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WhichPLM / September 8, 2014

NGC Guest Blog: PLM Without Boundaries: Fashion PLM Continues Its Evolution

In the first installment of a two-part blog, Mark Burstein, President of Sales, Marketing and R&D at New Generation Computing, explores what NGC calls ”PLM Without Boundaries.”

Fashion PLM is always a work in progress, mirroring the rapid changes of global fashion design and production. And as PLM has evolved, it continues to break down boundaries; in recent years, for example, PLM has made deep inroads into Supply Chain Management as “Extended PLM,” combining both PLM and SCM into a single platform.

It doesn’t stop there, though. PLM can easily encompass additional capabilities with far greater connectivity to enterprise systems and information – evolving to what we call “PLM Without Boundaries.”

PLM Without Boundaries goes far beyond the scope of traditional PLM, providing a central repository to orchestrate all information, processes, departments and geographies and serve as the hub of the global fashion enterprise. PLM Without Boundaries encompasses Supply Chain Management, fashion ERP and many other enterprise systems, with all systems incorporated into a central information “hub” that can greatly improve productivity, profitability and product quality.

Meeting the need for speed and information

There are good reasons for this latest evolution of PLM. Fashion design/production is an extraordinarily complex, fast-paced, and information-intensive business. Dozens of different departments and external trading partners need instant access to data, but in most organizations, information resides in silos that cannot easily be shared – leading to a proliferation of spreadsheets, emails, faxes and an inability to access timely, accurate data. Without a boundary-free approach to PLM and other enterprise systems, disaster can quickly strike.

The difference between success and failure in the fashion industry can hinge on getting the right information at the right time, and in order to do this, companies have to tear down the silos between departments.

As Apparel Magazine pointed out in a recent report, “It is critical for brands and retailers alike to synchronize and orchestrate every facet of the concept-to-consumer process. The consequences of failing to board the synchronization and orchestration train are grave. Companies can be saddled with excess inventory, experience shortages of best-selling items, discover that they have manufactured defective or otherwise unsafe products, and/or fail to attain financial goals for a given season. Loss of customers and damage to the brand – the former, often difficult to recoup and the latter, potentially irreparable – typically follow.”

PLM provides the right foundation

There are many approaches to enterprise integration. However, in the fashion industry, a web-based solution that combines both PLM and SCM (“Extended PLM”) is the ideal starting point, because it covers all the many different phases involved in product design and development, as well as sourcing, production and logistics. Having a web-based system is important, for easy access by all the various departments in an organization as well as overseas suppliers.

From there you can begin to integrate other enterprise systems including ERP, supply chain, logistics, product quality and testing, compliance, warehouse management – all the core systems, departments, and stakeholders in your global enterprise.

Some of these core systems will be available as integrated solutions from a single vendor; certain software suites can bring together fashion PLM, SCM and ERP solutions in a modular, fully integrated suite that integrates with other third party systems. Information from all of these systems can then be synchronized into a single web-based, collaborative platform that helps coordinate information flow and orchestrate the thousands of details involved in the concept-to-consumer lifecycle.

As analyst, Peter Bambridge, summed up in a recent white paper, “PLM without boundaries… provides a more comprehensive approach to the end-to-end business processes associated with all aspects of product innovation, from the original idea through to the product in the hands of the consumer. The high-level business processes include all of Plan, Develop, Source, Make, Ship and Sell. The key to this removal of boundaries is not only enabling full collaboration and specific integrations to related point solutions as defined in Extended PLM, but critically including tight supply chain integration with actionable insight.”

“This means combining supply chain planning capabilities and execution through effective global order management, logistics management and financial management. And it necessitates the orchestration of all PLM information between processes, departments, geographies and end-users to ensure seamless real-time information flow to deliver quality products that are compliant with customer and government-mandated tests, while still being able to meet the desired profit objectives.”

Part 2 of this blog series will take a closer look at the benefits of PLM Without Boundaries, the barriers to overcome, and real-world examples of companies that have successfully implemented this approach.