Home Event Reviews Exclusive: PTC’s PLM, Retail & Consumer Executive Roundtable, Paris – The WhichPLM Report

Exclusive: PTC’s PLM, Retail & Consumer Executive Roundtable, Paris – The WhichPLM Report


The software industry seminar is a well-worn formula.  Whether it’s a small business accountancy package or an enterprise level system on display, delegates generally know what to expect.  They will see the software in action (often in the form of a lengthy, hands-off demonstration), hear a carefully-selected customer testimonial, and be bombarded with statistics and printed material.  What they seldom get is the opportunity to learn where the software might fit their unique requirements, or the chance to make themselves heard outside of restricted question-and-answer sessions.

With this summer’s executive roundtable events, PTC are to be commended for trying something a little different.  While they share some similarities with typical industry seminars, the ongoing series is designed at least in part to shake up established expectations by not just talking at the audience, but talking with them.  A crucial distinction.

WhichPLM were the only publication invited to cover the company’s French-language event, which took place this June.  Held at Paris’s trendy Hotel Royal Monceau on the afternoon, evening and cocktail hour of the 25th, the event was dedicated to “fashion decision-makers” and attracted several such figures from some of the country’s most prominent brands.

Jerome Cabanes, Strategic Account Manager for PTC, held the reins for the day, and following a short introductory networking session he took to the stage to set the tone.  After outlining the agenda Cabanes explained that PTC’s overriding goal is to create solutions that allow end users to realise true value.  For them, he said, this means developing software that can simultaneously surmount the little annoyances and bridge the major strategic functionality gaps that can both sometimes characterise enterprise-level software.

Cabanes then handed over to Karim Zein, PTC’s Vice President for France, Switzerland and Benelux.  The duty of properly and comprehensively introducing PTC having fallen to him, Zein’s was one of the more traditional presentations.  He began by thanking the gathered crowd of executives for their time, before explaining what he believes makes his parent company uniquely suited to their requirements.

[quote]…the overall aim of creating products within PLM is to bring qualitative data to all appropriate processes, improving collaboration and the flow of information with the end goal of improving the products themselves.[/quote]

According to Zein, PTC has what he termed a “culture of projects and clients”, which was his way of saying that the passion, innovation and confidence he perceives to be the cornerstones of PTC’s business are focused on the joint goals of implementation smoothness and customer satisfaction.  Zein underscored the company’s vaunted commitment to innovation by pointing out that PTC employs close to 2,000 people in research and development alone, out of a total 6,000 people worldwide.  With a revenue of $1 billion US in 2011, with the following spread out 37% are in the USA, 23% in Asia, and 40% in Europe – statistics that anchored the event in what, for PTC, is their single largest sector by volume.

Zein then explained that following Nike’s adoption of FlexPLM in 2008, the company had developed a strong focus on fashion; in the four intervening years, retail, footwear and apparel have become a significant part of their business, and their FlexPLM solution has seen strong real-world and benchmark results.  Indeed, PTC claims thirty new clients in the last twenty-seven months, and more than 40,000 seats worldwide with a high degree of customer satisfaction.  Zein stressed, however, that the company is not exclusively software-focused, and retains a strong and established service history, with more than 70 implementations in the retail, footwear and apparel industries alone.

Zein was followed by Stéphane Gaillard of marquee PTC customers Devanlay, licensed for the creation, manufacturing and distribution of Lacoste-brand clothing and leather goods   Gaillard’s presentation opened with a video exploring Lacoste and Devanlay’s worldwide scope, before going on to outline the company’s CRISTAL (Collaborative Reading Information System for Tomorrow’s Assortment Lifecycle) project, which had led to Devanlay’s adopting FlexPLM.

Gaillard explained that the CRISTAL project touched on every aspect of Devanlay’s business, taking in segmentation, volume, price  and inter-continental working.  In due deference to its impact, Devanlay were, he said, careful to put their business needs first, and took the opportunity to use their PLM implementation project as an opportunity to unify their existing information systems. Gaillard added that it was decisive for Devanlay’s executives to access other PTC customers to make their final choice for the FlexPLM solution. Defining business needs is critical, Gaillard argued, since it provides an opportunity to simplify and optimise existing processes as well as to gauge the feasibility of using an in-house or external solution.

