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May 17th, 2018

7 Reasons Fashion & Retail Brands Need PLM, by Pam Buckingham, PLM expert and consultant

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is no longer an optional luxury for today’s fashion and retail brands. It’s essential for efficiency, global communication and transparency.

Here are seven top reasons to find a PLM that suits your needs, whatever the size of your business.

1. Pressure on the go-to-market calendar

Everyone in your organization who is involved in getting a product to market on time, from designers to merchandise planners, is under serious time pressure. Fast fashion timelines are now standard across the industry, target times are extremely tight and customers expect to be able to ‘see now, buy now’.

How do you collaborate internally and externally to make it easier to get products to market, and reduce the time from the designer’s idea to the product getting into your customer’s hands? PLM provides transparency and visibility, making it possible to examine timelines and make targeted cuts to improve efficiency.

2. Growth

Growth is a wonderful problem to have, but higher demand for your products brings challenges. Growing numbers of SKUs, potential acquisitions, more suppliers, restructuring, new lines…It can be tempting to just throw more people at the problem, but eventually you’ll reach a point where it’s no longer possible to manage everything with Excel and email.

How do you leverage processes and technology to work more efficiently without having to hire more people? PLM offers a technological foundation to support growth and manage a more complex supply chain using your existing resources.

3. Being and staying compliant

Safety and compliance are huge issues for brands and retailers, particularly if you produce children’s items or any sort of protection equipment. PLM can help keep supplier certifications up to date and track compliance across different regions and components. When regulations change, having a comprehensive product & component library in PLM makes it easy to figure out which products need to be re-tested, set expiry reminders and maintain up-to-date documentation for each SKU.

A PLM solution can also help track your intellectual property from the moment it is created, setting up an IP library that you can check for possible patent or trademark infringements. In another little-known benefit for companies, PLM can track research and development of new products for R & D tax credits, depending on where you are based: simply export the yearly data to your accountants and let them save you money.

4. Speaking the same language

Having a single version of the truth is critical. Have you ever gone into a meeting and seen different departments present different figures, supposedly based on the same data? Not speaking the same language makes work life confusing, hectic and heated.

Often, you need the same data presented in multiple formats for different business processes. With PLM, you can generate different reports and views from one central real-time database depending on your needs, which can vastly cut the time needed to prepare reports and presentations. The same reports, tech packs and BOMs are sent to factories and suppliers, regardless of who is providing the information, which ensures consistent communication.

5. Data integration

Ensuring alignment of data throughout the organization is a massive timesaver. Having to re-key master data into other systems creates frustration, wastes time and will result in errors and unreliable data.

An effective PLM solution will integrate master data across different brands, categories and enterprise systems, creating consistent product definition. A central repository of master data that is updated in real time touches everyone in your company. It frees up team members to spend time creating work of more strategic value to the organization.

6. Timeline risk management

Have you ever had to air freight in products? Had to deal with last minute additions to the line, or changes that affect production schedules? It happens to all of us. However, it doesn’t have to completely derail your plans.

Having a PLM solution in place makes it possible to plan ahead more effectively and manage challenges early in the process, identifying risks that are coming through the production cycle and addressing issues as they happen. Creating calendars and workflows allows teams to pay closer attention to exceptions, change plans accordingly and manage expectations.

7. You can’t bring a product to the market effectively without technology

Can you think of anything you do in business today that cannot be improved with technology? Twenty years ago, the internet was a brand new thing and now it runs our lives. Just like the internet, PLM is no longer a luxury, and it doesn’t have to be a huge system that requires lots of hardware and resources.

Today’s PLM solutions are light, fast, and often easy to implement. PLM is the foundation for digital transformation in product development. Once in place, it paves the way for the addition of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and 3D printing.

The world is changing fast, and PLM is essential for fashion and retail brands to keep up. PLM is not just a tool. It’s a philosophy and a thought process that will completely change the way you work for the better.

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