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“ We’re growing fast and, in order to develop innovative, high quality products efficiently, we needed a clear overview of who was doing what, where and when. Before Centric PLM, one of our biggest challenges was a lack of accountability, with each department using different tools and platforms. ” — Ferdinand Diener, Process and Quality Manager at Helly Hansen
The trailbazing outdoor brand, Helly Hansen, once struggled with data management, visibility and version control across multiple software platforms. When the Helly Hansen group acquired MUSTO in 2018, integrating a new brand brought additional challenges. However, MUSTO had been a happy Centric Software® customer for many years, and, in 2019, Helly Hansen decided to also implement Centric PLM™ to harmonize data and processes across both brands and within Helly Hansen’s own departments.
Fast forward to 2020, and no one could have imagined just how much the world would have changed in such a short space of time. But, with innovative digital solutions provided by Centric’s Outdoor PLM and 3D technology, Helly Hansen has been able to adapt to recent market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 health pandemic, improving the efficiency of its communications across different departments, especially around sample production, which many brands have struggled to continue during restricted times.
Designer Mhairi Bannerman works within the ski and sailing team on Helly Hansen’s technical garments, and is a key player in the adoption of 3D technology within the company, “To start with (during the pandemic), our main issues were that we were not getting samples at all or they were months delayed. Centric’s 3D Connector now helps us with communication, and we can do things last minute that we couldn’t have done previously. For example, if a physical sample isn’t available, or we don’t want to wait weeks for a prototype to arrive, we can create a 3D version within Centric PLM in a matter of hours,” she explains.
How did Helly Hansen embark on their Centric PLM adventure?
Helly Hansen was founded in 1877 in Norway by sea captain Helly Juell Hansen and his wife Marguerite, who discovered an effective way of keeping sailors and fishermen dry and warm in the harsh Norwegian weather. They launched a business selling waterproof oilskin jackets, trousers, sou’westers and tarpaulins made from coarse linen soaked in linseed oil. Over 140 years later, Helly Hansen is still protecting people from the elements. Today, Helly Hansen gear is worn and trusted by professionals in sailing, skiing, mountaineering and on worksites, as well as nature-lovers across the world who enjoy outdoor pursuits.
Helly Hansen has a long list of first-to-market innovations developed through insights from those working and recreating in the world’s toughest environments, including the first fleece material in 1961 and the first moisture-wicking technical base layers in 1970. Continuing this tradition of product innovation, Helly Hansen’s contemporary clothing features a unique Helly Tech® waterproof and breathable outer layer that keeps water molecules out while allowing sweat vapor to pass through. More recently, in 2020 the brand launched its Mono Material line, a 100% recyclable collection featuring garments with singular material construction, reducing waste by enabling garment-to-garment recycling.
Helly Hansen had a PLM solution in place prior to acquiring MUSTO, but the company was growing at tremendous speed, and difficulties persisted with version control and a lack of integration across multiple platforms. When the Helly Hansen Group acquired MUSTO, there was a clear opportunity to start afresh.
Helly Hansen implemented Centric PLM in just six months while merging with MUSTO, and one of the biggest initial benefits for Helly Hansen was the speed and ease of use of the software, and the ability to integrate both brands into one system.
“The interface is incredibly fast compared to anything we have seen before,” says Diener, “It gives us the option to create custom views and see information as and when we like. Once Centric’s experts had taken care of the initial configuration, we were able to basically set up the system ourselves and make changes as users required.”
“The Centric consultants performed a thorough global analysis of our situation and confidently adapted the solution and integration possibilities to our needs. Because Centric PLM is so fast and easy to use, people are able to do a more thorough job, create more products and improve quality oversight. We’re a quality-driven, innovation-focused brand, so this is critical.”
The power of Centric PLM has really come into its own during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Helly Hansen has had to keep its sample production going, despite crippling restrictions. The solution: Centric 3D Connect.
Mhairi Bannerman describes the knock-on effects of 2020’s marketplace disruptions, “At the start of the pandemic, when it came to sales meetings, nobody had any samples…We go through lots of prototype rounds, and if we have to miss one of those rounds due to lack of time, we usually have to cancel the style or postpone it until next season, as we can’t produce a garment without a certain number of prototypes.”
In order to improve the clarity of communication and leave less margin for error, the company’s next digital sales meeting will use 3D renderings created within Centric 3D Connect.
“It’s a much more efficient process, as you suddenly see exactly what the designer has in mind, not an artistic interpretation of an illustrated sketch. You see the ratios and sizes of different things and where the cut lines should be. So, not only are we able to see prototypes in 3D weeks before physical ones are available, but the final iteration is going to be a step up from what it would have been previously.”
The recent disruption to supply chains has made consumers much more aware of where products are sourced from, and how they are made. Improving transparency between the business and the consumer has always been an important objective for Helly Hansen, with Centric PLM supporting their sustainability initiatives.
Mhairi comments that, “I think the Nordics is one of the key drivers for sustainability in general, whether that’s sustainability through use of digital or otherwise. I think nature is very ingrained in people here, and they are more conscious of preserving the natural environment. In the world at the moment, all brands should be striving to be more sustainable. At Helly Hansen, we are working towards being as sustainable as we possibly can.”
If Helly Hansen has learned anything in the past six months, it is that 3D technology is now a vital part of the sample process, and brands can no longer think of 3D as ‘an experiment on the side’.
“3D needs to be growing within the company. And along with 3D comes the potential of digital showrooms and augmented reality,” says Mhairi. “3D has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and it’s exciting times, despite the current situation we are seeing all over the world. It’s ignited something that has started a whole ball rolling, and I think there will be some good things to come from this challenging situation.”