Dealing with samples, revisions and shipments means manufacturers need to keep track of a wealth of information on a daily basis. Carefully managing this information is crucial as manufacturers work to tighter and tighter deadlines from brands and retailers who are feeling the pressure of increasing customer demand. A modern solution that makes it easier to manage the process of receiving a tech pack to delivering the product and getting it to retail, while keeping track of your profit margin, is a must have for any manufacturing business.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) provides this solution. It’s a central repository for all product-related data and communications, updated in real time. Relying on emails, PDFs, spreadsheets and paperwork that are stored on individuals’ private desktops becomes a thing of the past when everything you need is stored in a user-friendly ‘single source of the truth’ system. Bringing this transparency into your business allows you to view the entire pre-production process which is crucial for keeping track of your profit margin.
A PLM solution is no longer just necessary for brands and retailers- the benefits for manufacturers are huge. But how do you know if your business is ready to move away from the processes you know and adopt a modern PLM solution instead? We asked our APAC Regional Sales Director, Nick Wei, who works with global manufacturers to help them solve their challenges using PLM, to share key things that manufacturers should look out for that are tell-tale signs that your business is ready for PLM.
1. Searching for information is often a job in itself
When information is stored in various formats in lots of different places including email, WeChat, WhatsApp, Google Drive, Excel and even on paper, of course it’s going to be a challenge to find what you need last minute! Perhaps you need to find a material code from a supplier but you have so many emails, it’s hard to tell which code is the right one? So you need to use another communication channel to try and get in touch with them…
Searching for information wastes valuable time and puts more pressure on meeting schedules and delivery dates. Can you give a customer an immediate answer when they ask a question about a product? If the answer isn’t always ‘yes’ then it’s definitely time to think about centralizing all your data. With PLM, everything is stored in one place so there’s no need to guess where information is.
2. You don’t have time to keep essential information including sample BOM up-to-date
During the negotiation process with customers, product information is often altered more than once, whether it’s changes in price or material, trims or workmanship. Every time a piece of information is changed, the BOM also needs to be edited to reflect the updates. Do you struggle to find the time to do this during the crazy sampling season? Then do you kick yourself when you realize you shipped your customer’s products using the wrong BOM for those products- meaning you lost money on the order?
Updating information in various places wastes precious time. Without one central hub to store all information, you can rarely feel confident which source of data is most up-to-date. Nobody has time or can afford the costs of guessing games. When you’re juggling so much information and dealing with various teams and suppliers, it’s essential that everyone is on the same page.
Imagine having only one place to update the BOM – PLM provides just that!
3. You want to make more products but you’re worried you don’t have the production capacity
Are you turning away work because you don’t have the production capacity to make more products and you don’t have the budget to hire additional people?
Without a solid workflow in place, it can be hard to determine the production capacity of your existing team. With PLM, you’re given the ability to oversee and adjust workflows based on SMV so that you can say ‘yes’ to more customer requests and you’ll realize that you don’t need to bring on a whole new team to manage new or amended product delivery schedules
Adding more products to your database is quick and easy with PLM as you can copy existing information already stored in the system to create tech packs and BOMs. With an accurate overview of the whole supply chain, less time is spent trying to work out where you need to make cutbacks. For example, it may be clear looking at PLM that you need to reduce your material yield, as all the information is in front of you. Teams can free up more time to focus on value added tasks like adding more products to your workflow.
Taking on more business requires more free hours, not more employees – and luckily a good PLM offers just that!
4. Everyone is working reactively and there’s no time for more valuable, proactive initiatives such as design and development
Most modern manufacturers now have a design support team to co-create with customers. Being able to provide design intelligence to your customer will soon be the norm so if your business is lacking this service, you could lose customers and also the ability to make more money!
On top of this, the end-consumer is demanding products faster and many also want products that are sustainable – but at no extra cost. It’s even more critical than ever to invest time in researching and developing materials and products so you can satisfy these expectations. Is this a priority but in reality it feels like an impossible challenge because nobody has time to think about the future when you’re struggling to keep up with things like day- to-day tasks and avoiding late shipment costs?
PLM is proven to free up time so that it can be better spent on things like testing new materials, lowering costs, improving quality, adding more SKUs and delivering samples even faster which will be much more valuable to your success than teams wasting time dealing with frustrations from scattered data.
5. People are spending chunks of their days in meetings rather than doing their assigned jobs
Do you find yourself in yet another meeting with no time left to do your actual work? Do you finish meetings and often think that there must be a quicker way to make decisions? When there’s no clear process for making decisions or place for teams to find up-to-date information, meetings are usually the only way to get everyone together to collaborate and make important decisions.
PLM eliminates the need for so many meetings because when information is updated, everyone can see the changes. That includes your internal teams where you might have sales offices in New York, Hong Kong, London and your factory in Dongguan, Myanmar and Cambodia and your external partners such as your fabric supplier, trim suppliers- the list goes on and on. PLM has no geographical limits!
Imagine the scenario, a customer has asked for a jacket to have a zip instead of buttons. Instead of having a meeting to discuss how to accomplish this and trying to work out a time that works for all time zones to discuss questions like, ‘Do you need a different supplier?’, ‘Does it mean a change in timelines for the completed product?’, PLM is updated in real time, gives you various options and the ability to make a quick decision that is shared by all.
Sound like a better way to spend your work day?
6. You dread last minute changes or having to adapt your process
The industry continually shifts because of geo-political events, customer requirements and market forces and everyone must fluidly adjust in order to stay competitive. For manufacturers, reacting quickly while minimizing risk can feel impossible especially if all your processes don’t link together. Does a small update mean updating information in 5 different places and hoping that you didn’t miss one?
Adapting workflows and updating information is simple with PLM and it can link with other systems within your business such as ERP and CAD – the best thing is, you only need to update it in one place.
PLM can develop your enterprise knowledge base: linking your basic style with your pattern library, operation bulletin and the SMV value. It also helps you to develop your customer knowledge base including their grading rules and tech pack format so that everything is combined into one workflow and you can respond to any enquiry faster.
7. Customer relationships are difficult and trust is running thin
Your customers trust you to deliver the product they have asked for on time, on budget and to their quality standards. Are you constantly worried about missing these deadlines yet find yourself reassuring customers that you’ll make it even when you’re not sure yourself? Working like this puts huge pressure and stress on teams and when you miss a deadline the repercussions are rarely good when you’ve been giving a customer false promises.
If you wish there was a way to demonstrate more trust and transparency with your customers and suppliers that will also help you keep close track of deadlines, then you are ready for PLM.
Most companies recognize very quickly that PLM will be an incredible asset to their business and offers a whole host of benefits. It gives you complete visibility of workflows, linking everything together so that deadlines aren’t missed and clients are satisfied every time. PLM helps to save time and effort by tracking, reporting and capturing information across suppliers, partners and customers in one place and gives manufacturers the agility to adapt to changes quickly.
Ready to speak to someone today about how to take the next step in your journey into PLM? Request a demo.
Hungry for more? Find out more about how PLM specifically benefits manufacturers in our in-depth whitepaper, available to download now.