Can Progressive PLM Fix a Fashion Problem?

The new generation of shoppers is constantly connected, which sets up new expectations and selling models such as “see now, buy now,” direct-to-consumer and IWWIWWIWI (I Want What I Want When I Want It). Customers are now fully in charge of what, when and where they engage and how they buy.

Brands and retailers are challenged by the convergence of connected consumer expectations, new dynamics and blurred lines of e-commerce, bricks-and-mortar stores and other channels throughout Unified Commerce and the attendant demand to turn product quickly and react to high demand. What e-commerce has taught bricks-and-mortar retailers is that “just in time” is a much better business model than carrying a large inventory, as long as you can deliver quickly.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) can assist with quicker production cycles, producing the right products to meet customer demands and streamlining the supply chain. PLM can cover the gamut from conceptual planning to creative design, 3-D design, technical design, sourcing, quality management, order management, logistics, supplier management, finance and more.

Unified Commerce has intensified the demand on the supply chain with the increased complexity of sharing product information and collaborating from the design to the manufacturing processes to the finished products. So, the demand for “intelligent” platforms that provide a real-time collaboration to speed up processes and help people make decisions every step of the way is critical. In the near future, there will be intertwined intelligence with the intersection of PLM systems and AI (artificial intelligence) platforms, but until then, speed, customization and personalization need to be improved right now.

So, can today’s PLM solutions fast-track the design-to-delivery product lifecycle? Brands and retailers need to drive business process improvement, optimization, real-time communication and reengineering through every step of the product journey. Progressive PLM platforms—whether in the cloud, SaaS (software as a service) or on-premise—can help fix this fashion problem.

Centric Software, headquartered in Campbell, Calif., has a market-driven PLM solution that provides a “single, actionable version of the truth” approach to line planning, global sourcing, calendar management, materials management, quality management, collection management, technical design and retail execution. Centric PLM drives digital transformation, enabling its customers to get closer to consumers and boost product innovation and speed time to market in order to stay closer to trend.

Centric has paired organizational process change with innovative technologies, mobility, cloud and SaaS platforms to facilitate a modern way of working. Centric Software also can feed product-tester input right into the PLM system and route it directly to designers/product personnel. In addition, the Centric Visual Innovation Platform is a visual, fully digital collection of boards for touch-based devices such as the iPad and large-screen televisions that enable ideation, what-iffing and executing decisions en masse to dramatically cut time to market and boost creativity.

New York–based CGS Software’s next generation of PLM capabilities allows clients to launch new products directly in Adobe Illustrator and automatically populate PLM with the BlueCherry Adobe Illustrator plug-in application. This allows for more-innovative designs and better design efficiency. CGS can provide one version of the truth for the details and status of each product under design and development by centralizing and managing design images, product and raw-materials development, purchasing, and sample approval. Underpinned with end-to-end workflow tracking, the result is a decrease in iterations for samples and prototypes, reduced administrative tasks and data entry, increased efficiency, and overall greater speed and agility, which is required for today’s connected consumer.

Lectra, based in Paris and Atlanta, drives what it calls the “4th Industrial Revolution” with a modular PLM approach that acts as a connected, intelligent nerve center for today’s digital supply chain, from planning through design to production, ensuring a consistent flow of error-free data between processes, technologies and people.

It also provides companies with the agility to adapt to different business models, like design to source, develop to source and develop to manufacture so they can jump on trends more quickly. You can streamline the way you work, make more-informed decisions with real-time data and get closer to your customers than ever before.

New York–based BeProduct’s next generation of PLM empowers social product development. It was built specifically for the cloud and designed with collaboration at its heart. BeProduct streamlines the entire preproduction process, from the initial design to sample tracking, and users can access their data, no matter where they are located. You can also view, share, review and collaborate in real time on any device—redefining the way teams and partners share information and collaborate.

So, can progressive PLM fix a fashion problem? Well, the bottom line is design and product development has to become more social. Retailers and brands need to bring the social experience to the fashion design process and progressive PLM can help get you there. Most people get into fashion design for the inspiration and creativity, something that’s been somewhat lost from the industry in recent years.

In order to be more creative, organizations need to shift to a more collaborative process for ideas and inspiration using these new digital platforms in a way that mirrors the consumer social-media experience. Retailers and brands that best collaborate together and leverage their knowledge, expertise and experience will make more-inspired, on-trend products and be able to deliver them quickly for today’s connected and demanding consumer.

Jerry Inman is a retail expert focused on the fashion, style and technology industries. He is also the cofounder of the retail consultancy Demand Worldwide as well as of the fashion trend forecaster MintModa.