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26 Agosto, 2013



Los Gatos, CA Monday, August 26, 2013 –

By James Horne, Vice President of Marketing, Centric Software, Inc.

Many companies in the apparel industry know that product lifecycle management (PLM) software works to provide a “single source of truth” for the entire supply chain. PLM’s interconnected modules help manage critical business processes, including product merchandising, design, development, sourcing, compliance, marketing and sales. By eliminating data entry duplication, and improving communications and data reliability, PLM gives apparel businesses insight into costs and margins to make smarter, faster product decisions using web- and mobile-based technology.

Yet many companies in the industry still are working with outdated product data management (PDM) systems, in-house systems, spreadsheets and e-mail — or a combination of all of these. The signs that tell a company its systems are inadequate are not always obvious, and they can arise quickly.

Paying attention to key warning signs can help an apparel company determine when it’s time for an upgrade to PLM.

1. Difficulty in keeping up with ever-changing regulatory requirements. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances – European Union) and CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) are enough to keep a department busy — and continually emerging added requirements equal care. As requirements escalate, the ability to produce clear, accurate, organized documentation on demand is critical. Whether a company conducts its own audits or outsources to third-party firms, a good PLM system enables tracking, recording and producing all findings in a timely fashion.

Unlike external systems, PLM integrates regulatory compliance information about every product with other data about that item. A PLM system with an easy-to-use compliance management approach helps companies quickly develop audit templates, dispatch them to employees or auditors, and gather necessary documents. The result: an agile enterprise that is the ability to respond as quickly as possible to ever-changing, complex and developing situations.

With the right PLM system in place, challenges in identifying factories’ certifications disappear. Staff no longer needs to scramble to gather documents to meet brand-new regulatory requirements that agencies or current events dictate.

2. Lost opportunities to break into new markets. Many apparel companies are at the point where they can identify a new market, but can’t address the opportunity because their existing systems are too cumbersome or are “bulging at the seams” and will not sustain the effort. The right PLM system provides a way to track, document and manage rapid product development — with good cost control — to meet growth opportunities that arise. Companies can gain excellent economies with sophisticated PLM solutions that can speed product development efforts to enable easily adding new product lines. These solutions also can help companies ensure that expansion efforts are profitable by allowing easy roll-ups of material consumption across assortments, markets or brands.

3. Silos of information. To meet “fast fashion” requirements, companies must manage product development extraordinarily efficiently. “Silos” of information and redundancies impede efficiency. Every group within the organization that touches the product process — from designers to sales professionals — must have access to the latest, and accurate, product information. With PLM’s ability to integrate everyone involved, design teams can achieve shorter development cycles that seem impossible when redundancies are the prevailing norm.

4. Inability to make fast, accurate go/no-go product launch decisions. A business may need to improve margins even when its supply chain is performing well. With a PLM system, apparel companies have better control of costs during product design, sourcing and development — when product costs are being locked in. In contrast to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, PLM can enable what-if scenario planning before costs are finalized and allow better, faster, more accurate go/no-go and sourcing and development decisions.

5. Difficulty in recruiting or retaining creative and skilled staff. The last thing a top design school graduate wants to do is spend time working with spreadsheets and managing administrative tasks. Worse yet, experienced, highly skilled design staff members are likely to leave a burdensome and uncreative work environment in which they spend too much time on administrative tasks vs. creating. Fashion firms that value their creative teams will monitor how their systems burden their staff. A PLM system designed to meet the specific needs of the apparel industry allows creative teams to be creative vs. burdening them with administrative issues. Recruitment, hiring and retention all benefit.

6. Disconnect between merchandising plans and sourcing. Key symptoms of this problem are pre-commitments that are not fulfilled or consumed. A good PLM solution will connect merchandising, design, development and sourcing together such that the sourcing strategy instantly reflects changes to the merchandising plan.

If one or more of these warning signs has appeared in a company’s landscape, it’s likely that PLM should be the next technology investment. A PLM system that incorporates industry best practices and standards can generate return on investment in only a few months, with deployment that gets users up and running within days of the initial implementation work.

Availability of out-of-the-box, configurable (vs. customizable) systems easily enables phased implementations and lower total cost of ownership. For the savvy fashion management team, the ultimate decision becomes not “if” PLM, but “when.”

Originally posted to

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