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Technology Evaluation Centers / January 28, 2020

What Is NGC Software Expecting in 2020 and Beyond?

Given the timing of the NRF 2020 Retail's Big Show & Expo, we recently touched base with NGC Software, a provider of cloud solutions for Supply Chain Management (SCM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Quality Control (QC), Vendor Compliance (VC), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). NGC, which supports hundreds of fashion retail customers, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the publicly-traded American Software, Inc. Logility and Demand Solutions are other major subsidiaries of American Software.
 
When New Generation Computing (NGC) was founded in 1982, the company had an idea to develop innovative software for the fashion and retail industries. Almost 40 years later, NGC Software has offices in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia to support its customers and all of their global trading partners. NGC’s Advisory Board includes many industry leaders and the vendor is a member of the following Industry Association Boards:

  •     National Retail Federation (NRF)
  •     American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
  •     California Fashion Association (CFA)
  •     Americas Apparel Producers Network (AAPN)
  •     Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA)

Recent Developments at NGC Software

NGC saw rapid growth in 2019, driven by the demand for digital supply chain solutions from top tier retailers. Presently, retailers are at a crossroads due to consumers’ desire for more environmental responsibility from brands. Trade wars and increases in tariffs necessitate changes in global supply chains. The youngest generations demand the latest styles more than any generation before, and they want them faster. The pace of change will accelerate, making it essential for retailers to implement new digital solutions that will allow them to sense and respond quickly to demand signals and deliver the capabilities retailers need to thrive in the future.
 
NGC added many Tier One customers in 2019, and many existing customers migrated to their next-gen Andromeda cloud software platform. The Andromeda platform empowers the “Digital Supply Chain” by linking retailers and brands with their vendors, factories, suppliers, agents, logistics providers, and other global trading partners into a unified, real-time network. In addition, NGC offers a full range of consulting services.
 
NGC continually enhances the Andromeda platform, which, as hinted earlier, includes Andromeda PLM, Andromeda SCM, Andromeda Quality, and Andromeda Vendor Compliance major components (see Figure 1). Due to its being a cloud software platform, applications can be seamlessly updated, and NGC customers have reportedly responded positively to that. The vendor was selected as a Microsoft co-sell partner and Andromeda was listed in the Microsoft Marketplace in 2019. Moreover, some fashion universities are teaching Andromeda in their design and supply chain classes.

NGC won several major company awards in 2019. Retailers ranked NGC #1 in seven categories in the RIS News 2020 Software LeaderBoard, including the categories of Technology Innovation, Overall Performance, and Software Reliability. Those rankings are based on retailer evaluations of software vendors. NGC was also named a Top 100 Logistics IT Provider for the 10th year by Inbound Logistics and a 2019 S&DCE 100 Award Winner by Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

NGC President Provides More Details

Our interlocutor here is Mark Burstein, president of NGC, where he leads all of the company’s sales, marketing, R&D, and strategic initiatives. He joined NGC in 2002 and has since served in numerous executive sales, marketing, and product development positions, including vice president (VP) of PLM and global sourcing solutions. He was named president in 2010.
 
Burstein has been responsible for numerous accomplishments in his role as president. His vision for the future of retail and fashion guided the direction and development of NGC’s Andromeda Cloud Platform for digital supply chains. His strategic insight and industry experience have helped global brands and retailers transform their supply chain operations and become more customer-focused. In recognition of Burstein’s thought leadership, Supply & Demand Chain Executive named him a supply chain Pro to Know for eight consecutive years and chose him as the Pro of the Year in 2018.
 
Burstein has many years of experience working with merchandising, design, sourcing, production, quality, logistics, compliance, operations, and technology professionals at many global brands and retailers. Prior to joining NGC, he was president of a large vertical manufacturer of intimate apparel and sportswear. He began his career as a business analyst for Accenture.
 
Burstein is active in industry organizations and sits on the boards of the AAFA, the CFA, and Goodwill Industries. He earned an MBA from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Florida.

TEC: How has retail sourcing and product design as a practice changed in the past few years?
 
MB: When sourcing and procuring products, retailers and brands consider three things: speed, quality, and price—in that order. As a result, the supply chain ecosystem must move faster than ever before to ensure companies can react quickly to demand. The only efficient way to monitor and quickly adjust the activities within a supply chain is to utilize a single, cloud-based, end-to-end digital supply chain. A platform that brings together all systems, applications, processes, and data is the only way to enable an agile supply chain.
 
TEC: Do you think procurement/sourcing and PLM have become an important strategic function at the fore of the business?
 
MB: A retailer’s supply chain impacts every aspect of the business, from sourcing materials to managing the lifecycle of unique products to vendor relations, ultimately hitting the bottom line more than any other function within a retail business. As a result, the procurement and sourcing processes for these solutions must be at the forefront of any retailer’s mind.

