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3D Design, PLM, and 3D Optimization; The Trinity of Digital Product Creation and 3D Commerce


In his first guest piece for WhichPLM, Richard Evans, VP of Growth @ VNTANA, discusses the relationship between 3D design, PLM, and 3D optimization in our industry. VNTANA is an SaaS platform that makes 3D asset production and distribution fast and scalable for apparel, footwear and furniture.

3D continues to play a growing role in product creation, sales, and marketing as it transforms the retail industry. There is a near-imperative for brands to implement a 3D technology stack that supports the processes and workflows that will ensure they can accelerate their digital transformation, grow their revenues while simultaneously reducing costs, and capitalize on the potential 3D offers across all areas of the product lifecycle.

For most companies, the foundational tools in their digital product creation technology stack include:

  • A 3D design and development tool (such as Browzwear, CLO, Modo, or Rhino)
  • A Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tool
  • And, a 3D Content Management and Optimization platform (like VNTANA)

Questions Still Swirl Around the 3D Technology Stack

While these technologies may seem straightforward in terms of how and why they are used, there continues to be questions raised about how they are used together – questions like:

  • “What unique role does each solution play?”
  • “Do each of these tools provide distinct value or are there similar benefits and duplication?” (Essentially, “Do I need to license ALL of these?”)
  • “How can I maximize my investment when licensing these three types of products?”

Spoiler: each solution is essential. The short answer to these questions is that each of these offerings is an essential part of the digital product creation technology stack. Each delivers its own unique value to different areas of the business and specific phases of the product lifecycle. And, rarely, if ever, is there duplication in features and functionality that would result in a buyer leaving one of these offerings out of the mix as they build their digital product creation strategy.

And, the sum is greater than the parts. An investment in any one of these solutions significantly improves efficiency, product quality, cost savings, and ultimately revenue for your business. However, when used together, these independent solutions combine to increase the collective investment and the value of each platform in the stack. Basically, it’s the cliché of “one plus one equals three”. While there is inherent value in each piece, it is only when these products are used together that your business can extract the maximum value and potential of each product across your entire product lifecycle.

Specialization Matters

When you think about it, though, this combination of specialized products working together is similar to any manufacturing process. Since the days of Adam Smith and, later, Henry Ford, the deployment of specialized labor, processes, and systems have produced improved product quality, greater output, and higher return on investment. The three-pronged digital product creation technology stack we’re discussing here is simply a bits and bytes equivalent of history’s Model T production line in today’s digitally-centric world.

Now that we’ve outlined the three major components of the digital product creation technology stack, let’s take a look at the key benefits of each solution.

4 Benefits of 3D Design and Development Software

3D design and development software is becoming a necessity for brands across fashion and apparel, footwear, furniture, and a range of other industries. While 3D CAD software began revolutionizing manufacturing beginning with the creation of UNISURF CAD back in the late 1960s, it’s only recently that the latest variants of these applications have taken hold in the design of apparel, footwear, furniture, and other products. The impact of designing in 3D has been significant and innovative businesses in this space are reaping the rewards of their digital transformation and adoption of 3D design — outpacing their competitors and setting the foundation needed to achieve success in the next era of their existence.

As a standalone product or platform, what are the benefits of 3D design and development software?

  1. Faster product creation and shorter lead times lead to faster time to market
  2. More accurate pre-production reduces waste and improves efficiency
  3. Greater flexibility in design and development provide near-limitless design options and variations
  4. Increased collaboration and better decision making drive better team performance

5 Benefits of PLM Software

PLM software manages all of the information and processes at every step of a product lifecycle with benefits being maximized when they’re used across globalized supply chains. This includes all relevant data about each item being produced, the individual parts used to create the product, the final products or SKUs themselves, related documents, requirements, engineering or manufacturing change orders, as well as quality control workflows.

