“Our users were dissatisfied and frustrated with our legacy PLM system. We faced a decision as a company. Should we continue on with the scheduled upgrade, or take a step back and re-evaluate our options?”
Steve Chastain, Global Head of IT at Volcom, remembers the pinch point when the company had to make a decision about their existing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution. Significant portions of the product lifecycle were handled outside the system, and customization required complex coding and change management. Users were struggling.
Volcom’s brand vision is focused on turning obstacles into opportunities, and they decided to take a bold step forward. Working within a short timeline, the company evaluated and implemented Centric PLM.
Today, a task that used to take two weeks now takes a day and a half. Volcom has achieved greater visibility across their product lifecycle, and teams now communicate and collaborate through Centric PLM in a streamlined product creation and launch process.
How did Volcom and Centric work together to create success?
Volcom is a global apparel brand, rooted in skate, snow, surf, music and art. They design, produce and distribute top-quality apparel, outerwear and accessories for men, women and kids. Volcom creates product that is simultaneously durable, sustainable, fashionable and functional.
Founded in 1991, Volcom is headquartered in Costa Mesa, California and has over 900 employees worldwide. Volcom has grown from a mainly wholesale business into a multi-channel wholesale, retail and e-commerce business, with over 115 branded retail stores globally and a thriving online channel.
As Chastain explains, Volcom is committed to pursuing exciting opportunities, but the tools and systems they had in place were preventing users from reaching their full potential.
“We see a lot of opportunities to design durable, sustainable, functional and innovative apparel, creating meaningful products for a broad spectrum of people who persistently follow their passions,” he says.
“We’re also experiencing a lot of changes in our business as we transition from a primarily wholesale to a multi-channel retail brand. Greater visibility through our tools is a necessity, and as we become a global brand, we need tools that will grow with us and help us to reach multiple customer bases and regional markets.”
Volcom selected and implemented a PLM solution six years ago, but experienced challenges that, ultimately, resulted in leading them to consider a replacement system.
“The system was super customizable and scalable, but that presented its own challenges, as it needed a lot of complex coding,” Chastain explains. “The designers weren’t really part of the initial implementation, so they ended up doing all of their work outside the system. Other portions of the product lifecycle, such as costing, planning and sourcing, were being managed separately. There was an overall lack of user satisfaction and a sense of frustration.”
Realising that they could either continue with a system upgrade or take a totally different direction, Volcom decided to revisit a company that had been a finalist last time they looked for a PLM solution – Centric Software.
“It was a huge challenge to switch a major system, but part of our brand DNA at Volcom is to attempt the impossible,” says Chastain. “We saw an opportunity, and we decided to go for it. We invited Centric in, and we saw how they had matured and grown as a company over the years.”
As Chastain explains, Volcom were impressed by Centric’s apparel experience, ease of use and commitment to demonstrating how Centric PLM could handle Volcom’s specific challenges and processes.
“Centric encourages best business practices. They’re very knowledgeable in the apparel business, and that was a key factor for us. We were excited about their roadmap and the future they laid out.”
“Our users were excited about the ease of use, simplicity and Excel-like interface,” he continues. “Centric’s developers focus on reducing the number of clicks users have to do to complete any task, which is huge for us.”
“Ultimately, we chose Centric because they didn’t just show us a simple demo. They did in-depth demos with our data, our tech packs and our system requirements. They were willing to take that step for us, and I know they would do that for any potential customer.”
Volcom completed Phase 1 of their implementation on schedule and the first team to go live on the system immediately experienced benefits.
“When I originally announced the timeline, there were some worried faces on the Snow team, who would be the first to start working in the system,” says Chastain. “However, once we implemented Centric PLM, those worries melted away. Entering styles in the system used to take the Snow team two weeks, and it now takes them a day and a half – almost 7x faster than the old way. As we complete implementation, it’s great for our other teams to hear about that success.”
Chastain notes that user buy-in is high at Volcom, boosted by the experience of working directly with the Centric team during implementation.
“The Centric team is very hands-on and engaged,” he says.
User involvement and buy-in is extremely high. I get stopped daily by people asking when they’ll be able to use different aspects of the solution.” Volcom quickly noticed benefits such as increased efficiency and improved collaboration across teams. As Chastain says, “We hear about increased efficiency a lot when people are presenting a tool, but for Centric, it’s true. It reduces time spent on data entry to allow our users to actually do their jobs and focus on what they do best. Our designers now have end-to-end ownership of tech packs and BOMs. With the Adobe Connect tool, designers can work in Adobe Illustrator while seamlessly updating their BOMs in PLM. That’s an absolute gamechanger for us.”
Volcom is looking forward to several significant improvements as they complete implementation. These include integrating their existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution with Centric PLM and adding PLM modules to handle compliance and testing as well as planning and costing. Vendors were connected to the legacy PLM solution, so continuing that integration with Centric PLM is a priority for Volcom.
“Having third party vendors in the system allows us to streamline communication and collaboration,” says Chastain. “They can really take ownership of their part of the process and it builds trust, which is extremely important.”
Chastain concludes that the project’s success is down to the hard work of teams on both sides of the partnership.
“I couldn’t be more impressed by what we’ve seen so far,” he says. “Every project has its challenges, but Centric sent extra resources when we needed them and they have hit every milestone. Implementing a new PLM solution takes time, energy and effort, but with dedicated teams on both sides, it can be done smoothly and successfully – especially when your users are hungry for change.”