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.

I’m no longer working with a facility on my OAR list. How can I remove a single facility from my list?

It is now possible to remove single facilities from your OAR list, without having to resubmit the entire file. In the “My lists” section of your account, search for the facility you would like to remove and click “REMOVE”.

How can I replace an incorrect address in my list, when I have access to the correct details?

There are two options to replace an incorrect / incomplete address in your list when you have access to the correct information:

You can submit an additional list to your account with the new facility details to be processed by the system.

You can add the new facility details to your existing list and re-submit the entire list to be processed by the system. When uploading an entire list again, you can choose the option to “Select a list to replace” and replace the old list with your new list.

How is data kept current?
Ongoing maintenance of the registry is run by the OAR Team, who reach out to stakeholders, including facilities and brands, to ensure their lists are kept up to date. Each facility 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.

I want to change the name of a list I’ve uploaded to the OAR. How can I do that?

It is not possible to change the name of a list after it has been uploaded to the OAR. As a workaround, you could upload the list again with your preferred name and choose the option to “Select a list to replace”, replacing the incorrectly name list.

How can I request a facility be deleted from the OAR?

If you have identified a facility on the OAR, either on one of your lists or through searching the site, that you do not think should be in the database, you can email the OAR Team to request its deletion. Reasons for deletion include the existence of non-apparel facilities in the tool, e.g. food or electronics manufacturers. Please email the team and include the OAR ID number for the facility and an explanation of why you think the facility should be deleted. The team will then review your request in line with the OAR’s Moderation Policy and inform you of their decision.

I have more accurate GPS coordinates for a facility than the OAR lists. What should I do?

The OAR Team welcomes suggestions from users who have local knowledge of a facility and believe they have more accurate GPS coordinates for a facility. Please submit the details to the team, including the OAR ID number and your alternative GPS coordinates and the team will review your submission in line with our Moderation Policy.

How does the OAR prioritize which name or address appears as the primary entry at the top of a facility profile?

The OAR currently lists the first name address entered for a facility as the primary entry at the top of a facility profile. However, the OAR Team is aware that stronger names and addresses for a facility may subsequently be entered into the tool and appear in the “Also known as” and “Other addresses” section of the facility profile. The OAR Team periodically reviews the data contained in the tool, promoting more accurate and detailed name and address information to be the primary entry for a facility, in line with its Moderation Policy. If you come across an entry in the tool whose primary name and address information you believe should be updated, please email the team with the OAR ID number, details of the name and address you believe should be the primary entry and the reason why, and the OAR Team will look into your request.

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.

What geocoding system is used by the OAR?

The OAR uses Google for its geocoding. Whilst the system is not perfect, it is widely considered best in class.

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.

I’ve uploaded a list to the OAR; why can’t I see the facilities in the “My lists” section?

The three stages of processing the information in your facility list take time, for which reason you will initially see a page with a series of numbers, blank columns for country name, name and address and the status “UPLOADED” for each facility.

List items are scheduled for processing as soon as they are uploaded, but it is difficult to say with certainty how long it will take to complete the processing. 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.

My list has now been processed, but I still can’t see all of the entries from my list on the OAR map. Why is that?

Where the OAR’s matching algorithm is not confident enough to make a match automatically to existing facilities in the tool, the contributor will be asked to “Confirm” or “Reject” the match using buttons within the application. Until the user has completed this process, these entries from the facility list will not appear in searches of the map (either as new facilities or matched to existing facilities).

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 “Reject”.

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.

I don’t understand the statuses alongside the facilities in the “My lists” section. What do they mean?

UPLOADED: this means that the facility has been uploaded to the OAR and will begin the three processing steps each facility goes through on the system.

PARSED: this is the first of the three processing steps, in which the line is separated into distinct country, name, and address fields and the country field is verified against a list of known countries.

GEOCODED: the address and country are submitted to a service that returns a location on the globe corresponding to that country and address. This allows the application to show the location of the facility on a map. When a facility is listed as “geocoded” it means it has been successfully located and will appear on the OAR map.

GEOCODED_NO_RESULTS: this means that the name and address details have been submitted to the geocoder but do not contain sufficient information for the geocoder to return a result and plot the facility on the OAR map.

MATCHED: this means that the facility has been successfully processed and located by the system and matches with an existing entry in the OAR. Click through the listing to see who the other Contributors are that have added this facility to the database.

POTENTIAL_MATCH: this means that the algorithm that sits behind the OAR has detected several similarities between the name and address details submitted on your list for the facility and a facility that already exists in the OAR, but not with enough confidence to assume a match. For this reason, manual intervention is required 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 “Reject”. By confirming, your facility will be matched to an existing facility in the OAR and allocated a pre-existing OAR ID. By rejecting a match, a new facility will be created in the system and allocated a new, unique ID.

CONFIRMED_MATCH: when you have manually confirmed a potential match on your list, the status will update to CONFIRMED_MATCH.

NEW_FACILITY: this means that a facility has been successfully processed and located by the system and, because it is the first time this facility has been submitted to the OAR, created as a new facility in the database. As it is a new facility in the database, it will only show one Contributor, until such time as other organisation(s) upload the same facility to the database. A NEW_FACILITY will also be created when a POTENTIAL_MATCH is rejected.