For Gaillard, in order to remain competitive, a business must be creative, innovative and reactive, and having gone so far as to tailor-make a logo for the CRISTAL project, it was clear that the selection and implementation of FlexPLM to meet those goals was not something Devanlay did lightly.  This was a vital business project, with the dedicated resources, demonstrable passion, and well-defined endpoints this entails.

Gaillard explained that clarity is first and foremost amongst the benefits those end users have realised from the solution, with efficiency, product development optimisations and design collaboration, speed, assortment planning improvements, opportunities following closely behind.

[pullquote_left]These are mantras that we have covered time and again here at WhichPLM, and it was heartening to see many of the prestigious crowd taking notes.[/pullquote_left]In closing, Gaillard explained that their PLM implementation – under the auspices of the CRISTAL project – will impact in some way upon all of their services, from design and marketing, through to product development, merchandising, supply chain and quality assurance.  Very little in the business remains untouched.  Taking account of this, he said, it was critical that the goal of the CRISTAL project be to create a transparent way of collaboration working, with a source of information that is centralised and available to all.

Following a short coffee break, at which attentive waiters paraded some of most extravagant canapés I have ever seen, David Auger (PLM Business Consultant for Retail and Consumer Products within PTC) began a demonstration of the FlexPLM solution specifically tailored to the audience.  Whilst this was undoubtedly another traditional part of the agenda, Auger was eager to involve delegates in the demonstration, and a result the usual one-way rhetoric was instead peppered with audience interaction.

Auger explained that FlexPLM has been developed to take account of industry-standard processes and integrates modules specifically designed for purposes common to retailers, brands and manufacturers in the fashion industry.  As he launched the live demonstration, Auger revealed that FlexPLM has been adopted by more than 60 fashion organisations, and also drew attention to the fact that the solution is built upon web standards and as such can be integrated to many third-party tools – notably Adobe Illustrator for creative design.

[quote]… statistics anchored the event in what, for PTC, is their single largest sector by volume.[/quote]

Auger’s demonstration followed the “building blocks of product development”, taking in trend capture, design, calendar management, season management, merchandising, materials, technical development and sourcing in a way that mirrored the early development cycle of a garment.  He then went on to look at how the data created or imported at these stages contributes towards the building of a collection – working with colours and materials and defining a visual style, all with the same centralised data set held by FlexPLM.

Following on from this, Auger began to take account of the economic practicalities of bringing those products and collections to market: working with market values, pricing, taking account of past performance, and incorporating information pertinent for specific roles in the product development cycle.  Indeed, as Auger explained, the overall aim of creating products within PLM is to bring qualitative data to all appropriate processes, improving collaboration and the flow of information with the end goal of improving the products themselves.  As Stéphane Gaillard mentioned in his earlier presentation, there are few process that are not impacted upon by PLM, and Auger brought up a detailed process map to explain how the solution can reach right the way from design to supply chain.  With the right data at each stage along the way, he argued, organisations can leverage the kind of clarity that allows them to make the best and the most informed decisions.

The evening’s final presentation was delivered by Patricia Vasselle of management consultants Kurt Salmon.  Befitting their status as one of the leading industry consultancies, Kurt Salmon are regular fixtures at events like these (I have seen no fewer than four presentations from them over the past year) but Vasselle’s was unique in the sense that it was tailored for the audience and designed to offer executive-level insight at the same time as prompting discussion.

Titled “The Method and the Keys for Success in your PLM Project”, Vasselle’s presentation began with a stark pair of warnings.  First, speed is vital because time is money.  It’s a trite saying, but no less true for its age.  PLM implementations (in particular those that are poorly managed) can easily begin to accrue significant costs – both monetary and in terms of resources.  Secondly, she cautioned the audience that evolution – an unavoidable fact for any business wishing to remain competitive – demands that business models remain flexible.  As market conditions develop, only those organisations that are willing to embrace change will be able to turn opportunities into competitive advantages.

