Best-In-Breed Systems Deployment – Vendor Interview, Judy Gnaedig, Director Strategic Projects – Fashion PLM, Lectra
Following on from his introductory look at the “best in breed” approach, Rob Smith recently met with Judy Gnaedig, Director Strategic Projects – Fashion PLM for Lectra to discuss their thoughts on both methodologies:
Rob Smith: With the recent downturn in global economies, are you finding that your customers (who are primarily multinational organisations working in the retail, footwear and apparel sector) have recovered quicker than some other industries with less resilient product portfolios, and what do you believe are your customers’ key business drivers now moving forward?
Judy Gnaedig: The apparel, footwear and accessories sector is genuinely having a tough time right now, albeit some companies are doing better than others. What is clear amongst our PLM customers is that all are glad to have made investments or are increasing their investments in our enterprise technology, which enhances working methods and makes them more productive. At a time when consumers are less loyal and more opportunistic and demanding, retailers and brands need to be more reactive by delivering great design and a renewed offer representing high value for money.
Rob Smith: As a rule of thumb, we look for a lifecycle of around 3-5 useful years from an enterprise system (whether it be ERP, PLM, EPOS etc.). Do you think we are going to see this “value window” being forcibly extended by consumers from their implementations? Do you think enterprise systems can still deliver a beneficial value over 5 years from go-live in the current market?
Judy Gnaedig: Today enterprise systems are expected to deliver benefits beyond five years; otherwise most companies would not be prepared to invest. A three to five year timeframe is short, considering that some of these projects are very large and involve many internal and external stakeholders; more and more companies look for solutions designed to support them into the future. A well-designed enterprise solution should pre-empt industry technical trends and assist growth and change. Lectra Fashion PLM enterprise software facilitates this process. The modular, apparel-specific nature of the solution, which offers regular functionality upgrades, contributes enormously to maximizing not only overall ROI, but the long-term lifespan of the solution.
Rob Smith: In what regions and / or areas are Lectra themselves either forecasting or currently seeing strong demand for PLM and other enterprise level-IT solutions? Why do you suspect the market is buoyant here ahead of other regions?
Judy Gnaedig: The retail-dominant markets of North America and northern Europe continue to express the strongest demand for apparel PLM. Emerging markets like China, Turkey and Russia are increasingly present. True global supply chain players like South Africa and Australia also remain active. We know that mature markets with more sophisticated consumers see higher rates of PLM adoption as companies strive to keep up with evolving demands.
Rob Smith: How are you, Lectra, helping to deliver better value for these customers from your enterprise system now, versus how you achieved the same goal in the different market circumstances prior to 2007?
Judy Gnaedig: Like everything technology related, enterprise solutions continue to become more powerful and more flexible. One of the biggest differences now, as compared to say, five years ago, is that enterprise solutions can truly be collaborative. It is important to distinguish between a superficial level of collaboration, such as managing attachments in a PLM solution, and a deep, granular level of collaboration, where data and people are connected in a very detailed way. Managing a pattern file, for example, is not the same as managing the measurements, grading and individual pattern pieces. Similarly, managing a jpg of a print design is not the same as managing the repeats, colors, colorways and technical data of that design in a dynamic and visual way. People who spend their time managing attachments aren’t nearly as effective as those who manipulate the data and meta-data directly.
The second major evolution concerns the people working with these solutions. By aligning job-roles and information, we can provide a solution that meets a specific need. For example, creating a design-centric solution for a design process (or sample and fit or manufacturing, etc.). Lectra technology makes this collaboration easy to achieve and maintain.
Rob Smith: Without going into the particulars that we will cover, do you think running a best-in-breed systems approach is a better value proposition than running one singular end-to-end system(s) deployment?
Judy Gnaedig: Until recently, customers that wanted a full-coverage PLM system were forced to compose their own by combining multiple best-in-breed systems. The difficulty with this approach is getting different solutions to interface with one another other and then managing multiple data models. At Lectra, we are convinced that a true end-to-end system encompassing the entire supply chain, from design to production, is ultimately a better value proposition for our customers. A single platform for data sharing brings fluidity, flexibility, visibility and simplicity to the supply chain. Our industry expertise means that in addition to addressing the entire life cycle, we can also maintain best-in-breed quality at each stage.
