The Five Pillars of A Successful PLM Project
It’s important to find a Product Lifecycle Management solution that does what you need it to do. But a successful implementation is about much more than just functional footprint. We have helped deliver PLM-driven business transformation projects around the world – for everyone from micro-brands to multinational retailers. So join us as we outline our five top tips for PLM success:
1. Find the right PLM partner.
PLM software for fashion and retail is not like PLM for other industries. Whether it’s integration to Adobe Illustrator or a module just for material development, a fashion-specific PLM solution should come packaged with processes and workflows that a multi-vertical solution will not.
And the same goes for identifying the right PLM partner: fashion focus counts. A vendor who sells to multiple industries might not know the difference between a calendar that starts with a material and one that starts with a silhouette – and the knowledge gap will only get wider from there.
But be careful that expertise doesn’t come at the expense of scalability. Make sure the vendors you shortlist have enough on-demand talent to manage your project from technical implementation to training, and to ensure a strong level of ongoing support.
2. Assemble the right project team.
The resources your PLM project needs to succeed don’t just come from third parties. Today, PLM projects are business-wide digital transformation initiatives, and whether you’re ready to implement and integrate, or just looking around, your PLM project team needs to be made up of the right in-house people.
Once upon a time, your I.T. team might have just chosen your PLM vendor, but PLM selection today should have input from:
- Garment technicians and patternmakers
- Sourcing and supply chain professionals
- Sustainability advocates
- Marketing teams
As well as other stakeholders and champions across your full spectrum of domestic and even international design and development teams.
And this multi-disciplinary team also needs room to breathe. To focus on delivering a successful PLM project, these key people need to know their day-to-day jobs are being covered – so be prepared to divert talent from other departments, or even hire new team members on a contingent basis.
3. Manage your cultural change.
Not everyone will see the value of PLM right away. And with the right business case, obtaining executive buy-in can seem easy compared to securing end user adoption, end-to-end from design to distribution.
Once you choose your PLM solution and provider, and pick your project team, encourage your champions to take time to regularly bring users into the conversation – and to act on their input. And remember to communicate not just the value of PLM to the enterprise bottom line, but its potential to improve day-to-day processes for everyone.
To help spearhead this cultural change, your organization might need to consider adding new roles to assign responsibilities such as:
- Overseeing workflows and calendars.
- Owning the ongoing adoption and use of PLM.
- Driving further value from your chosen solution
- Administering user roles in-house and in the extended supply chain.
But PLM should not be seen as a burden for recruitment to bear. By automating time-consuming administrative tasks, PLM can liberate your existing teams to spend more time on value-added areas such as:
- Improving variety and innovation in design.
- Better managing sustainability and supply chain agility.
- Transforming data governance and information sharing.
- Taking a more data-driven approach to costing, improving product margins.
- Better coordinating product development calendars to reduce time to market and respond quicker to emerging trends.
And much more.
4. Ensuring extensibility.
Your PLM project is likely driven by immediate challenges and opportunities. Things like getting to market faster, cutting operational costs, or launching a new private label brand or product category.
But in the long term, the same processes and functionality that have delivered these and other benefits can also deliver value across the end-to-end digital ecosystem – provided you set PLM up to be your centralized system of record, integrating it to other software and solutions.
What this web of connectivity will look like will be as unique as your business is, but when it comes to making your PLM project a success, it’s important to look for compounded benefits beyond core PLM processes.
For example, consider what happens when a style becomes a SKU – how is the hand-off to ERP managed? By connecting the two systems, material and labor costs – along with all the important creative product specifics – can be shared with the commercial side of the business, powering more accurate, informed decision-making.
Similarly, the PLM material and style libraries that support your design and development processes can be pushed to a 3D visualization solution, to enable virtual sampling. And the same Bill of Material data, sourcing information, and costing scenarios that live in your PLM environment can be used to negotiate better prices with material suppliers and manufacturers.
Your PLM project could have huge potential as the launchpad for business-wide digital transformation – provided you find a PLM partner who understands that end-to-end vision, and that PLM can be the engine at the heart of it.
5. Stick to the upgrade path.
From reports to business units, product categories to supplier scorecards, there are two ways to make your chosen PLM solution fit your business: configuration or customization.
The configuration is a non-destructive process that involves making changes to settings within the software to adapt it to your needs. Although configuration can be performed by non-technical people, it relies on a solution having an adaptable structure and data model under the hood.
Customization is the opposite: a destructive process that involves re-coding components of the software to support a particular process or business rule.
Over time, the PLM industry has moved away from customization because, unlike configured solutions, customized ones are expensive and difficult (or even impossible) to upgrade. To ensure that your PLM project is future-proof, select a PLM partner whose software and implementation prioritize configuration.
Charles Benoualid is the Vice President of Research and Development at CGS inc.