CGS BlueCherry Next™ PLM Launch: Our Key Takeaways
PLM Experts Say ‘Digitize or Disappear’
“Digitize or disappear.” Those are the three words PLM veteran Mark Harrop encouraged participants to ponder during the recent webinar, BlueCherry Next™ PLM: A New Solution Powering Innovation and Collaboration. Harrop, founder and CEO of the WhichPLM and Interline online magazines, said lessons of tough pandemic months have shown how increased digitization and collaboration are needed “like never before.”
His sentiments were reinforced by the webinar’s other presenter, Charles Benoualid, CGS vice president of R&D. Both speakers shared strategies, tactics and solutions that global retailers and consumer brands can use to make sure they don’t disappear but rather digitize and thrive. They emphasized the importance of integrating product lifecycle management (PLM) with multiple technology platforms and best-of-breed solutions, including:
- enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce
- business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce
- 3D solutions
- platforms of testing laboratories, color services and audit bureaus
Bridging the gaps between systems and their respective data inputs and outputs will enable stronger collaboration between teams, customers and consumers. Continuing to work in isolation limits business value. “We’ve got to pull all of these platforms together down the PLM highway,” Harrop said.
Challenges Driving Change
What is driving this need to digitize? Harrop described two interrelated challenges. First, there are expectations of conscious consumers who are increasingly concerned about socially responsible manufacturing and environmental sustainability. Heightened consumer attention on these issues is prompting not just businesses but also governments, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and investors to focus more on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable business practices.
Second, the fashion industry’s traditional processes and business models are too inefficient and generate too much waste. Large-volume orders and over-production are no longer sustainable — environmentally or economically. “It’s now a time for change,” Harrop said. “We need to move from this over-production to on-demand, smaller orders, cycled faster and sold at full margin.”
This need has become especially urgent amid the impacts of COVID-19 on the retail industry and its global supply chains. With more online commerce and fewer overall orders, it’s more important than ever to work efficiently and collaboratively. Couple this with a need for strong CSR, and the result is that retailers and brands require greater levels of value chain visibility and transparency. They need new ways to track and trace processes, workflows and products, and they need to generate far less waste.
Powerful PLM Capabilities
To meet today’s challenges head-on, global retailers, consumer brands and manufacturers need new technology in their corner. During the webinar, Benoualid discussed how the CGS BlueCherry Next PLM solution meets many imperatives of doing business in a demand-driven supply chain. Harrop provided context for how PLM technology advances in general are trending to meet market needs. Here are six capabilities they highlighted:
1. One version of facts and workflow: A new take on “one version of the truth,” next-generation PLM delivers this by interfacing with data across different software solutions and platforms. “By linking them, we get compounded improvements in efficiency,” Harrop said. Reliance on PLM portals and PDFs are not good enough, nor are spreadsheets, emails, phone calls and faxes. The data needs to be made available in real time via desktop or mobile, on a cloud platform.
2. Expose data to the ecosystem: In this case, the ecosystem refers to people and platforms that need to use the data. For example, multiple parties, from suppliers to marketers to consumers, might benefit from secure access to mood boards and other product development data. They use it for different purposes throughout the product lifecycle, not just toward the end. With digital storyboarding built into PLM, “we can prepare everyone in the value chain about what’s coming and what it’s going to look like,” said Benoualid. This helps the supply chain react faster.
3. Connect platforms and best-of-breed solutions: Gone are the days of expecting a single PLM solution to be the originating point for all product data. Instead, the modern PLM platform acts as the centralized, connecting hub for core product information that does start in PLM plus data flowing in and out from other tools and platforms. For example, PLM can be integrated with auditing and certification firms that monitor, track and verify that factories, trim or materials comply with socially responsible practices. With this information at their fingertips, teams can perform their roles efficiently while meeting CSR objectives.
Along those lines, PLM also should integrate with shop-floor control (SFC) solutions to help monitor whether vendors are working within established capacity thresholds and not over-working factory associates or subcontracting work without authorization. “One plus one should equal two,” Benoualid said. “If it equals three, we’ve got a compliance issue.”
4. E-commerce integrations: An important type of platform for PLM to “talk to” automatically is e-commerce. PLM serves as the foundational system for digital asset management and product information management. In order words, PLM stores data in diverse formats, including the files, bits and bytes that need to feed seamlessly to e-commerce platforms. Whether it’s a 3D product image, descriptive text or shipping dimensions, there should be no need for the brand or retailer to perform data reentry or manual uploads. Within BlueCherry Next PLM, there is a configurator capability for managing unique customer requirements while leveraging common data — a familiar challenge made easy.
5. Leveraging 3D: The COVID-19 pandemic, with its restrictions on face-to-face interactions and travel, has accelerated the use of 3D technology in the retail industry, Harrop said. There are 3D use cases involving consumers, who can scan themselves and send their body data to e-commerce sites to help with purchasing clothes that fit. And within the supply chain, 3D design and development enable brands to dramatically speed up line development and fit validation. Last but not least, finished 3D designs are often ready to expose to shoppers online.
BlueCherry Next PLM integrates with best-of-breed 3D solutions so that actual material properties and fit can be accurately simulated. “You’ve got to have the material physics,” Harrop said. “You’re got to have the physics inside as well as the graphical aesthetics. Bringing in the physics is part of the magic sauce.”
6. No-code PLM: There is always code behind every software, but with a PLM platform like BlueCherry Next, you don’t have to be a programmer or systems administrator to make some basic changes. The platform is highly configurable, and a super user can be trained on how to add or rename content fields, update workflows, or change the look of a screen. There is no need to involve the software vendor.
“The no-code capability is empowering our users to shape their future to match the changes they as a company are going through without involving us at every step of the way,” said Benoualid. “It’s a great toolkit to help customers leverage their PLM investment.”
Ready to Learn More?
Are you ready to digitize your value chain with a futureproof PLM solution? For more information, contact CGS today to learn more about digitizing your value chain and leveraging the BlueCherry Next PLM platform.