Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PLM in the Fashion Industry: Strike a Pose!

In a recent blog post I talked about the NRF Show in New York City. I mentioned a couple of the big PLM vendors that attended. However, what I did not mention were the many other PLM vendors that are squarely positioned in the fashion industry. This industry has some similarities to other traditional PLM industries, but there are many things to be learned from pure fashion PLM vendors.

Of course, there are many things that traditional PLM vendors have in common with those in the fashion industry. Managing data, searching, viewing, sharing, collaborating, and other areas are generally supported in some way by most PLM solutions. However, there are many areas where the fashion industry has unique requirements for PLM. That is why there are a host of niche vendors that provide PLM solutions to the fashion and retail industries.

Some of the PLM vendors that specifically serve the fashion industry are: Yunique PLM, Lectra Fashion, Visual 2000, WFX Cloud PLM, BlueCherry by CGS, and more. One might wonder what larger PLM vendors are doing to support this dynamic industry. Larger vendors such as PTC and Dassault have also built solutions to support the unique needs of users in the fashion industry. However, there are certain aspects of the fashion industry that are very different from the traditional automotive and aerospace industries that make it challenging to use traditional methods.


The fashion industry, and many other retail industries require a level of speed that traditional PLM solutions do not necessarily support. Think of the minimum level of speed you need to deliver fashion, and you will have some idea of what this requires: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. All of these seasons require new and unique fashions that the public can buy during a very short time-frame. No one buys new cars or lawnmowers for every season (unless you are Jay Leno); we expect these products to last many years.

3D Legacy

Most large PLM vendors come from a legacy of supporting large 3D CAD models. PTC, Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM, and Autodesk, all provide comprehensive 3D CAD solutions. Pro/Engineer, or Wildfire, or Creo from PTC; CATIA, or Solidworks from Dassault Systemes; NX, or SolidEdge from SiemensPLM; and AutoCAD, or Fusion, or Inventor from Autodesk. Supporting complex 3D CAD model assemblies with a PDM system during extended product design is not exactly the same as supporting a group of people using Adobe Illustrator that must coordinate very quickly with sales, retail, materials, stores and others around 2D information.

PDM BOM Legacy

Another key feature of fashion PLM is the technical specification package (Tech Pack). This can be considered a BOM for the creation of fashion items (sort of), but it is much more. The Tech Pack must include illustrations, measurements, target specs, sample materials/fabrics, shrinkage and other tests, plus many more details. This file is used as the garment proceeds through the design process, and people will potentially add/change information all along the way: the pattern maker, the designer, during fitting, potential manufacturer, and so forth. This file must be put through a change control process like any complex BOM, and a very flexible workflow must be supported. Traditional PDM systems do not always support this kind of file or processes out of the box.


Traditionally, the larger PLM providers have provided expensive solutions with many features that are often overkill for the small fashion shop. Today there are many lower priced solutions that support fashion without providing too many features at too high cost. There continues to be a high level of interest in replacing inefficient Excel files with a good solid PLM system in the fashion industry. The future for PLM is strong in the fashion industry, with 63% of apparel companies saying they plan to further invest in PLM technology this year.

Today we see many of the traditional CAD/PLM vendors providing strong solutions to fill gaps in their solution mix to support the fashion industry. PTC, for example, has a solution called Windchill FlexPLM that does an excellent job of supporting this industry. We will likely see many traditional vendors follow this example in the future as they seek to provide solutions that can support the fashion industry.

Those are just a few of the differences as I see it with PLM for the fashion industry. What have you seen in your experience. Let me know and we can have a fun discussion.



Friday, January 17, 2014

PLM Struts It's Stuff at the NRF 2014 Show

When people think of PLM, they often think of automobiles, airplanes, and large machines. But, the world of retail and fashion provides fertile ground for managing and sharing information. PLM, bold and beautiful, strutted down the catwalk at the recent NRF (National Retail Federation) show in New York, City. Some in the audience were heard to say, "I'm too sexy for my PDM!"

You can read more about this excellent show here, and here. Also, read what PTC and Dassault Systemes are doing in this space.

One aspect of this show that caught my attention was the idea of providing a rich customer experience. PTC and Dassault Systemes, along with others, were both there showing what they have to offer in this exciting space. Both of these companies have a strong set of offerings that provided support for the retail and fashion industries.

When you think about it, fashion and retail are very likely candidates for PLM. There is a ton of information generated during the product development process. Design data for new products must take into account customer input and feedback from previous products. The design data must be shared and collaborated upon by multiple people in real time. The supply chain must be involved in product discussions. Sales teams must be prepared for new products. There are merchandising and store operations teams that need to be involved in collaboration, and all of this must be done quickly.

The new product introduction process is complex because it involves many different people in various groups, potentially located all over the world. A PLM system must serve as a common repository for all product information including raw materials, product specifications, style information, product costing, packaging, and so forth. The PLM system must also allow sharing with those who need to make critical decisions quickly. PLM must also provide visibility for the entire retail value chain, allowing collaboration, design, development, and product sourcing. These are not easy tasks to accomplish when there is plenty of time, but time pressures are constantly part of any retail business.

Today we are seeing more and more retail and fashion companies look to PLM as a way to do business. They are replacing spreadsheets and paper documents with a common repository of product information that can be shared. This trend will continue. Those who plan to stay in business will embrace PLM and all the needed technology to support innovation and make their business run more efficiently.

Strut down the catwalk with confidence, because you've got PLM!

What do you think?