Rob Smith: Does the best-in-breed approach not mean, for example: two sets of implementation consultants; two sets of bespoke middleware; two sets of software licences; two sets of support contracts; two sets of independently configured reports; two sets of data? And so on…
Judy Gnaedig: Quite simply: of course it does. Customers should avoid this where possible, as it will only make their IT infrastructure more complex.
Rob Smith: Speaking cynically: software vendors, of course, have a margin on software sales. Part of the attraction of the single-vendor model is that a client can take advantage of economies of scale in licences, making the solution a more attractive sale. How does a best-in-breed approach deal with this loss of opportunity?
Judy Gnaedig: Best-in-breed does not necessarily mean small in scope or limited in functionality. In the case of enterprise solutions such as PLM, a sufficient breadth of functionality is required to address different business models within the apparel sector. The key to success is to be able to leverage economies of scale and deliver wide functional expertise.
Rob Smith: PLM is an enterprise system and here at WhichPLM we consider it to be one of the most vital backbone components of any IT strategy. In that role, of course, it can have numerous interfaces into the ‘extended PLM’ world. How does your PLM solution deal with these integrations? Do you collaborate with key technology partners (e.g. SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce.com)?
Judy Gnaedig: We consider an end-to-end approach to be much more valuable for a customer, as it eliminates challenging interfaces. Lectra Fashion PLM can interface with any third-party ERP or SCM solution, and this is managed by Lectra or the client.
Rob Smith: With these integrations, are we talking about interfacing three or four different sets of data to the PLM system (SCM, ERP, CRM etc…) or one PLM set of data, living in PLM, that is accessible to the three or four interfacing systems? What in your opinion would be ideal setup here?
Judy Gnaedig: One set of the data within the PLM that is accessible by the three or four interfacing systems.
Rob Smith: A potential issue could arise when one of the integrated systems releases a new version, and changes made to this version break the existing interface. If you purchased a single-solution/vendor model, this issue would be minimal or non-existent. How do your customers deal with such issues without the need for incurring further development or consultancy fees?
Judy Gnaedig: If there is no change to the data being used in the interface, it will not incur cost, even in the case of an upgrade. It is possible for both the PLM and the external system to undergo version updates without any additional work on the interfaces.
Rob Smith: Not only are we talking about different sets of data, living in different systems, we are also looking at different platforms and technical deployments. What is the technical strategy for your solution’s development, and what factors have influenced this approach?
Judy Gnaedig: As we have discussed, the Lectra approach is one platform, one data model and one technical deployment to minimise complexity and costs.
Rob Smith: Finally (and perhaps crucially), if you had a very immature client who had neither PLM nor ERP, and only had the resources to run one system project, which would you advise to start with and why?
Judy Gnaedig: The approach depends greatly on the client’s business model; for example, some organisations can manage a PLM implementation ahead of an ERP or in parallel. At Lectra, we advise examining the area of greatest need first and then taking things step-by-step. This could mean beginning with PDM for tech pack formalisation, then adding line planning for sales analysis and workflow for critical path task management. Or, depending on the customer process and team, perhaps they view conceptual design as more critical and choose to begin with textile development, colour management and sketching, or pattern development and fit, and then expand from there. It all depends on the customer’s internal competencies, their infrastructure and, of course, their business model. This is one very important reason why apparel companies chose to work with Lectra–there is no single, fixed approach. We have the industry experience to help them determine the best, most effective starting point for their project.
Read the other blogs from this series
One Size Fits All Series: Blog #1 – The Chicken or the Egg
One Size Fits All Series: Blog #2 – The Greatest Returns Come From Knowledge and Planning
One Size Fits All Series: Blog #3 – ‘That’s how dad did it and it’s worked out pretty well so far’
Rob Smith is the head of enterprise projects within the Product Development Partnership Group of companies. He is also a fully qualified commercial solicitor.
Contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org