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“We work on such a wide variety of products that it’s just so complex to manage. Our offerings range from carbon fiber helmets, to snowmobile boots, to GoreTex outerwear pieces, to motorcycle airbags. There’s no way we could have handled it all just with Excel files and emails”.
Ryan Harris, Vice President of Product gives his observations on managing their products without PLM. KLIM recognized early on that they needed to have a single source of the truth for all product data so that critical information was accessible at all times. Years ago, the number of products was smaller.
Of those times, Harris says, “The actual product development process was more involved because there were a lot of emails and so many shared Excel files. You had to spend a bunch of time making sure the information you were sharing was correct.” Now, there is a detailed, centralized database from which everyone pulls the same, accurate information.
Since then, how else has KLIM scaled and adapted to both business growth and change?
KLIM, based in Rigby, Idaho is a global leader in designing and manufacturing advanced Powersports apparel for the demanding snowmobile and motorcycle rider from head to toe. Founded as Teton Outfitters in 1994, the company became known as KLIM in 1999 initially producing customized snowsuits for back-country skiers and snow resort workers, then moved on to making protective snowmobiling apparel.
In 2004, KLIM parlayed their expertise in riding gear into making motorcycle gear, nicely spanning all the seasons.
KLIM’s mission is to enhance the rider’s experience through well-made, high quality gear able to protect the rider through challenging circumstances. Each product goes through an intensive R&D phase as well as rigorous testing to meet their high standards for protection. The company is continuing to grow at a rapid pace.
KLIM was an early adopter of PLM—2009—in their search for ‘a single source of the truth.’ Their approach was practical; start gradually and get a different part of the business on board. Harris says, “All of design and development is run through Centric PLM™.
By automating different parts of the process like lab dips for example, we were able to cut that time down by about two weeks.” This held true for other instances such as reducing sample turn time by 25%.
As a wholesale company, KLIM had to scramble like everyone else when retail stores were shut down in the spring of 2020, exclusively leaning on e-comm for a period of time.
KLIM had had the foresight to establish their online site through data housed in PLM prior to the pandemic. Circumstances had people eager to embrace outdoor sports. Harris says, “We are definitely seeing growth in our direct sales which has been a smaller portion of our business. And we ended 2020 about 30% up in DTC, year over year.
The spring was a little bit rough for our wholesale accounts but they made up for it in the summer, ultimately growing from the year prior, as did we. And we typically see that as we improve our direct sales, our wholesale channel usually comes with us. It’s not one or the other. The whole brand grows.”
Still, there were adjustments to be made to their usual way of working. Most of their vendors are overseas. Says Harris, “What changed a little in our development process—which I hope makes us stronger— was losing the ability to jump on a plane and go fix some of the things that are not finalized earlier on in the project stages.
So it really forced our design and development team to be more thoughtful in some of their decisions and to stick more strictly to the timelines. It modified the way our team works internally.
I think our biggest challenge was not being able to see and talk to each other at the office every day to build on ideas and have that face-to-face communication.” Centric PLM assisted in this effort, facilitating collaboration among team members by giving everyone up-to-date product data and transparency to the development process no matter where they were.
Unlike some apparel brands, much more than fashion is at stake with KLIM’s gear. It provides a degree of protection that motorcycle and snowmobile riders expect. There are other considerations too—like making sure the motorcycle jackets are breathable so the rider doesn’t get too hot, which can be a dangerous distraction on the road.
Harris discusses their flagship jacket. “Our Badlands Pro is a GoreTex pro laminate, waterproof jacket, with YKK zippers, Scotchlite 3M reflective. It has ceramic-infused super fabric that, if you ever go down, you’ll slide across the road leaving the jacket still intact. It has a kidney belt and armor in all the limbs that solidifies on impact.
On the flip side, I get a few contacts each winter from customers who tell me their machine broke down so they had to spend two nights in a freezing ravine before anyone found them, and that our gear saved their life.” Harris explains that the tech pack for the Badlands jacket is 30 pages long with over 200 items in the BOM and 5 colorways. “You’re managing 1000 different things in that style to make sure production is done correctly. Something that would be impossible to manage without Centric PLM.”
PLM allows KLIM to be consistent in how information is presented to the factories. Harris says, “You have complex products that have pages and pages of information, and then there is a simple polo shirt with a lot less information, but the info is all consistent.
The format of it is the same whether it’s from designer A or designer B; how we communicate is really consistent and our factories and suppliers are used to that. And that is made possible by Centric PLM.”
Much of KLIM’s quality team is based overseas and typically meets with teams at headquarters a couple of times a year. Harris says, “We’re rolling out a module with our QC team. They’ll access the information and do their quality checklists, identify problems and manage the whole thing right through PLM. We’re excited to get our QC auditors going through the factory with their iPad, take pictures, make comments on the spot.”
He continues, “Their QC counterparts back here in the States have instant access to that information instead of having to wait for their overseas colleagues to recall what they observed and find time to write up an email after the fact. With the new module, live data gets entered during the inspection, significantly ramping up efficiency.”
Product management, all of line planning, all financial reports for margin analysis and revenue growth is done through PLM. Harris lists the functions that are fully using Centric PLM,
“Our development team probably spends the vast majority of their day in the system. Production, sourcing, logistics, purchasing, marketing, and accounting. So almost everyone!”
Onboarding new employees is also easier, since Centric PLM is so user friendly. Even remote onboarding is possible in just a few hours to give new hires what they need to get going.
With the emphasis KLIM places on innovation, their people are constantly thinking about how to improve the products. Harris says, “We don’t have a dedicated innovation team. We believe it comes from everywhere.”
But PLM has allowed them to take it a step further. For two years, KLIM has held their weekly project status meetings in PLM. It was working so well, that they decided to transfer the process to running innovation meetings. This carves out time during the busy development season and provides rigor around innovation, using the tool right inside Centric, giving clarity to what innovations are slated for which season.
The future looks bright for KLIM. Harris notes, “We’re seeing that people are still looking to go out and experience outdoor activities. It should be a good financial year. Our teams are motivated and happy. I think strong, everlasting companies are what you build in challenging times to set yourself up for the future.”