[pullquote_right]Gaillard explained that clarity is first and foremost amongst the benefits those end users have realised from the solution.[/pullquote_right]Vasselle then went on to look at what drives the average PLM implementation, and how organisations can work to mitigate common pitfalls and challenges.  It is important to remember, she said, that a PLM implementation (or the implementation of any enterprise-level system) does not happen in isolation.  As the implementation project is underway, the company is also continuing with its day job – actually developing and delivering products.  The needs of the two must be balanced, otherwise the implementation or the immediate-term profitability of the business could be jeopardised.

Everybody’s end goal, Vasselle reminded the audience, is to reduce costs, improve quality and minimise delays.  And while this may sound like a lot of hazy management speak, these fuzzy notions can be seen in the quantifiable benefits realised by existing customers of PLM.  “Acquiring speed generates financial results”, she said, and explained that this speed and these results could be achieved through a combination of information, research, change management and thorough forward planning.

This led on to what Vasselle sees as the keys to a successful PLM implementation.  These are mantras that we have covered time and again here at WhichPLM, and it was heartening to see many of the prestigious crowd taking notes as Vasselle provided details for each.

  1. Identify a charismatic sponsor – someone with the authority and strength to extoll not just the virtues of moving to PLM, but most importantly why it was chosen as a business imperative in the first place.
  2. Make sure that your teams are sufficiently represented and involved in the project.
  3. Work on your project plan from the point of view of prioritising those processes that will deliver the most rapid return and avoiding complexity.  Don’t try to simply map your existing ways of working to the new PLM-led environment, and try to ask yourself the hard questions.
  4. Identify the project’s impact on your organisation: responsibilities, changes in role, etc. – and ensure that management understand that teams and roles and responsibilities will change as the project moves ahead.
  5. Deploy functionality in stages to allow your organisation to better cope with change, keeping it measured and measurable.
  6. Be prepared to put into place a rigorous post-implementation analysis to ensure that each process is functional and that the solution is being used as envisaged.  Designers will find an excuse to go back to pen and paper, and it is vital to keep them informed, educated and engaged if your PLM solution is going to deliver the expected return on investment.

Vasselle’s closing sentiment also echoed something regular readers will have seen repeated in these pages: PLM can deliver significant savings and productivity gains, but companies cannot hope to simply adopt the software, stick to their established ways of working, and expect seamless change to just happen.  As Devanlay demonstrated earlier in the afternoon, realising true value from PLM requires dedication, foresight, and the desire to change.

Completing the role he had established for himself earlier, the cordial and jocular Jerome Cabanes closed the evening’s proceedings by sparking a roundtable discussion amongst the audience and speakers.  Showing that the title was not just lip-service, Cabanes’s questions were not a carefully-curated series designed to show PTC in the best possible light, but rather a thorough dissection of PLM’s role in modern product development, intended to promote genuine thought and discussion.

It is no small thing to gather fashion giants in a single room, let alone engage them in lively and thought-provoking discussion.  Like implementing PLM itself, doing so requires thorough knowledge of and dedication to the industry itself.  On the basis of this event, PTC have worked hard to acquire both.

WhichPLM also attended PTC’s UK Executive Roundtable at the beginning of July.  A similar report is already available for that event.

Ben Hanson Ben Hanson is one of WhichPLM’s top contributors. Ben has worked for magazines, newspapers, local government agencies, multi-million pound conservation projects, museums and creative publications before his eventual migration to the Retail, Footwear and Apparel industry.Having previously served as WhichPLM’s Editor, Ben knows the WhichPLM style, and has been responsible for many of our on-the-ground reports and interviews over the last few years. With a background in literature, marketing and communications, Ben has more than a decade’s worth of experience, and is now viewed as one of the industry’s best-known writers.