“I see Centric PLM as vital for expansion into different categories by being able to create products and bring them to market more quickly, with fewer errors along the way.”
“One of the most difficult aspects of using spreadsheets is BOMs by style. We have so many variations for each style and keeping all of those codes correct for every product — from the print all the way to the thread color and the packaging — is probably my biggest nightmare when it comes to Excel.”
Nora Shaughnessy, Director of Product at BN3TH, talks about some of the difficulties associated with running product development via email and spreadsheets. With the rapid growth of the company came the need to improve their technological foundation to shore it up for the future. Today, all product information is found in one digital space, errors are reduced and processes are streamlined. How did this come about?
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, BN3TH began when friends Dez Price and Dustin Bigney had an idea to produce the ultimate comfort in men’s underwear. After running the company on the side with prototypes and small production runs, they jumped in full time in 2013. Patented MyPakage Pouch Technology™ provides support to their underwear and base layers for any activity—from outdoors and sports to days at the office. Ever mindful of sustainability, BN3TH as a company, strives to minimize their environmental impact.
The relaxed dress code of the pandemic has had an effect on business. Shaughnessy says, “With Covid, people have really grasped how important comfort is to them, fueling sales in both the Canadian and U.S. markets. Our direct-to-consumer (DTC) business is growing exponentially at the same time. We are working at almost or approximately a 50/50 DTC-to-wholesale mix. And that also provides challenges because you have to forecast a bit differently.”
Shaughnessy discusses the situation prior to PLM. “We were making changes to the BOM in Excel for 30 to 50 different styles. Then, in a separate place, we were making changes to the measurements. Harmonizing all of those pieces of information so that they are accurate in each place is more and more of a challenge as we grow. We probably had roughly a hundred spreadsheets going at any one time.”
Kimberly Parker, Technical Product Developer at BN3TH, describes how they would email their vendors and factories back and forth, working in both Excel and Adobe Illustrator to create tech packs. “If anything was incorrect or we updated something in one area, we had to remember to update it across the board in every other area of our tech pack and every other location that we have data stored. We would sometimes miss places. It’s just too many spots to store the same information, which is one of the main struggles that we have.”
BN3TH decided to go with PLM to cut down on errors, streamline their processes and support their sustainability position. The company reviewed PLM systems on and off over a five-year period. The smaller PLM systems were too limited in function and couldn’t scale to an enterprise version when the time came. Conversely, many of the larger PLM systems had to be customized, but BN3TH didn’t have the IT personnel to put against customizing systems or for troubleshooting.
Shaughnessy says, “I worked with PLM systems at other companies. Obviously, I first gravitated toward the one that I was most familiar with. But as I did the research, Centric kept popping up. It offered the small business platform, scalability and was affordable. And realistically, it’s a user-friendly interface that is pretty easy to onboard and learn how to use.”
BN3TH puts sustainability front and center. Parker says, “For the majority of our products, we use Tencel™ fabric made from a renewable resource—trees. We are working to further the use of recycled polyester in more products, as well as offsetting carbon emissions.”
Reducing samples also cuts down on environmental impact. Says Parker, “Centric PLM has automatic style tracking and enables us to give the vendor all the information that they need the first time. It reduces prototyping and back-and-forth requests for additional mock-ups since all that information is easily accessible to both the team and our vendors.” Shaughnessy adds, “Onboarding Centric PLM was really integral in being able to track and measure how we’re doing against our goals for sustainability. We’re hopeful that it’s going to bring us to the next level through traceability and expedite getting to our sustainability goals of having all of our products being sustainable-fiber-rich or recyclable-fiber-rich by 2025.”
Shaughnessy says that a huge benefit of Centric is having that one source of truth. “Being able to pull information for different parts of the business, like graphics or marketing, and making all of those pieces work together without recreating a spreadsheet for each use-case is a definite advantage.”
Working with vendors is easier and simplified. “We have a dozen to 20 suppliers that we work with across the globe. That becomes quite complex, so having them all in one system is very beneficial and we’re already seeing how that can help us grow.” The other benefits of PLM, like shorter timelines and increased accuracy, open up new opportunities. Shaughnessy says, “BN3TH has a variety of categories: from everyday underwear to base layers and merino for snow sports, as well as loungewear and pajamas that are more unisex oriented. We have some really exciting sport specific technologies coming out in the near future.