Part 1: Apparel Software Trends 2016: A Conversation with Mark Burstein and just-style

Part 1: Apparel Software Trends 2016: A Conversation with Mark Burstein and just-style

May 4, 2016

Once again just-style has published its Apparel Software Trends Management Briefing, and this year it focused on four topics that affect apparel and fashion producers: Tools to Tackle the Issues, Where to Focus Future Spend, What Else to Watch and Key Supply Chain Challenges.

NGC’s own Mark Burstein was featured in this series as a leader in the apparel industry. The series provides an excellent summary of the key technology and supply chain challenges and opportunities facing the industry in the next 12 months.

We’re excited to share Mark’s thoughts on these topics.

just-style (JS): Software can help tackle some of the challenges facing apparel supply chains by providing full end-to-end visibility across all channels, using data to drive better decision-making, and boosting collaboration with suppliers.

Mark Burstein (MB): The latest generation of fashion PLM and Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems break down enterprise barriers by connecting the data and systems in an organization to drive better decision-making. It’s what we call “PLM 3.0”; it includes integrated PLM and SCM, but there’s so much more to it than that. It takes PLM beyond its traditional role, turning PLM into an enterprise platform that shares data among key stakeholders in every department of a company, as well as third parties such as vendors, suppliers, product testing labs, logistics providers and more.

PLM 3.0 serves as an enterprise hub for the entire product lifecycle, pulling in information from systems including:

  • Forecasting and Planning
  • Development
  • Sourcing and Supply Chain Management
  • Compliance
  • Production
  • Quality
  • Logistics
  • Finance
  • Sales
  • Social

PLM 3.0 takes information from all these systems and data sources, shares and analyzes it, and executes decisions based on the results. Every stakeholder shares in the information, which is important, since issues in one part of the organization have ripple effects upstream or downstream.

This represents a big step forward. Today, issues that happen in production aren’t shared in a timely manner with decision-makers upstream, where problems can be quickly resolved. Companies must improve across all areas of concept to adoption, and PLM 3.0 is essential for this.

JS: Where should apparel firms be focusing their software investments now if they want to remain competitive into the future? [[more]]

MB: PLM 3.0, or “PLM as a Platform,” is one of the most important investments that apparel companies can make.  The ability to react quickly to information anywhere in the extended enterprise – upstream or downstream – is critical to helping companies achieve faster speed to market, increase full-price sales, reduce markdowns and meet profit goals. This can only be achieved by connecting all the systems and data in an enterprise and turning PLM into an enterprise hub, which we call PLM 3.0.

By definition, PLM is a planning system, but the ability to react is just as important. Companies need a feedback loop so that as things are selling in the stores, everyone has access to sales information. If products are selling quickly, make more of them; if the merchandise isn’t moving, stop production on it and cut your losses.

Planning is very important, but reacting is even more important. The best-laid plans can be compromised because of unexpected circumstances. Materials may not arrive on time. The factory may be overwhelmed, causing schedules to slip. Quality samples may be rejected, or shipments may be delayed in customs or held up by labor strikes. Companies can only react through connecting systems and data, and that’s what PLM 3.0 provides.

JS: What else is likely to be topping the apparel industry’s technology agenda this year?

MB: Self-service Business Intelligence – “actionable intelligence” – can help companies react quickly to data and analytics. As Gartner notes in its Feb. 2016 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics, the balance of power has shifted from IT to the business, and that is empowering apparel companies with a new generation of easy-to-use tools for insight and action. Rather than look at KPIs and weekly trends, apparel executives can gain real-time understanding and take immediate action. Given the speed at which the fashion industry moves today, these new tools can help companies take advantage of immediate opportunities and react quickly to problems and challenges.

Mobility continues to see new and innovative applications, too. Designers can snap photos of the latest fashions in a Paris window display and immediately share them via the PLM system with their design team in New York or LA, bringing fresh inspiration to collections in real-time. Companies are now using mobile devices for scanning and packing, quality inspection, factory inspections and a growing number of supply chain functions. There’s a tremendous amount of innovation in mobile technology, and it should be a part of every brand and retailer’s technology agenda.

JS: What are the biggest challenges facing the global apparel supply chain in 2016?

MB: Business silos in the apparel supply chain are a big barrier to operational performance and profitability. It’s an omnichannel world, yet retailers and brands have made surprisingly little progress in connecting the silos of information in their organization. A recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that only 18 percent of the world’s leading companies have removed operational silos in their organization. Not surprisingly, those companies are significantly more profitable and competitive than the rest.

As the report noted, “companies that want to successfully compete with these leaders…must not only remove the business silos that prevent seamless operations, but also rapidly increase their investments in omnichannel capabilities before they fall further behind the omnichannel leaders. These actions will define retail winners and losers going forward.”

Real-time visibility across apparel supply chains is a big part of this. By removing the silos in their organizations, retailers and brands can help ensure that development and production deadlines are met and products arrive on time – ensuring they have the right products to meet customer demand in every channel. They can also ensure that products comply with all governmental and social regulations, are produced under safe working conditions, and meet or exceed quality standards. You can’t do this with siloed operations.