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Get On The Fast Track To Fast-fashion With PLM Software

Tags: communication designing fast-fashion PLM product lifecycle management productivity software speed to market

The Need for Speed

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 Challenges Fashion Brands Need to Overcome

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:

  1. Lack of centralized data: manual processes are often disjointed and labor-intensive, meaning data isn’t centralized or standardized, so a single version of the truth is impossible to achieve.
  2. Version control: a finished design goes through many stages and versions before the final masterpiece is created. Managing these changes using disconnected spreadsheets just further complicates an already complex process.
  3. Compliance issues: apparel designs involve different color, size and dimensional characteristics, which means that the margin for error is especially high – particularly if all these factors are accounted for separately, instead of in one single place. The quality of the product is therefore directly related to adherence to specifications and errors could not only cost additional expenses for rework and write-offs but could also mar the brand image.
  4. Encumbered collaboration: when external departments and team members (e.g. manufacturers or suppliers) can’t effectively collaborate within a central system to share ideas and insight, creativity and innovation are impeded. Being able to easily share ideas and feedback fosters an environment where innovation can thrive.     

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.

The Advantages of Adopting PLM Software

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.

The Importance of Mobility

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.

Adding Value to The Supply Chain

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.

What PLM Software Does For You

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:

  1. Shorter time-to-market
  2. Increased productivity
  3. Increase in revenue and reduction in costs
  4. Improvement in product quality
  5. Increase in full price sales
  6. Advanced collaboration for driving innovation
  7. Reduced compliance risks

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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