Some New Technology Considerations

TEC: How have new digital transformation tools in general changed SCM, PLM, and procurement/sourcing practices in retail?
 
MB: Fast reaction time, along with a near perfect balance of supply and demand, is essential for companies to survive and thrive. Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can help companies break through these barriers to radically improve supply chain efficiency and speed.
 
Companies that incorporate AI to quickly make decisions throughout the operations ecosystem can ensure they’re able to move the right products through from concept to customer much faster. Unlike the analog linear supply chain, a supply chain that leverages AI/machine learning continually analyzes situational data, determines optimal outcomes, and automatically executes transactions.
 
Using AI, machine learning, and other new technologies ensures that companies can respond faster to customer demand and more closely align supply with demand. This is essential to cost savings. In addition, cost savings can be gained from shifting employees to more value-added activities and ensuring that the supply chain maintains momentum in the right direction.
 
TEC: Yet, these modern tools can cause a culture shift, right?
 
MB: Yes, which makes change management extremely important. Cognitive supply chains involve a strategic corporate reorganization and a significant cultural shift. Much of the data analysis and routine decision-making will be performed without any human intervention. The workforce can then spend more time on higher-level assignments that support faster growth and higher profitability.
 
TEC: What do you see as the benefits of moving sourcing/PLM operations to the cloud?
 
MB: Our retail clients see moving to the cloud as one of the most essential benefits of emerging digital supply chain platforms. In many cases, companies are still relying upon a combination of spreadsheets and other applications to manage many aspects of their supply chain operations. Cloud-based PLM and SCM software solutions are essential components of a true digital supply chain that greatly improves collaboration, operating efficiencies, turnaround time, and accuracy.
 
TEC: What strategies and technologies does NGC recommend to foster strong cybersecurity practices and mitigate risk?
 
MB: Preventative maintenance is one of the top ways we reduce risk and foster strong practices. Reviewing source code, ensuring databases are working properly, managing operational services, and providing routine check-ins and maintenance are essential. We work with customers regularly to communicate assessments and manage improvements.
 
Blockchain technologies are still in the early stages in PLM and SCM, but they will further increase speed and efficiency as they move into the mainstream. NGC is actively pursuing a variety of blockchain solutions within the retail vertical. Stay tuned!
 
Some NGC Customer Examples
 
TEC: Please tell us what solutions have some NGC retail clients used to transform the procurement/sourcing/PLM function at their business?
 
MB: NGC clients use the Andromeda Cloud Platform® to enable the Digital Supply Chain and transform the concept-to-customer lifecycle for retailers and brands. Andromeda brings together all departments—Planning, Merchandising, Product Development, Sourcing, Compliance, Purchasing, Production, Quality, Logistics, Marketing, Sales, and Operations—into a single cloud-based solution that connects vendors, suppliers, and other providers. With Andromeda, retailers and fashion brands can react to constantly changing demand signals, make fast, accurate data-driven decisions, and achieve the right balance of supply and demand.

TEC: Tell us please about an example or two of a client’s expansion strategy and how it was supported by your sourcing and product design capabilities.
 
MB: Our clients have had major success when it comes to implementing Andromeda to support their overall business goals. For example, this year Nicole Miller upgraded to Andromeda after working with us for six years in order to further streamline its product development workflow and gain better visibility across its supply chain as the company expands the brand into new markets and categories.
 
Also this year, Joseph Ribkoff, which sells in boutiques and specialty stores in 64 countries, sought an innovative, integrated digital platform to help manage its rapid growth and standardize its global operations. The company selected Andromeda to help support their worldwide expansion.

Digital Platform Play

Based on Mark Burstein’s perspectives and our own observations, it appears—generally speaking—that the SCM and PLM market is moving towards broad platforms with easy connectivity. There seems to be a great potential in NGC’s platform that combines Planning and Execution (i.e. Logility and NGC) solutions. Think about the benefits of integrating Retail Planning, PLM, and Supply Planning/Buy Planning, all leading to capacity commitments, material platforming (i.e., an integrated system to develop and supply a family of products), postponement, and distribution directly from the factory.
 
Once the platform has connected all of the supply chain ecosystem participants, how can we start using AI technology to amplify speed? Some answers in that regard were provided above by Burstein. NGC is also working on slick consumer-facing solutions using augmented reality (AR) and avatars to enhance or simulate the buying experience.
 
As mentioned earlier, the vendor is also working on blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) applications. For sure, its fierce competitors like PTC, Bamboo Rose, CBX Software, Centric Software, and others will need to sharpen their counter value props accordingly.