the “Contribute” section, you will follow the same upload process as on previous occasions. Having uploaded your most up to date supplier list, you will now see a dropdown, “Select a list to replace”, immediately above the submit button. You can use this dropdown to select your old supplier list, which will be superseded in the public system by your new list. Any facilities that you no longer work with will automatically no longer be affiliated with your organisation, although they will remain in the OAR as a listed facility, so that their name and address information, and unique OAR ID, is not lost.

Through your Contributor account, you will be able to see previous lists that you have uploaded to the site. Those you have replaced over time will be marked as “Inactive”.

Another option to maintain an accurate, real-time supplier list on the OAR site is to sync with our API.

Please use only this API for the tool. An old API is still running, but the data it is drawing from is out of date and likely inaccurate. Please contact the team for any necessary clarification.

How is data kept current?
Ongoing maintenance of the registry is run by the OAR Team, who reach out to stakeholders, including factories and brands, to ensure their lists are kept up to date. Each factory profile will include a date stamp of when the information was last updated, so it is clear to site users how current the information is. Additionally, users have the option to include the relevant dates for a list in the list name and in the list description. This helps to clearly communicate when the list was last updated.

While the OAR Team will work to refresh publicly available supplier lists, the best way to ensure that data associated with your organisation is kept current is to create and manage a profile on the OAR site and maintain the data yourself.

Does the registry store any proprietary data (e.g. audits)?
No. The Open Apparel Registry only publishes the name, address and unique OAR ID for each factory in the database, as well as the source of the data. So, if an auditing company uploads a factory list, the auditing company will be named as a data source for that factory, but no other data will be held in the OAR.

There are fewer facilities in the database now than in the previous beta version; why is that?

Extensive work has been done since the beta version to rewrite the algorithm upon which the OAR was built. The new algorithm, developed by Azavea, is more sophisticated and therefore returns a much higher rate of accurate matches than the previous beta version of the tool. The issue of facilities duplicating in the beta version has also been addressed, both of which contribute to a reduction in the number of facilities.

In addition to this, we have chosen to seed the new version of the tool with a smaller number of better quality public lists, which significantly reduces the number of facilities in the system at launch. This number will continually increase as more users contribute data over time.

Processing data in the OAR

For an overview of how data is processed in the OAR, visit: https://openapparel.org/about/processing

How long will it take for my list to upload?

List items are scheduled for processing as soon as they are uploaded. The size of the list and the number of other lists being processed at the same time will affect how long it will take to complete the processing of all the items in a list. If all the items in a contributed list still have the initial status of “UPLOADED” after one hour, please send an email to info@openapparel.org with the contributor name and the name of the list and the team will investigate the issue and get back to you.

Why are only some of the facilities from my list appearing in searches?

Each row from a contributed CSV file is processed separately. Rows that are matched successfully or rows from which new OAR facilities are created will appear in searches immediately after processing. If the application requires the contributor to verify a potential match, the facility will not be searchable until the match is approved or rejected. If the application encounters an error while processing a row, it will not appear in search results.

The number of facilities in my list drops significantly after I upload it. Why is that?

There are a variety of reasons that the final number of facilities that populate the map from your account is lower than the number of entries in your CSV file:

  • The algorithm has detected duplicates within your supplier list, and matched multiple facilities to one OAR ID.

  • The quality of data of some entries in your supplier list was not of sufficient quality to be processed by the OAR system. These facilities will appear with “ERROR” alongside them when you view them in the “My Lists” section, but will never appear in the map itself.

The OAR ID

How is the OAR ID generated?

The OAR ID is a 15-character unique identifier assigned to each facility in the Open Apparel Registry. Here is an example OAR ID:

CN2019067NZ95AM

The OAR ID schema is made up of 4 segments:

CN 2019067 NZ95A M

From left to right these segment are:

  • A 2-character country code.

  • The 4-digit year and 3-digit day of the year indicating when the OAR ID was assigned.

  • 5 characters that represent a random number.

  • A one character “check digit” that is calculated based on the previous 14 characters and can be used to validate that an OAR ID has not been mistyped or otherwise damaged.

Does a facility have to use its OAR ID?
There is no obligation for a facility to use its OAR ID. The purpose of the OAR ID is to create one common ID per factory, which is capable of syncing across multiple databases. It does not need to replace other IDs, but can be used in parallel for data holding organisations to sync their data with others. 

Uploading to the OAR

My list won’t upload

  • Check you have not accidentally changed the column titles in the OAR Contributor Template, switched the order of the columns, or added any additional columns. Column headers must be “country”, “name”, “address” (in lowercase). Information must not flow into other cells beyond these three columns.

  • Ensure that you do not have any blank cells in the country, name, or address columns, or any merged cells in file. You can quickly check for blank cells by applying filters to the spreadsheet.

  • Check that your file uses commas to separate or delimit the individual fields, not semicolons, tabs, or other characters.

  • Ensure that your file size is 5MB or less.

  • Currently, your list must be in English. We will begin accepting additional languages in the future.

  • If you are still experiencing issues uploading to the OAR, please contact the team

I’m having trouble opening the OAR Contributor Template

The OAR Contributor Template is a CSV file and you may be asked to select a programme to open it with. The best programmes to use are Excel, Numbers or Google Sheets. Some computers default to opening in Notepad, or similar. You will need to right click and force the file to open in Excel or Numbers if you encounter this issue.

My supplier list is currently separated into many more columns than your OAR Contributor Template. It will take me hours to re-format it. Is there a workaround for this?

