July 05, 2017

Speed-up Your Products with Integrated PLM

In June of 2017, Apparel Magazine published the 12th annual survey gathered with Gartner into the apparel industry’s adoption and use of PLM. The results indicate that the industry is embracing digital technologies to integrate all aspects of their business. However, there is still a need to integrate a lot more product information that still exists in siloes. This means the information is not shared in real-time across teams collaborating internally at a company. 

Apparel writes, “Only when investments in digital PLM grow to match investments in other digital systems in the supply chain and in customer- or consumer-facing environments will apparel companies be able to create digital business moments that engage their customers fully and allow them to grow revenue at a healthy pace in this continued uncertain economic and global environment.”

There is very real opportunity for apparel companies to use PLM strategies to create those digital business moments, as Gartner calls them. These moments are a “time where people, businesses, and internet-enabled “things” come together and work to solve a problem, meet a need or create value.”

Additional research from Gartner about the top of mind concerns for CEOs and business leaders shows that IT-related investments round out the top three, along with growth and product investments. Integrated PLM addresses all three of these concerns, so it is understandable that most apparel companies are interested in increasing their use of current PLM systems or are interested in launching these strategies.

Data, research, and reports from users indicate that PLM does contribute to a company’s bottom line, even if that data is not extremely precise at this time.  Gartner’s survey results, year over year, show that the most consistent added value from PLM is in process standardization. However, there are several additional benefits companies experience with integrated PLM that are worth knowing and exploring. In the sections below, we will expand on the top three additional benefits.

PLM, Product development, ERP

1. Accelerated-Time-to-Market through efficient, improved product development

• The main benefit of integrating ERP and PLM is that product information will be shared in real-time, resulting in one version of the truth across the company and for external vendors. The result is a reduction in delays and errors, and implementing changes is seamless. 

• Over time, the increased use of PLM systems will expand to include concept steps by working with the AI plugin (integration). The design teams have been slower to adopt technological changes into their workflow. However, tech-savvy, younger generations graduating today, already use computers in the creative process and for them, it is second nature. Once the concept steps are also in the PLM system, all departments will be aware of any potential problems with design earlier in the process. This will result in fewer iterations, and smoother collaboration between design, product development and sourcing. Additionally, companies will be able to improve design quality, and everyone can strive to meet targets for margins from the beginning of the process.

• PLM systems include a digital asset manager which allows managers to download images and arrange them in a collection while it is in development.  In a few simple clicks, everyone can quickly view the entire line, and requests for changes or feedback can be sent effortlessly across internal and external teams.

• The digital asset manager is also mobile which allows managers to upload product images directly, and classify and tag the items. Stakeholders will be able to access PLM data from anywhere, reducing possible changes missed while information is passing between important parties.


PLM, Line planning, Profitability, ERP

2. Increased margins and profitability through line planning

• The main benefit from line management, which allows you to share the line plan before development begins, is an accurate forecast on the profitability of a line. This can streamline productivity and improve the margins on a line.

• In line planning, managers forecast trends and demand by looking at the previous year’s business against the current designs in the PLM system. Changes and iterations are made while keeping a shared, single view of data for the whole organization. Everyone stays on the same page, working with a unified vision of the product line.

• An ERP system will produce data that also helps managers decide how many items to create for each category (shirts, dresses, etc.) to meet demand and cost or sales targets.

• The data and pre-production analysis, as well as margins set during line planning, allows retailers to develop towards a certain wholesale price and keeps designers in line with those goals.

• Line planning helps companies determine how much merchandise to send to different locations and stores, which helps to reduce markdowns from excess stock at some locations, or running out of stock at other locations.

PLM, Costs, Vendor management, ERP

3. Total visibility on costs, compliance, and shipments with vendor management

• Collaboration is a key benefit to shared visibility across the entire supply chain. PLM systems share RFQs and tech packs in real-time, which makes managing production schedules jointly with partners easier. This accelerates the production process and helps ensure on-time delivery.

• Using PLM software, partners can submit quotes, update production schedules, manage purchase orders, and provide shipping details. Seeing the details in real time allows companies to manage any emerging issues or delays quickly as they occur.

• Vendors can send status updates through PLM or ERP on items like sample evaluation, feedback on colors and fabrics, or when samples are shipped and received. All suppliers and vendors will know what to expect and when to expect it.

• PLM also enables companies to request quotes from a variety of suppliers and then base their purchasing decisions on what is within budget, making managing budgets and margins easier.

Compliance for CPSIA is supported in PLM collaboration tools as well. Vendors and manufacturers can upload all test results that are required based on the product they manufacture, which is usually critical for products like children’s wear.

The benefits listed above, with the use of integrated PLM systems in product development, line planning, and vendor management, lead to one major benefit: faster time to market.

When using integrated PLM systems across the entire range of business processes needed to bring products to market, retailers can expect greater efficiency, better margins, and faster time to market. According to the Gartner / Apparel survey, of the companies surveyed, “21% have achieved faster time to market with PLM, and 39% of respondents hope to achieve faster time to market.” In today’s fast-paced fashion environment, this benefit cannot be understated.

Read more of what our experts have to say about Integrated Supply Chain: The Foundation for Responsive Omnichannel Fashion.