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April 7th, 2020     5 MIN READ

Cape Union Mart: Leveraging Centric PLM™ to Empower Teams in Critical Times — #HowTechHelps

For this edition of our #HowTechHelps series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Renée Jain, Enterprise Application Manager at multi-chain retailer, Cape Union Mart.

Renée’s insightful interview sheds light on how teams at Cape Union Mart are benefiting from greater visibility, efficiency, agility, and streamlined collaboration thanks to their strong digital foundation with Centric PLM.

Read on to learn just how critical PLM has been for this retailer in the face of a global health crisis.

Renée Jain, Enterprise Application Manager, on #HowCentricPLMHelps

Cape Union Mart’s journey with Centric Software®

At Cape Union Mart I support the Planning, Merchandising and Supply Chain Systems across our five chains: Cape Union Mart, Old Khaki, Poetry, Tread+Miller and Keedo.  Although all five are apparel, they are wonderfully diverse with Keedo and its babywear, Tread+Miller offering beautifully crafted leather shoes, Old Khaki catering for a younger, trendier l market, Poetry with its beautifully curated range of womenswear and finally our cornerstone, Cape Union Mart, with its extensive range of outdoor gear and clothing. 

We started our implementation a year ago and took the first chain live in September last year.  Our phased rollout completed with the last chain going live in February. 

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Whilst we enable our business units through a single set of systems, we provide each chain with its own “flavor” with applications that are highly configurable, allowing us to build the chain’s DNA right into their use of the IT systems.  Specifically, we use Centric PLM for our entire sourcing, design and buying functions.  Centric PLM is a great example of how we can tailor an application to best fit the DNA of each of our chains, but at the same time, the implementation of the system over the past year has been instrumental in aligning processes, terminology and even critical paths — an unexpected bonus!

The impact of the pandemic on the retail business

Like in many countries around the globe, in South Africa we are all working from home for the next three weeks and all of our stores are closed, which of course has resulted in a notable drop in sales.  With the country’s economy stalled now, we are having to re-evaluate current stock holding which is now only being sold online, orders in transit which cannot be cleared into the country and orders being manufactured which will no longer be needed or be too late to launch as we move into winter.  And all this coordination between our merchandise teams, distribution centers, clearing agents and suppliers is now happening virtually

 On top of that, we completed reviews last week and now need to get on with placing orders for the coming season without really understanding the impact of the pandemic on that!

Reacting quickly to market disruptions with Centric PLM

The sudden lockdowns and strict travel bans around the world have forced us to act fast and make quick, strategic decisions to adapt to the situation.

Centric PLM has been instrumental in enabling us to do so. Much of the sourcing and buying process was already being done by our geographically dispersed teams, so remote collaboration was in place — however, this pandemic has taken it to another level! 

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It all comes down to the visibility for us. The fact that Centric PLM gives us such great visibility on the entire supply chain process has allowed teams to rapidly decide on which orders to cancel or which products to push out. This has an impact on our potential margins, so it’s vital for us to be able to make these decisions while having a clear view of what that’ll mean for our business. 

These views that we have set up in Centric PLM also allow us to easily see what the range will look like once we cancel certain orders and if the collection will still make sense as a whole.

Empowering remote collaboration

For our teams, the transition into working from home has been quite easy thanks to technology!

Whereas our teams were used to sitting next to each other in an office, they are now learning to be on conference calls whilst looping our suppliers in.  And this is so perfectly supported by Centric PLM being cloud-based, usable on any device and readily available to our teams no matter where they are in the world.

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As people are getting used to their new normal, we are seeing more and more of them working directly on tablets, rather than relying solely on their PCs.  So between Zoom and Centric PLM, we have managed to move our buying workforce into isolation with almost no issues!

Increasing user adoption & boosting efficiency

Before we all started working from home, Centric PLM was internally seen as the “buyer’s tool”. Management relied on their teams to pull data from the PLM system before, but now they’ve adopted the platform themselves. This has allowed managers to have full visibility on where teams are with creating new styles for the coming season, raising quotes, getting quotes approved, the margins on those quotes, and ensuring samples have been sent out and the tracking has been done.

I had managed a Centric PLM implementation previously at Ackermans so, luckily, I was ahead of the curve and had already created easy-to-use task management flow.

I suspect teams are more efficient now while working from home. Whereas they used to get up and approach their colleagues to explain tasks they had assigned to each other within Centric PLM, now they simply go into the system and get on with their tasks.

Finding ways to make these processes as efficient as possible is especially important when we’re all at home having to juggle work with our families and other home-related responsibilities.

Tips and tricks to stay effective while teams #WFH

I set up “working hours” with my team from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. with flexibility on how to do the rest of their hours around that.  Some of us are night owls, others early risers and this gives us all the space to enjoy being at home whilst managing our families at the same time.

Why forward-thinking and business agility are key right now

As an industry, we’ve got to start thinking about the future and what retail will be like when this is all over. These weeks of downtime are a good opportunity to think about what it will all look like, the impact of the reset on our work lives and on our businesses as retailers.

At the same time, these weeks will go by slowly in some ways but fast in others. It’s important to find the quickest way to resolve issues now and iterate as we go along. For my teams, it’s especially critical that they respond quickly. Users are feeling panicked in some cases which is why we need to support them with quick solutions while keeping calm.

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