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Why Design Freedom is not Incompatible with PLM

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In today’s guest blog, Dassault Systèmes, discusses PLM from a designer’s perspective, and shares the capabilities they should expect from a creative solution. Dassault Systèmes – or, the 3DEXPERIENCE company – is a French multinational business that specializes in 3D design, 3D digital mock-up, and PLM software

Winning the race for market leadership in fashion is a subtle combination of creative vision, time to market, quality and price. Fashion companies need to excel in all these areas, so they adopt PLM solutions to streamline and manage processes and improve productivity. PLM is often touted as a way to provide a level of control over the design process in order to reduce costs and general over-development of products.   But this is not always compatible with the way design teams work best, especially if you are a design-driven company that wants to foster (not restrict) your designer’s creative process. Since freedom and inspiration cannot always be structured, there are different user and business needs that must be balanced for the best results.

Creating a positive emotional experience is the key to brand recognition and customer loyalty. It takes many experts and different skills to create these winning collections. If all stakeholders throughout the value chain are connected to, and work from, a single business platform this accelerates results through end-to-end digital continuity and transparency. Design teams must collaborate with these diverse communities to imagine, tune and help deliver products, collections and ultimately consumer experiences that reinforce brand promise and enrich purchasing and ownership.   As more fashion brands and retailers implement or tune their PLM environments for a competitive operational advantage, they must also ensure that their design teams are not constrained if they want to keep those creative juices flowing.

So how can companies reconcile a structured approach needed to meet aggressive deadlines and to be cost-effective while encouraging and even accelerating innovation? How can designers capture market trends and consumer insights, explore and curate new ideas to continuously improve their designs and propose the most compelling products to their consumers? And just as we want a frictionless all-channel shopping experience for customers, how do you support frictionless design interactions with a PLM solution?

Social Collaboration

One of the biggest drawbacks of PLM tools for creative design teams is the restrictive nature of the underlying structure. Designers are asked to design within a season, a line plan, or even more narrowly, into a slot or a placeholder. In many cases, they are being measured against design ratios where ‘good’ means their design ratio is lower than others. The end result is that designs are not put into a PLM system until they are almost complete, creating extra work for the design teams, while preventing other teams from offering assistance early in the design process. Using social collaboration options within a modern PLM solution provides a way for teams to collaborate, early and often, in an unstructured, but familiarly social, environment free of concepts such as seasons, plans, and placeholders. They can select when and with whom to share the different ideas and concepts – working internally on some, and getting support where needed. The result of this collaboration on early concepts can then be moved into a structured environment when the designs are ready.

Visual Assortment Management

The Excel, grid-like structure of traditional PLM tools also makes it difficult to assess the overall “feeling” of the line and/or story as it evolves. Instead, once design teams have evolved their ideas into potential products and options, these can be aggregated visually in order to put together a cohesive design story that will be appealing to the end consumer.

Early Visibility to Extended Teams

PLM’s main users have traditionally been technical design, product development and sourcing teams. Providing a tool that creative designers want to use is a big step forward for these downstream teams as well. It means they can have earlier visibility to design concepts and the overall direction of the line. This early visibility means more time for collaboration on key areas such as material and trim options, fit, construction, and even choosing the best vendor(s) to work with. So when creative designers adopt PLM, everyone benefits.

PLM’s promise as a mechanism for collaboration can be realized when all teams, including design, are active participants.

Here’s a checklist of capabilities designers should consider in a creative PLM solution:

  1. Define their own collaboration spaces early in the creative process to iterate on themes, stories, and ideas for products, materials or collections.
  2. Create ideas and posts, share within the community; ‘like’, comment and promote ideas.
  3. Distill meaningful insights from a range of sources on ‘voice of the customer’, market trends and news sources by capturing, aggregating and presenting relevant insights in visual dashboards.
  4. View and collaborate on design stories with their development, sourcing and merchant teams in a natural, visual environment like a Merchandising Wall or Store layout, not restricted to grids. Automatically place products into a visual plan based on a merchandising hierarchy. And view metrics and product data on the product images.
  5. Maintain visibility to preservation of design intent through the fit, construction, and vendor selection processes through a common platform.
  6. And in today’s 24/7 global environment it’s important to also incorporate user-friendly workflow that can automatically route and notify users when changes are made or products are ready for the next steps.

In today’s fast-moving fashion industry, where products must be delivered to market at record speed, companies that invest in a designer-friendly, yet structured, PLM solution are in a better position to unlock the strengths of all their teams to beat the competition and achieve business success.

Lydia Hanson Lydia Hanson has been part of the WhichPLM team for over 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 the Annual Review, 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.

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