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Barco Uniforms Reacts Faster to Market Trends with Centric PLM™

“We also like the graphic capability of seeing each design with information such as size charts readily to hand. We can easily move from one item to the next as we develop and implement changes. That has really driven value.”

Challenges

  • Increasing demand in a competitive environment
  • Shortening turnaround times
  • Managing rapid growth & increasing products
  • Difficult to find information

Results

  • PLM manages all design requirements
  • Faster reaction time to market trends
  • One single place for all product information
  • Info visible at a glance in the catalog interface
  • Increased number of brands by 166%

A Long and Storied Heritage

Today, Barco is renowned as a leading innovator in the professional apparel industry, and is particularly known for its fashion-forward, premium professional apparel. Led by President and CEO David Murphy, the Los Angeles based company has 225+ employees that design, produce and distribute award-winning, premium uniforms for the healthcare, food service and hospitality industries around the world.

An 89-year-old privately-held company, Barco Uniforms™ was founded in 1929 in Gardena, California. The firm produced its first healthcare uniform in 1936 under the vision of a new leader, Kenneth Donner. Donner would guide the company on its journey through the evolving apparel landscape for the next half-century, shaping the entire professional apparel industry into what it is today.

Kenneth’s son Michael took the helm as President of Barco Uniforms in 1981, and went on to found Barco’s Nightingales™ Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to honor, elevate and promote nursing, while focusing on helping children globally.

There are two main divisions of Barco Uniforms’ business: healthcare and corporate identity. The company is perhaps best known for its Grey’s Anatomy™ scrubs brand, recognized as a favorite brand around the world. Barco dresses the employees of well-known global companies such as Regal Cinemas, KFC, Panda Express, P.F. Chang’s, Jamba Juice, Domino’s and Subway.

Creating Great Value

Barco faces increasing customer demand in a competitive industry where uniforms are not always top of the list when it comes to budgetary expenditure.

As Don Mayer, Vice President of Manufacturing at Barco, explains, “From a business perspective, we operate in a competitive environment. Uniforms are not always the first and foremost thing on people’s minds. It is an expense to organizations.”

“In many of the places where we sell our products, the employees themselves are responsible for purchasing their uniforms, so they are looking for great value, great quality and comfort. It is the value piece of that equation that is the challenge; manufacturing and labor costs are increasing but the market is exerting pressure to maintain the current pricing structure for consumers.”

Growing Pains

Rapid growth in recent years for Barco highlighted challenges with using spreadsheets and email for product development.

“Our business has doubled over the past five years,” says Mayer.

Sizable new customers can materialize at any given moment, and Barco realized that investing in PLM software would make the company more responsive to market demands.

As Mayer says, “Our corporate identity division is driven by RFPs and doors that open for our sales team on the ground, so an opportunity can present itself very, very quickly. We needed a more sophisticated approach to manage significant changes as we introduce new products, colors, styles and designs throughout the year.”

Traditionally, the company has released three launches annually in their healthcare division, but like many apparel businesses, is moving away from a strictly defined seasonal model. As Mayer explains, “Between pre-launch activities with strategic accounts and exclusive activities with other accounts, suddenly the firmness of ‘three launches’ is getting a little gray around the edges.”

Fast fashion has led the charge in quick turn-around and being on trend, and Barco Uniforms anticipates using Centric PLM to stay ahead of the curve.

“We look closely toward fast fashion as a model, trying to be as responsive as possible to shorten our lead times and convey information rapidly while staying abreast of cutting- edge trends, colors and designs,” explains Mayer.

The things that got us this far will not get us to the next milestone, so we needed to focus on people, process and technology. The velocity of change is what ultimately led us to the Centric PLM project.

Gathering Speed

With the first phase implemented on time and on budget, the next challenge is to increase the number of users. As Mayer says, “We’re still in implementation mode and have ended up with a rather narrow super-user capacity, but there’s so much potential and capability among our users. Through broadening the use of PLM, we’ll be able to get more users further along faster.”

All Information in One Place

Barco Uniforms is already seeing noticeable improvements in speed, efficiency and information access.

As Mayer says, “Coming from an environment of multiple Excel spreadsheets, the concept of having one version of the truth and keeping all our information in one place has really helped us. We also like the graphic capability of seeing each design with information such as size charts readily to hand. We can easily move from one item to the next as we develop and implement changes. That has really driven value.”

“The largest benefit at this point is the catalog,” continues Mayer. “I’m now able to pull up my list of styles, slice it by season, look at it through our gallery and have access to all the information about it, structured through the folder scheme that Centric PLM offers.”

Looking Ahead

Barco Uniforms are already looking at other Centric PLM modules that have the potential to transform the way they work every day.

As Mayer says, “The Collection Management module is one that seems very promising, and we’re interested in learning more about it. Also, we want to build on our existing color capabilities. Color is a very important element of our business; it’s a key driver of changes as we go from season to season. When we upgrade to the next version, we will have the ability to track quality from the production side and maintain a history of quality records.”

“We’re really looking forward to and excited about building upon what we have,” concludes Mayer. “It’s time to elevate our game and get more sophisticated, bring in calendar capabilities, introduce sample sets and expand our usage so that we can leverage the benefits of Centric PLM to an even greater extent.”

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