Timing is crucial in the fashion business. Consumer preferences can be difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy, and they can take unexpected turns in the time a product takes to go from the drawing board to the factory floor. When production starts, a huge amount of new data must be gathered and analyzed. After comparing production figures and sales numbers with pre-launch projections, manufacturers can make adjustments and revise their rollout strategies.
What is a PLM?
Product lifecycle management software makes all of this possible. PLM is a set of tools that gathers all of the information about a product and stores it in one place. This allows people at every stage of the product chain to access and change the information. When this happens, the effect of the change ripples through the system and the data sent to each user is updated.
PLM Software for the Fashion Industry
It is not uncommon for a garment to travel halfway around the world just to get to a store shelf. If clothes had passports, they would contain stamps from designers, textile suppliers, production managers, dispatchers, distributors and salespeople. The people working together on a project may be thousands of miles apart, but they can work seamlessly if they have access to accurate information. Modern PLM software creates a digital foundation for a product and then stores the information.
The Digital Thread
Industry experts call this digital foundation the digital thread. It is all of the information that was once stored on dozens or even hundreds of computers and other devices around the world. Once all of this data has been gathered together, PLM software processes and sorts it using its machine learning capabilities, an online knowledge database and artificial intelligence algorithms. The digital thread can provide a snapshot of a product at any point in its development cycle, and it also provides managers with the data they need to make astute and informed market decisions.
PLM software also uses the digital thread to weave a virtual clone of the product called a digital twin. Digital twins are digital representations of real objects, and they allow executives to see in a matter of seconds what kind of impact their ideas will have. The first digital twins were created by NASA in the 1960s to help astronauts get used to working in cramped space capsules. Today, they are used to determine what kind of delay a color or size change would cause and how much a minor design tweak could impact production schedules.
Help When You Need It
Pulling all of this off requires sophisticated software and state-of-the-art hardware. PLM software would be prohibitively expensive if users had to pay for all of this equipment, but they do not. Most PLM solutions are sold using the software as a service model, which means users only pay a monthly fee that includes upgrades and revisions. Software that is designed to be used by people from different fields and different parts of the world also tends to be very intuitive and easy to use, so training sessions are usually brief.
Benefits of PLM Software
The race to market success is often won or lost by very small margins, and companies that can improve efficiency without sacrificing quality will have an advantage. PLM software is a suite of dynamic tools that can help small clothing manufacturers to manage their data and compete with industry giants, and many of the leading providers have options for businesses of all sizes.
- Control: PLM users have control over their ideas because they have control over all of the data associated with them. PLM software unifies processes and presents data in ways that have been designed to make identifying problems and implementing solutions much easier. Most solutions also have robust security features that prevent unauthorized changes and keep detailed paper trails when revisions are made.
- Lower overheads: Reducing delays lowers overheads. PLM software helps companies to identify supply chain issues so appropriate action can be taken in advance. When decisions are made, executives can assess their actions using information that is provided to them in real time. The software also becomes an innovation pipeline by encouraging people who would not normally be heard to speak up and share their ideas.
- More productivity: Things move far more quickly when the people who use a system do not have to duplicate the work done by others. Having all of this information on hand also makes it a lot easier to cope with market volatility and unexpected snags.
- Faster rollouts: Being first to the market with a hot product can be a huge marketing coup. PLM software helps companies during rollout by integrating their sales and shipping departments with suppliers and vendors. When hurdles do appear, the software can help managers to identify the cause and find possible solutions.
- Higher Profits: When overheads fall and sales figures rise, profits are sure to go up. The SaaS sales model has made some of the world’s most complex and expensive software affordable to even small businesses. People who are freed from the monotony of repetitive tasks could become more enthusiastic and productive, and money used to maintain outdated systems can be put to more productive use. When PLM software is installed, users only need an internet connection and connected device to access the entire data thread.
Try Integration with ERP for the Win
At N41, we help our clients to become more successful by helping them to eliminate the barriers that confine information and prevent it from getting to places where it would be useful. Our Enterprise Resource Planning solutions seamlessly integrate data from manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers, and they provide an excellent foundation for more advanced products like PLM software.
If you would like to learn more about PLM solutions and how they could streamline your product cycles and improve your efficiency, you can call us on (213) 738‐1010. You could also visit our website to set up a free online demonstration.