ERROR: this error status means something unexpected has happened. If you see this status once your facility list has been processed, please report it to the OAR team who will investigate the issue further.

ERROR PARSING: this means that there is a problem with the data itself, rather than the address, such as data being split over multiple lines within a cell; the data being incomplete, e.g. missing the facility name, country name or address details.

ERROR_GEOCODING: this is a system error, rather than there being an issue with the data. If you have facilities on your list with this error message alongside them, you will need to resubmit them to the OAR. You can do this either by submitting a new list with just the facilities showing this message on the list, or you can resubmit your entire list again, replacing the original upload. In the future, we will be building an “automatic retry” function so that users do not have to resubmit the facility details which have produced this result. Keep checking back for updates.

ERROR MATCHING: this means that the address details have been run through the geocoding process, but there is an issue with the address and the geocoder cannot locate it. Common errors include inaccuracies in the address details, e.g. when the country specified does not match the rest of the address details (e.g. an address in Athens being listed with the country “United Kingdom”); a city name that does not exist; insufficient address details being submitted for the system to pick up.

We encourage users to look carefully at the address details that have produced this error message to troubleshoot the issue, including running searches in Google Maps. Users may need to reach out to the supplier in question to obtain more accurate address details.

For each of the three “ERROR” states above, users can click on the row to read more details about the cause of the error.

DELETED: this status appears when a facility has been deleted from the OAR database. It is no longer searchable through the map, but a historical record of its existence remains in the back-end of the OAR database. Only the OAR Team have the ability to delete a facility from the database. Instances in which a facility may be deleted from the database include non-apparel facilities having been incorrectly added to the tool, including food or electronics manufacturers. To view the OAR’s Moderation Policy, click here.

REMOVED: if an organisation no longer wants to be visibly connected with a facility on the OAR, it can remove it from its list, without deleting it from the OAR. The facility still exists publicly in the OAR and is searchable on the map, but its affiliation with that organisation is no longer visible. Instances in which a facility may be removed from a list include if a brand is no longer working with a facility.

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?

As of July 2019, the OAR includes a mechanism “Claim a facility” which enables facility owners and / or senior management to “claim” their facility profile on the OAR and add additional details including production capabilities, MOQs, lead times, certifications and more.

To claim your profile(s), search for your facility on the tool and click “Claim this facility”. If you do not already have an account on the OAR, you will be asked to create a free account. Once you have done this, you will be asked to complete three preliminary steps to verify your identity, which should take no more than 5 minutes. Once your claim has been reviewed and approved, you will be able to update facility location and address details, specify production details and certifications, share order minimums and lead times and add information about your head office and parent company (if applicable).

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.

Why aren’t all the facilities on my list showing at once?

For performance reasons, the OAR limits the number of results visible through any search to the first 500 results. If your list contains more than 500 facilities, only 500 will show at any given time. You can refine which facilities are displayed by using the search filters either individually or in combination, e.g. searching by your list AND a particular country, or combination of countries.

Following user feedback, we are working to increase the number of results visible at once. Keep checking back for updates on progress.

Why are only 500 results visible at once?

For performance reasons, the decision was made when the OAR first launched to limit the number of search results visible at once to 500. However, following user feedback, we are working to increase the number of results visible at once. Keep checking back for updates on progress.

I want to download more than 500 results from the OAR: how can I do that?

It is possible to download more than 500 results at once from the OAR using our API. If you are unsure how to use an API, please ask your IT team for support. If you do not have an IT team, unfortunately the OAR Team is unable to provide assistance due to limited team resources. We would recommend running a series of searches which produce 500 or fewer results and downloading each search individually.

Following user feedback, we are working to increase the number of results which can be downloaded in one go, without using the API. Keep checking back for updates on progress.

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.

You can watch a webinar about the OAR here, which explains some of the different benefits the tool can bring.

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.

Is the OAR an attempt to drive forced transparency?

The OAR is a neutral, non-profit organisation, committed to ensuring that any organisation can access better quality name and address information and OAR IDs, for free. Use of, and sharing information through, the OAR is voluntary and it is not an attempt to force transparency on the apparel industry. However, for those organisations who are eager to be transparent about their supply chain, whilst also accessing better quality name and address data, it provides a mechanism to share information about suppliers.

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, Higg, SEDEX, SLCP and ZDHC.

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. 

Open source platforms

The OAR is an open source platform. What does that mean?

Open source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance. ("Source code" is the part of software that most computer users don't ever see; it's the code computer programmers can manipulate to change how a piece of software—a "program" or "application"—works.) Source

You can view the OAR’s source code on our GitHub repository: https://github.com/open-apparel-registry/open-apparel-registry

What is open data?

Open data is data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.

There are two key elements to openness:

1) Legal openness

2) Technical openness

Three important principles of open data are what make it so powerful:

1) Availability and Access: that people can get the data

2) Re-use and Redistribution: that people can reuse and share the data

3) Universal Participation: that anyone can use the data

Source

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