Technology has made consumers smarter, markets bigger and the required speed of operations much faster. As fast-fashion becomes the industry norm, it’s a constant race against time to get your products to market – quicker than the competition. Moreover, globalization has made this competition fiercer. Today, you can find inspiration in Italy, design in the USA, get raw material from Japan, manufacture in Bangladesh and finally sell in Canada. This means that multiple departments, organizations and vendors need to work together to adapt to changing demands and create new products – all at precisely the right time. To make this possible, all operations – from design to store – require parallel processing, making the design and supply chains exponentially more complex – and intertwined.
Fortunately, as the market, supply chain and consumers themselves change, technology is evolving too. PLM software is the technology that can centralize all these processes on one platform and transform the way organizations plan, design, develop and source products.
The fashion industry is arguably the fastest moving business there is. Because trends are constantly changing, designing and developing new apparel lines are vital tasks for any fashion brand. Whether you manufacture footwear, clothing, accessories or specialty products, you recognize the complexities and collaborative effort required to do it efficiently. Furthermore, you understand the need to reduce development time and increase speed to market. Why so much pressure, you ask? It’s quite simple – the market has shifted to a customer-centric model, in which new products are trend-based, meaning there is a limited window of opportunity to sell.
Despite the availability of sophisticated technology, many manufacturers experience frustration caused by manual product development processes. There are multiple factors at play that prevent efficient operations:
At the end of the day, all of these difficulties stem from having to manage multiple moving parts. This leads to a bottleneck in production and slower speed to market.
PLM software allows all product data to be stored in one centralized repository, creating one version of the truth and eliminating guesswork that inevitably leads to costly errors. Standardization is achieved through rule sets that dictate both uniform naming conventions and product SKUs. This regularization makes it easier for both internal and external parties to work in unison.
Communication also becomes more efficient through the use of such software. For example, time spent on tedious back and forth emails can be drastically reduced by allowing dialogue to take place directly within the PLM software. As the development process moves through each stage, changes are inevitable – perhaps buttons in a new design will be replaced with zippers, or the liner fabric has to be modified due to availability. A PLM system allows everyone to see each change that was made, and by whom it was made. This is useful as it may dictate actions that others will need to take in the future. Unification of spreadsheets is another advantage that allows users to create meaningful searches and mass updates on all related documentation. By significantly reducing time to market, PLM software boosts innovation, thus affecting both bottom and top line growth for the brand.
A great idea or brilliant design can come to mind at anytime. To keep up, designers need a tool that allows them to begin creating the moment inspiration strikes. In a time when mobility is king and speed is the name of the game, PLM systems are no longer anchored to the desktop. Easily portable functionality allows designers to snap a picture and start a style directly from their handheld devices. They can then continue to create on-the-go or seamlessly continue working when back at the office. Mobility also fosters increased collaboration, as built-in text messaging and email functions allow collaborators to share information, feedback and, ultimately, get a high quality design out for sourcing or manufacturing as soon as possible.
In today’s world of fickle and demanding consumers, brands need to be responsive and tuned into the customer’s voice. This is precisely the greatest advantage of an integrated PLM software. It makes the journey from design to product-on-shelf easier, quicker and smoother. With streamlined sourcing, procurement and manufacturing processes, there is more time to create designs and take them to market.
Furthermore, a PLM system can be easily integrated with merchandising solutions, allowing for reverse engineering. For example, if a particular design is doing well but the store has received many inquiries for availability in other colors or other patterns, it can be brought back to the designers to create the variations that the customers demand. Now, when your Instagram account is being flooded with questions about color options for your new line of skirts, you can adapt and experiment with providing more alternatives in the next season’s collection.
An integrated PLM system fortifies the supply chain to become more agile and responsive to the demand-driven marketplace. Information flows at each stage of the chain, eliminating the need for repetitive data entry and unnecessary steps. In a nutshell, an integrated PLM system offers the following benefits:
A PLM software that is integrated into an end-to-end ERP platform can provide complete control of operations from design to shelf. It is provenly more effective than a stand-alone PLM system as it transforms the supply chain into a fluid network rather than a linear path, giving a multi-directional view of the product. It enables product life cycle management to become a company strategy/approach rather than a mere process.
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