We understand that organisations all format their factory lists in slightly different ways. In order for our algorithm to effectively sort through, clean and match the data contributed to the platform, supplier information must be uploaded in a consistent manner, with only three columns for country, facility name and facility address.

If your supplier list is currently separated out into more columns than this, we recommend two options:

1) Follow the instructions in this tutorial for a simple Excel formula that will enable you to combine data from multiple cells into one cell

2) Alternatively, you can downloading ABLEBITS, an Excel, Google Sheets or Numbers add-on. This add-on allows you to easily merge multiple columns for addresses into one column in a matter of seconds.

If you experience any difficulties with the programme, please reach out to the OAR Team.

What am I meant to do on the Confirm / Reject page?

This step of your upload is crucial to the development of the OAR and helps to refine a tool for the entire industry. This process also helps confirm matches that the algorithm might not have picked up, ensuring that all of the data matches come through.

If one or more potential matches to an existing facility are found, but the application is not confident enough to make the match automatically, you will be asked to “Confirm” or “Reject” the match.

We ask that you compare the potential matches to the processed address from your list. For those addresses which you believe are a match, click “Confirm”. Where the algorithm has incorrectly queried a match, click “Deny”.

You do not have to process your entire list in one go. You can break the process into more manageable chunks of time and stop wherever you like. The system will automatically save your work, meaning you can return to pick up where you left off. You can use the “search” filter within the “My lists” section of your account to jump to a specific entry in your list.

How do I know whether to confirm or reject match?

There will be instances where it is hard to tell whether facilities returned as potential matches are the same or not.

This can be due to probable data entry errors where it is likely that the addresses are the same, but a zip code (or similar) has been mis-entered, odd letters have strayed between columns when converting / copying and pasting data, or the order of address information is slightly different between one entry and another. Other examples of possible discrepancies include some addresses being more complete than others, mis-spellings in street names, or slight variations on the way the name of the facility is entered e.g. Ltd versus Limited, Pvt versus Private. These variations should be considered matches and confirmed.

However, sometimes the algorithm will query a match where the plot number or unit number is different, but the rest of the address details are the same. In these cases, we ask that you reject the match, as this is either a separate facility, run by a different management team, or there are multiple units at the same address and therefore needs to be treated as a distinct facility. Additionally, where address details match perfectly but the names of the facilities are entirely different, these should be rejected, as they are likely independent facilities operating from one multi-use building.

What happens if we stop working with a facility and want our affiliation with them on the OAR to be removed?

The OAR now offers a “replace list” function. Having logged into your OAR account and navigated to the “Contribute” section, you will follow the same upload process as on previous occasions. Having uploaded your most up to date supplier list, you will now see a dropdown, “Select a list to replace”. You can use this dropdown to select your old supplier list, which will be superseded in the public system by your new list. Any facilities that you no longer work with will automatically no longer be affiliated with your organisation, although they will remain in the OAR as a listed facility, so that their name and address information, and unique OAR ID, is not lost.

You will always be able to access historical lists from your account in the OAR, but these affiliations will not be public to other users searching the map.

I’m a manufacturer and would like to change or update information about my facility. How do I do this?

This functionality is currently being built and will launch soon! We anticipate this mechanism being available by July 2019. In the meantime, please send us an email with details of your request at info@openapparel.org.

Searching the OAR

What is the logic behind your search function?

Within a search field, the tool uses OR logic. So, if a user searches by Aldi, Hanes and lululemon in the Contributor field, all facilities for those Contributors would be returned.

If a user then searches by multiple values, the logic switches to AND. So, searching Aldi, Hanes and Lululemon (Contributors) and China (Country) only returns facilities in China that have been Contributed by those brands.

Apparel industry stakeholders and the OAR

Who uses the OAR and why?

The OAR is used by stakeholders across the entire fashion industry, including civil society organisations, factory groups, brands / retailers, trade unions and more.

The precise reason for using the tool will vary depending on the user, but all users will benefit from the improved quality of name and address data the OAR provides, and the unique OAR ID, which eradicates confusion and enables more effective and efficient collaboration between stakeholders.

Why does the OAR exist?

Currently, the quality of name and address data in the apparel industry is, by and large, poor. There are thousands upon thousands of incomplete, incorrect or varying addresses, differing even for the same facility. This results in all manner of confusion, from auditors turning up at the wrong facility, to organisations wasting hundreds of hours manually matching information in their databases.

The unique OAR ID, allocated to each facility, eradicates this confusion, enabling more effective and efficient collaboration between stakeholders.

Why would a brand share its factory list?
Over 100 brands are now publishing their supplier lists, and some have published their lists for years. This demonstrates that sharing this data does not affect competitive advantage. For more information see Follow the Thread report, page 13. 

Does the OAR list which brands work in each factory?
The Open Apparel Registry publishes the name, address and unique OAR ID for each factory in the database, as well as the source of the data. If a brand has contributed a supplier list, they will be listed as a data source alongside the factories they have submitted.

What is the MSI Working Group and what are they seeking to achieve?

The MSI Working Group is made up of a selection of major industry MSIs who are working together to co-design a concept for OAR service(s) to facilitate standardisation of apparel and footwear facility name and address data across their databases, and to explore API integration.

Members of the working group are: Amfori, Fair Factories Clearinghouse, SAC, SEDEX, SLCP and ZDHC.

Other

Which languages does the OAR host?
The OAR is available in over 100 languages via Google Translate.

What can I report through the “report a data issue” link?
The “report a data issue” link should be used to report any errors in the data or bugs in the system. It is not a mechanism to publish grievances or raise concerns about issues in a facility.
 

Image credit: Claudio Orozco for C&A Foundation