“During the first lockdown, we had an issue with our old PLM system where it basically went down on us. So completely remotely, both the Centric and Bioworld teams were able to spin up Centric, meeting our demand wholeheartedly.”
“We bring approximately 15,000 new products to market every year. And that’s across 100 product types for around 700 unique properties.”
Nathan Grant, VP of Growth at Bioworld Merchandising describes the range and breadth of the products Bioworld produces which speaks to the complexity of the business. The company sells across channels—wholesale, B2B and their own DTC. It has been a year and a half since Bioworld went live with Centric PLM. Much has changed from their previous product development process. Their go to market strategy has business processes aligned with Centric’s out-of-the-box functionality. They are able to sandbox without affecting the business. The goal for replacing their legacy PLM system was to increase speed in bringing the right products to market. Checking in with them after implementation, just how is Bioworld faring?
Bioworld Merchandise was founded in 1999. A global leader in licensed products, the company is headquartered in Irving, Texas with 10 offices worldwide. Bioworld produces products for fans of almost any brand imaginable like Star Wars, Disney, Marvel and more. They cover ‘head to toe’ and ‘closet to kitchen’ meaning hats to shirts to socks and towels to mugs and everything in between.
Patrick Flanagan, IT Program Director, recalls how his team conducted a thorough search to find the best PLM solution to handle their unique requirements including huge amounts of data and a provider that understood exactly what they needed. Then, an issue with their legacy system occurred and Bioworld had to move fast. Due to the diligence they had already done earlier, Centric PLM was identified as the preferred choice.
The switch to Centric happened in under two weeks—remotely to boot—all during the pandemic. Flanagan says, “It was a such an unprecedented time. During the first lockdown, we had an issue with our old PLM system where it basically went down on us. So completely remotely, both the Centric and Bioworld teams were able to spin up Centric, meeting our demand wholeheartedly. We were very impressed—the entire team was great.”
“In the roughly year and a half that we’ve been live, we have about 101,000 individual styles in Centric right now,” says Flanagan. He continues, “Kudos to Centric, because they have been able to meet the demand. We’re only going to continue to get bigger. If we have to print on a huge towel, we have to put that actual file in there. I’m calling these designers out and asking: hey, is there a reason why you have a 5 gig file?” Centric PLM, known for its efficient data handling capabilities, is up to the task.
Grant says, “We work with every major entertainment company in the world. We have over 100 designers that are creating art and assets. We’re also given assets from all these companies. We’re working across so many different product types. The volume of art—as large giant files—all goes into the system.”
He expands on his statement, “We may receive 500 gigabytes of new art from a partner and now we’re going to interpret those into hundreds of different products. And that’s all going into the system. We’ve got another 700 properties (brands) that are active at retail and probably two times that in development and design. It’s hard to imagine many other companies on the planet that can rival what we’re doing.”
Centric PLM has touched many of Bioworld’s processes. Grant says, “The Centric tool plays a role in our approval workflows. It’s how we exchange hands internally. When designers have items that they need to pass to our internal licensing team that manages the main communication, it goes through Centric. If I need to get a billboard or a piece of art approved by our customers, they also approve that through the system.”
Grant says that Centric has been remarkable for productivity and efficiency. “On the productivity side, our business is unique among similar businesses that are managing collections or lines who might say, ‘we’re developing this whole collection, and it’s all going to market’ with certainty, but for us it’s not all absolute. We have licensors, who might not approve the art or we might need several revisions to work through. So we have to decide if we’re going to continue a project or whether to put it on hold.”
The company creates about 1000 new pieces of art a week. Grant notes, “All of those have a different timeline, because of the diversity of product categories, properties and customers that we are working with. The beauty of Centric PLM is that we have a view of all those different criteria; what’s in gridlock? What needs that extra attention or push to move it through? Where do we need to make a decision?
From a productivity standpoint, cutting through that gridlock is awesome. From an efficiency side, the dynamic views that Centric gives us has increased our hit ratio of those products significantly—I would say by 30%. Items that otherwise would be left in limbo because they were unseen are going to market, and styles that maybe shouldn’t have moved into sampling before, are being cut back early before we invest more time in them. It’s been remarkable what Centric shows us.” Grant estimates that concepts that make it to launch have also been improved by about 5–10%.
