Centric Aims to Innovate PLM With Mobile Apps

Product Lifecycle Management is considered a way to get different teams of people to work on a project through one software program. Centric Software, headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley, is aiming to allow many more people to get involved in a project.

One way to expand the reach of PLM is through mobile apps. Designing mobile apps is part of the mission of Centric’s innovation team. It’s a new direction for PLM, which started being used by the U.S. automobile industry in the mid-1980s. It is currently used by many industries, including fashion.

Nicholas Fjellberg Swerdlowe, a senior product manager of Centric’s global innovation team, said that mobile apps represent a new angle for PLM and product development.

“You could call it open-source product development,” Fjellberg Swerdlowe said. “You’re inviting people into the development process—stakeholders who wouldn’t traditionally take part in design or development of these products.”

Imagine a skier being able to give feedback on a new ski jacket from the ski slopes. Or a gym instructor telling a designer how a pair of leggings worked out during a class at a fitness studio, Fjellberg Swerdlowe said. Designers and merchandisers can use their phones to snap pictures and load them directly into PLM inspiration boards. Developers and quality-control people can use it to do sample audits at factories. They could also load information to PLM from a mobile app from almost anywhere rather than having to rekey information once they’re back at a computer.

Fjellberg Swerdlowe said that most creative teams already use personal devices for their work. The mobile apps give them the chance to cut out steps translating information from their personal devices to their company’s PLM.

“All devices are going to be interconnected. You’re going to get feedback in real time,” he said. But he noted that nothing is perfect. “If it is clutter and noise, that has to be addressed. What we’re really creating is an entire ecosystem of what works with the PLM system,” he said.

The significance of the real-time feedback with mobile apps is that designers can catch a problem faster than ever before. Taking care of problems faster can make an operation more efficient.

Centric recently announced that Chinese fast-fashion retailer Urban Revivo started working with the company’s PLM. Budwhite Zhang, UR’s chief information officer, said that mobile apps are a feature that made Centric attractive.

“With Centric’s mobile apps, our designers can capture and share inspiration immediately with the whole team,” Zhang said in a prepared statement. “This is very helpful for fast-fashion companies like UR, which rely on speed and instant communication.”

Mobile apps are not an industrywide trend for PLM software publishers, said Jill Mazur, a Los Angeles–headquartered business and technology consultant. “It’s definitely the next evolution of PLM,” she said. “It makes doing work much easier and more efficient,” she said.

In her experience, some companies didn’t want to work with apps because they didn’t have the budget to spend more for technology or because they were satisfied with how their old PLM system was working.