The benefits include:

  1. Lower costs gained through more efficient and repeatable processes
  2. Increased productivity realized through process automation and process improvement
  3. Faster time to market which creates competitive advantage
  4. Improved quality control resulting in better products and higher quality
  5. And, ultimately, revenue growth as a result of the other benefits combined

Most PLM systems play a central role in the product development process — connecting to other systems, like 3D digital product creation tools, and 3D optimization or 3D CMS tools. By integrating with 3D digital product creation tools, the PLM can ingest 3D designs and create a single source of truth for each asset throughout the product process. And, by integrating with 3D optimization and 3D CMS tools, the PLM can connect the original 3D asset design file to an optimization engine that prepares that file for use in a wide variety of sales and marketing applications. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of both digital product creation tools and PLM solutions, let’s dive into the separate and distinct strengths of a 3D CMS and 3D optimization.

5 Unique Benefits of 3D CMS and 3D Optimization Platforms

3D CMS and 3D Optimization software is one of the latest additions to the 3D product creation technology stack. The primary functionality of these products serves three main functions:

  1. Improving the efficiency and collaboration of digital product creation teams
  2. Optimizing 3D design assets for use in sales and marketing channels (think: small size, high fidelity)
  3. Distributing those optimized 3D models to different sales and marketing platforms (i.e. Facebook, eCommerce, Digital Showrooms, etc.)

What are the benefits?

  1. Higher e-commerce revenues resulting from improved conversion rates and higher average order value
  2. Improved ad performance from higher dwell times, click-through rates, and increased interactions
  3. Lower return rates due to customers having a better understanding of the product
  4. Improved efficiency and collaboration with internal and external stakeholders
  5. Massive cost savings by replacing manual 3D processes with automation

To get a better idea of how these optimized assets can be used in sales and marketing applications let’s take a look at these three common use cases.

3 Primary Ways to Use an Optimized 3D Asset for Sales and Marketing

1.   Web or mobile e-commerce

It’s one thing to create a 700MB 3D file to be used for manufacturing a new sneaker, it’s another to try and deliver 50 different files of that size in an e-commerce store that is being browsed by a consumer on their mobile device during their morning commute (remember morning commutes?). 3D CMS platforms can instantly optimize the existing 3D assets used in your manufacturing process, reducing their size without a loss in visual quality, resulting in ultrafast load times and increased conversion rates.


2.   Product try-on using augmented reality

Taking 3D e-commerce one step further are social networks that now offer a range of capabilities that allow virtual product try-on using augmented reality. What started with makeup and sunglasses being tried on in an application like Snapchat or Instagram is now evolving into shoe and clothing try-on and even the beginnings of whole body tracking and try-on of entire outfits — allowing consumers to try-on an entire look with the help of the self-facing camera on their mobile phone.

3.   Advertising

Advertising represents one of the most significant “on the horizon” applications of optimized 3D assets. This platform takes optimization to the edge as the file sizes required to deliver a 3D asset in an ad millions of times across an ad platform must be extremely small – like, less than 3MB per asset. With the right technology partner, you can take that 700MB 3D asset used for manufacturing and optimize it to a level that it can be delivered in your customer’s Facebook feed. Early tests show a lot of promise with nearly 3X higher dwell times on the ad, higher click-throughs, and higher levels of interactions such as likes, shares, and comments.

Wrapping it all up

If 3D design and development tools and PLM software are all about back office efficiency (read: cost savings), 3D CMS Platforms and 3D optimization is all about monetization and revenue. They’re two sides of the same coin.

As 3D and AR continue to capture the attention of consumers, businesses must ensure they have the right tools in place to support their digital transformation and deliver to their buyers the experiences they are demanding. When evaluating PLM or 3D CMS platforms, savvy decision makers will dive into each vendor’s partnerships to find partners with open, extensible platforms that are designed to work seamlessly with other 3D tools in the marketplace — most importantly 3D design and development tools. By choosing best-in-class point solutions that play well with other tools in the product creation technology stack your business will be set up for success with the confidence of knowing that you have the right systems in place to optimize your product creation workflow. And, by utilizing all three of these key technologies together, you’ll maximize the investment your business is making in each solution — delivering improved performance from creation through manufacturing and all the way to the consumer interactions being driven in your e-commerce channels.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight 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 PLM Project Pack, or 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.