Speed-to-market has been ramped up as well. Flanagan says,
“I don’t have any precise numbers behind it yet as it is still in the trial stage, but we have enabled our licensing team to speed up their approval process by doing that.”
Grant goes into more detail. “In our traditional process, the design team hands a product off to our internal licensing team and that licensing team interprets it for the license and inputs it into their system or just in an email. Then there is the back and forth which can be a black hole at times. Nobody can really see how long something’s been waiting or where it is.
We could see in our system but Design couldn’t. And Design are the ones responsible for making that update. Then they have to act on it, make comments against it and those comments have to be redirected back to us. With Centric PLM, everything is live. All that back and forth would take a good five plus days. Now it just happens in an instant. And that is visible to really everybody.”
Flanagan says, “People have been able to utilize Centric in their own way to get personalized views at a moment’s notice to improve their individual efficiencies. Our salespeople can configure Centric to show them data that’s important to them, whereas before it might have been happening on a spreadsheet, verbally or in a meeting. Now each person can create the view that allows them to see their data how they want it.”
Grant gives his insight into the advantages of partnering with Centric Software. “Because of the diversity of industry partners that Centric works with, it fits all niches. If there’s something unique to our business, the platform is built in a way that it accommodates for it and we can build those tools.
But what’s really extraordinary from an efficiency standpoint is all those tools that are already built out through the best practices of the entire Centric team—our peers captured within that. We feel like we’ve always got 12 great features available in the system, but we haven’t yet enriched the data to start leveraging those tools yet. The fact that you have all those functionalities at the ready, kind of demands that you take advantage, right? That is a huge asset to have.”
Bioworld has integrated Centric PLM with: Adobe Illustrator, ERP, their BI reporting software, plus other integrations that transport data to different channel sites as well. Flanagan notes, “Our salespeople can go ahead and sell anything in the system. We can pull data out of Centric to get merged reports, product information, what’s pending, what’s selling, what’s trending…”
Grant says, “The tool is so user friendly. The minute you get into it, you need very little direction on how to navigate, how to find things. And the views are set up in a way that we can curate it. Even the administrator ability within Centric is super powerful—we can set up views that are defaulted and conditional. We’re able to translate it for our users very easily and they understand it on day one.
The people are constantly coming and saying ‘I learned how to do something just on my own.’ People are continually increasing skill sets without any interjection from managers—they’re learning it basically through osmosis. This system is so smart. It wants you to click on a piece of this chart and when you click on it—whoa, look at what that does! The dynamic charts are one of the things that just blew everybody’s mind.”
Bioworld has taken a few steps to make users feel comfortable with the platform. Flanagan says, “We’ve opened up channels to allow people to write in questions around Centric if they’re not sure about how to do something and the answers are available for anyone in the company to see. It’s group learning. We also hold a weekly Q&A session—just hey, if you want to join, we’re here for you.
We set aside an hour. Just ask us any questions you want. Sometimes it’s just Nate and I staring at each other…” Grant interjects, “What’s great about that is that we have something new to talk about every week. There’s always something to share with the team. As we said before, people get it, they are figuring it out really quick. And so the meeting becomes this cool exchange each week as people are learning new things. They’re sharing more. It’s been really, really brilliant.”
Business execution objectives have become more sophisticated. “I’m trying to drive folks to use more data in their decision making,” says Grant. “We say that Centric is a useful tool for everybody, not just our sales team, or our design team or our licensing team, but everybody in the organization—sourcing, all the rest. We’re tracking through the logins, how often is everybody getting in there because we believe there’s value. The frequency is pretty impressive. I think last time I looked, it was 90% are in there every day.”
At the one-year anniversary mark of using Centric PLM, Bioworld polled their people to see if there was any feature that was missing. The users came up with one thing, which was the ability to easily search multiple style numbers. Flanagan says, “I wrote up the business case for Centric Software on why we need the ability to search multiple styles and lo and behold, I found out that it’ll be in the next Centric release!
We got actual applause when we let our users know. People here are happy and I’m hoping other customers will be too, because it’s going to be available to all. It’s gratifying to know that we were drivers of that functionality in the next version.”
Grant has some gracious parting words. “I’d like to call out that we are very appreciative that Centric reaches out to us, asks us our opinion and allows us to share our experience. The support team at Centric has a weekly call just to go over the status of our support tickets—we do that 30 minutes every Monday. No other company does this for us.”