Koton, Turkey’s leading “fast fashion” company, took a bold route during the global pandemic when stores were forced to close because of lockdowns. Rather than slowing down, Koton made the smart decision to implement the next generation of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) technology to stay ahead of its competitors.
We talked to Mesut Akyildiz, Director of IT and Process Development at Koton, who selected Centric Software®‘s PLM solution, about why Koton decided to invest in PLM technology, and what they hope to achieve with this partnership.
When I took over as IT and Process Development Director at Koton, there was a very inefficient product development management process, mainly carried out with paper, from the design stage to retail. Although teams were trying their best, technologically the process was mostly manual (with inter-departmental communication done via e-mail or verbal communication) and it was clear that there was an urgent need to innovate. During this time, we knew we wanted to optimize productivity, manage costs better, and improve planning abilities. On top of that, when the pandemic hit and people had to work remotely, they questioned, “What are we going to do?” We started to ask ourselves, “What can we do in the product development process?”
Investing during a pandemic
When we compare Koton with our global competitors, we see that productivity often arises as a problem in Turkey. The biggest boost for increasing productivity is digitalization. When you address all the right questions, such as budgetary constraints, how you measure earnings, how you calculate it, the transformation you will provide in a year, the infrastructure required, as well as other parameters, you can get a much larger return on investment in times of crisis like this. That’s what we did. After all, these days will pass, and we have to prepare for the post-pandemic world. Since we have been a little less busy in some parts of this period, we have calculated how we expect a return by stretching the cost in the right places, thinking that we can shift our intensity in different directions. We have also received significant support from our Board of Directors.
There are always small problems with every project. “Let’s take a look at this”, or “We’ll work this out later,” are common responses. But we didn’t hear that from Centric. They had an answer to every question and a solution to every problem. So we were able to move very fast, because we determined what we needed clearly with our teams, particularly areas where they were struggling.
How well does Centric meet our needs? Centric has been outstanding compared to its rivals. In our meeting with Centric CEO Chris Groves, we saw and felt Centric’s value to us. Once we started the project, after we made the purchase, we realized that we would not be alone. We felt Centric would be there for us. Our project process is still working and Centric’s experts are in control and very supportive of process design. When we had a few minor problems, we got answers and solutions very quickly.
When (Centric CEO) Chris and I met, we realized that it wasn’t just a mechanical thing, it was a heart-to-heart. We understood how much Chris had mastered the subject, that he didn’t look at it from the point of view of “Let me develop software, then I’ll market it.” It was clear he believed in his work. When we talked about what he wanted to do; his dreams; his 10 years of hard work; where he has brought the company and where he wants it to go; all this affected us. Because at Koton, we want to go far too. And in the future, we believe that Centric will be our companion.
Centric has impressive references working with companies all around the world, and it’s very valuable that Koton benefits from this experience too. After all, we’re human beings, we can’t do everything on our own – someone needs to add intelligence, support, and guide the process. Rather than being a short-term project for us, it has become a technology-following structure that constantly develops with us. In this sense, we consider Centric to be a partner of Koton. We expect to keep evolving and advancing by combining Koton’s own ability to do business with Centric’s technological expertise.
We Turks like to discuss together as part of our work culture – drinking tea and chatting. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were actually wondering what would happen when everyone was confined to their homes. But running projects remotely was actually kind of advantageous. While it can sometimes be very difficult to bring so many people together in one location, now everyone can get involved from a small screen in their own environment.
The obligation to work remotely on the project was critical. If we were going to make people work remotely, I’m had to provide a very strong business plan, and Centric really provided that. The first start-up meeting was in October, and we’ve been committed to the project for five months. Our objective is to go live in the month of May with everything going as smoothly as it is now.
In this process, we have also improved our ability to run projects with remote access. This implementation was as scary as it was big, and we also thought about how realistic something like this would be during the pandemic. However, we took the risk and the teams got used to it quickly. If there’s a problem, we’ve moved away from the need to wait to have a meeting – now two or three colleagues can get together online and discuss it and immediately turn the decision-making around.
What advice do you have for companies considering a PLM project?
Firstly, it is important that the different departments, from IT to process development, to really embrace the PLM project, and understand and express their needs clearly.
In our case, from the beginning of the process, one-to-one evaluations were made with the managers of the business units, and colleagues in the relevant departments participated in the presentations. They asked the questions themselves; they got the answers themselves; they claimed them; and they got very serious support. We did not answer for them, the units expressed their needs themselves.
Ownership of each business unit is also related to corporate culture, because how close and supportive people will be to an idea is also an important factor. At Koton, it was stated by everyone that there was a need to increase communication between departments, and the timing of the project coincided with this. If there is limited communication and the employees are in very separate worlds, or if you have difficulty explaining it, there is a very serious problem and time needs to be spent developing a positive and communicative corporate culture.
Secondly, if you are investing during this time of marketplace disruptions, it is worth doing a study that will focus on what it will bring, rather than the money you invest. What about the acceleration? What will you be able to control? On top of that, you will improve the process, you will be able to better identify the problem points in the process. You are building a structure, which will trigger continuous improvement. You can’t do this job if you just focus on the issue of spending money. The main thing for the Board of Directors are the benefits – if there is a budget that can be managed, focusing on the benefit is critical to getting support and stakeholder buy-in.
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