“ Before, when you changed a style, it would mean updating it in five or six different places. Now when you make a change, you make it once and it goes everywhere. ”
“We’re growing really rapidly; our style and colorway counts doubled in the past year. Just the sheer workload of entering all that information was very challenging.”
Kelly Hickman (she/her), Production Manager at Wildfang describes the situation that led to the company acquiring a PLM solution. With the increase in SKUs, Hickman says, “Everything was operating with Google Sheets by VLOOKUPs and hard key entry. We started to experience a lot of normal human error.” Today, all information is in one, central repository, data is accurate and multiple departments have automated their processes with time savings all-around. How did this all come about?
Founded in 2012, Wildfang has humble roots, starting out in a studio apartment in Portland, Oregon to answer the question: why is the fashion industry still clinging to outdated gender norms that serve no one? Chief Product and Creative Officer at Wildfang, Taralyn Thuot (she/her) explains how the company went from a third-party retailer in a stepwise fashion: from collabs to private label to direct-to-factory to creating and producing the product they aspired to make.
“We wanted to break down gender norms and roles through the lens of fashion. But we became a vertical retailer very late in our business organization, and as a result of that, we didn’t always do things the ‘right’ way. When we started manufacturing our own goods, it was very manual, living in the Google Suite world, and not necessarily with all the best practices in mind.”
Thuot continues, “Since we’ve become a vertical retailer, with our flagship store in Portland and another in Los Angeles, we’ve been growing pretty rapidly in terms of both product assortment and team; bringing in product development experts in design, production, pattern-making, tech design and merchandising, with planning in-house as well.”
Having come from larger corporate backgrounds, with many of the new hires experienced in PLM, it was the team that went to Thuot and told her that the current systems weren’t scalable for growth. Wildfang was looking to double the business year over year—double the SKU count, double the assortment. “That’s when we set out to find a scalable solution for our business,” says Thuot.
Hickman provides further detail. “There was a lot of duplicative work. It was taking tons of time when we had a product change: it would have to be updated in five or six different places. It was a really high risk and super inefficient process, especially as we’re growing so rapidly.” Hickman’s background as a PLM super-user for her old company played an important role in vetting the new PLM.
Thuot says, “We built a whole scorecard, which is what we do at Wildfang, for any big initiative. It allows us to compare vendors like-for-like and then it allows us to sell in our team on what the cost benefit analysis is. Team time [savings] was the main draw. We interviewed all the software providers, asking the same questions and gave them a score, ranking them. Centric rose to the top.”
Hickman notes, “We added up the pluses, the minuses, we went through all of the demos. We did a very thorough takedown of what we needed, and we landed on Centric PLM™, which we are really excited about.”
Hickman continues, “The primary reason is the user interface, which was much more intuitive than some of the others. There’s a lot of automation, there’s a ton of flexibility in the views. The visual options and the roll-ups and planning views were really important to us. We’re using Centric PLM for more than just product development. Our finance team is using it for hierarchy planning and doing reviews of the dollars we have against tops, bottoms, specific collections—we slice it in a bunch of different ways.”
Case studies of similar companies at the same stage of growth bolstered the confidence that Wildfang had, in their decision. They also did their own research, contacting Centric Software customers. Hickman says, “For the record, the reference checks were glowing.”
Thuot adds, “Reference checks are always so important when you’re picking a partner. For us, that played a critical part in the decision-making. With something like PLM, you only want to do this once, right? You don’t want to have to do it all over again in three or four years so having great references gave us the trust to push forward.”
Implementation was on time and on budget. Both Hickman and Thuot mention that one of Wildfang’s maxims is, “We like to punch above our weight.” True to form, in Thuot’s words, “I don’t want to say we were difficult, but we were high-maintenance clients. We wanted to not just look at Wildfang’s business today, but at our business five years from now, and make sure we’re implementing with that scalability in mind. Our Centric Business Consultant (CBC) was incredibly communicative, incredibly supportive.”
Hickman says, “We asked a million questions and we asked for just as many different functionalities. I think that we, in a positive way, challenged the [Centric Software] team to find interesting solutions to things that maybe their other small business clients wouldn’t have.
There were multiple times where our CBC said, ‘I’ve never been asked that before,’ and then she would come back with a really awesome solution. She was extremely patient and a very good creative problem solver. It was an intense onboarding process, because we went head first into it. But we came out of that with a really robust and functional system.”
“Our SKU count has gone up 50% – 70% year on year with about the same headcount,” says Thuot. “We’re in our first season with Centric PLM right now and are still in the learning phase.”
Data accuracy is way up, as is efficiency. Thuot says, “Before, when you changed a style, it would mean updating it in five or six different places. Now when you make a change, you make it once and it goes everywhere.” Wildfang anticipates achieving a time savings of an average of 5 hours per team member each week, that’s over a 12% time saving weekly across the product development team member. They’ve already seen gains toward that goal. Thuot says, “We’re data nerds over here; that’s why we did all the math up front.”
“And that’s not even unlocking all the other benefits of Centric PLM, but team productivity is where we really wanted to showcase the win to get the project approved.”
Hickman adds, “Our planning and finance roll ups are very automated now—that’s been super helpful. Costing is another big one to have automated based on the BOMs. Setting up the system to do roll ups took some work, but we absolutely see the time savings. When the vendor portal goes live, there will be even more time savings—I’m currently getting physical cost sheets sent to me and I’m backing them into the system. That will save me days for sure.”
Thuot says, “We’ve definitely seen a great partnership [with Centric Software]: quick responses, really collaborative, a true effort to understand what we’re actually asking for, because when you’re not a systems person, it can be confusing. We’ve had a fantastic experience.”
Hickman enthuses, “All of the Centric team members have been incredibly flexible, incredibly solutions oriented, even when we asked a lot of them. And that is super meaningful because it enables us to use PLM to the absolute fullest. It’s been a pleasure working with the team and we see a much more powerful and efficient future with Centric, now that we have it all under our belts.”