This week, E-Spec share their tenth exclusive article with WhichPLM. In it, Dan Hudson makes a case for the importance of images. Images, he states, that are involved in every aspect of your business.
Most companies treat images as after thoughts – something that must accompany their data. Images are lumped together on departmental systems; each department maintaining their own copies and trying to ensure they have the latest and correct version of the image. When enterprise software systems are implemented, they may capture images and include them as part of “one version of the truth”, but the truth is: not every one uses the enterprise software – but everyone uses images.
Previously, the product development department would hand products over to marketing, sales and production in a linear fashion. In today’s world speed to market requires all these tasks to be performed in parallel; the hand-offs are not done all at once. They are iterative. There are plenty of solutions being offered to help automate this complicated workflow and communications, but they still treat images as overhead and attachments.
In the linear workflow, the Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is at the end of the process. Assets are stored when they are complete; the DAM is more of a repository or archive.
In the world of today, the DAM system needs to be involved up front. DAM is the hub of your business, enabling the images to drive the process.
A designer sketches a product design in Adobe Illustrator. Metadata is collected: season, collection, gender, design number, designer’s name and other attributes. The metadata is embedded in the Illustrator file. A JPG version of the file is created and sent to the PLM system along with the metadata. If the metadata points to an existing record, the image is added to that record; if the record does not exist, it is created and the image is added. At the same time a PNG (with transparent background) is sent to an internal website used for cross-departmental communications. The original AI file is cataloged in the DAM system.
The product development advances to the point where a sample is requested from a manufacturing vendor. When the sample arrives, it is sent to the photo studio for photos. As the photos are being processed, metadata is added to the files (sample number, season, collection, gender, design number, designer’s name and other attributes). The photos are cataloged by the DAM system. It is now possible for systems to use the metadata from their sketch files (JPGs or PNGs) to query the DAM system and retrieve the photos.
As the PLM and ERP systems exchange data, records in the ERP now also match the metadata. The internal website can provide data from a group of styles from multiple systems. By selecting the Season/Collection images, queries can return pricing data from one system, color and size data from another, and sales statistics from yet another system.
A customer service representative can use the image to verify that they are referencing the correct product and then use the metadata to access data from the other systems to respond to the customer’s inquiry. This same functionality can be built in to a “self-service” customer service website.
The key is to create embedded metadata that combines to build indexes of unique records in every business system. Self-aware images and metadata drive your business workflow and processes.
Lydia Hanson has been part of the WhichPLM team for almost four years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our annual publications, and more. Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.
WhichPLM is an independent digital magazine dedicated to product development for the fashion industry.
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