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How can PLM help customers during the credit crunch?

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WhichPLM interview ten of the leading Apparel PLM expertsTen Experts, Ten Questions, One Un-missable Interview…

WhichPLM has interviewed ten of the leading Apparel, Retail and Footwear PLM experts from Gerber Technology, Lawson, Zweave, Porini, Yunique Solutions, Visual 2000, Lectra, PTC, TradeStone and Business Management Systems, to drive out answers to the questions most asked by PLM customers.

Every week, WhichPLM will put a new question to the panel of experts. This week's question: 

How can PLM help customers that are facing tough times during the credit crunch?

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Increase Visibility

Karina Kogan, President, Business Management Systems (BMS) says, “First and foremost, a PLM system is able to report at all levels without changing the structure of the work. Vertex from BMS has always made sure that our clients are able to retrieve any information they put into the system in a workable and cost-effective manner. In order to see where one’s finances need to be tightened up, one needs to be able to look carefully at all the places in which it is going. Dashboards and tasking are invaluable tools for monitoring schedules, thereby allowing managers to know what’s happening at every level; with this knowledge of such details, they are supremely well-equipped to make decisions on matters of finance and of present and future planning.”

Improve Efficiency

Laura McCann, CEO at Zweave says, “When times are tough you go back to see how you can improve your business. Perhaps everyone is not so busy and it is a perfect time to invest in new capabilities or teams are reduced and less people need to get more done. Either way PLM, when it is implemented properly and leverages your business, will make you more efficient while reducing your overall costs associated with product development and sourcing.”

Fashion PLM VendorsLenny Weiss, VP of Sales & Marketing at Yunique Solutions, agrees that customers now have to “do more with less people.” “Work has to be done, so reduce the creative design, tech design and sourcing to no longer follow the product development cycle in a linear process but to overlap steps. PLM will allow the work to be done with less people. PLM will allow clients to reduce the amount of samples they create, sample and raw material submits, fitting evaluations, late styles, improve costing, instantly locate images and digital assets, control workflows and load throughout the cycle (both individually and departmentally), catalog and archive artwork, quote with multiple vendors, know what is coming in late in before it happens  so that you can react to it, get Vendor scorecards to find the most efficient vendors, provide the visibility and help manage the entire product lifecycle.”

Maximize Resources, Save Cost

“Gerber Technology recognizes the implementation of a PLM solution will assist companies in rapid ROI because the collaborative environment effectively controls disperse information, reduces redundant tasks, provides controlled visibility into the product lifecycle, and manages tasks through exceptions.  In summary, a PLM solution maximizes an organization’s most valuable resources.  This translates into reduced overhead and effective cost-saving decisions.” Elizabeth King, Director, Software Applications, Gerber Technology.

Stimulate Growth at a Lower Cost

On a similar line, Philippe Ribera, PLM Corporate Business Development Manager at Lectra, says, “In the current economic environment, investing in PLM could actually largely contribute to maintaining financial stability and stimulating growth at a lower cost. First of all, implementing a PLM project implies challenging all inefficiencies in processes and ways of working usually leading to a more cost-effective allocation of resources and a decrease in costs related to product development and sourcing (fabrics, prototypes, transport costs and others). Secondly, it helps share and leverage the company’s digital assets to increase the company’s ability for innovation and the speed of new product introduction with the same staff.”

Maximize Opportunities

“In addition to cost saving, increasing efficiency, avoiding faults, fast and secure sampling, clear specs definitions, quality assurance, supply chain control and supplier control, PLM also allows operators to simulate many styles and choose the most profitable ones, those most appealing to customers, the easiest ones to be produced and so on. Because of all these attributes, PLM also assists you in the production of short runs, ‘flashes’, thus catching all the opportunities offered by the market.” Roberto Fonti, Sales Channel Developer at Porini SpA.

Along the same theme, PLM helps customers respond quicker to consumer demand. According to Sue Welch, CEO, TradeStone Software, “PLM can help retailers that are facing tough times by adding more basis points to their bottom line and helping them save millions of dollars a year in markdowns. Implementing aggressive postponement strategies allow retailers to wait until the last minute to impact color, size, geography and silhouette. This facilitates multiple in-season product modifications based on sales and predictive analysis to enable dynamic re-assortments of new products within original commitment quantities. By moving prediction closer to production, retailers can rapidly respond to customer feedback and get the optimal goods on store shelves.”

Andrew Dalziel, Marketing Director – Discrete Manufacturing and Fashion Industry, Lawson, agrees, “Everybody is trying to take cost out of the supply chain to become more agile to react to consumer demand. Customer demand is volatile so you need to be able to react quickly – you can’t carry inventories. If something’s selling well or you need to change a colour in a product, you need to be able to do that very rapidly. That’s the key driver for wanting PLM. The other side of PLM, certainly from the Lawson Fashion solution, is that the cost versus the ROI for PLM is very attractive. It can be a fairly manageable project where you can start to see ROI within one or two quarters of trading.”

Maintain Competitive Advantage

Of course, one of the essential rationales for implementing PLM is to stay ahead of your competition. “Retailers and brands realize they need to set themselves up for when the economy picks up, so are focusing on their business processes, organizational set-up and new technology to make sure they're successful in the future. Top retail and brand executives appreciate that, even in the current sink-or-swim environment, they need to support key strategic business initiatives by deploying Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) as a key component to achieving and sustaining competitive advantage. PLM is increasing operational efficiency, reducing overall costs, enhancing brand loyalty, and increasing product quality all the more important in a downturn economy.” Kathleen Mitford, VP, Vertical Market Strategy, PTC.

Charles Benoualid, VP R&D, Visual 2000 International summarizes: “A browser based PLM solution, which is easy to implement and does not require a team of techies to run, will very quickly show a return on investment. When the same PLM solution facilitates efficient communications between disparate departments, enables users to collaborate online, simplifies information exchange and diminishes human errors, now the solution becomes a money maker. In times of crisis, companies will look for tools which help them streamline processes and redistribute workloads in an efficient and cost conscious manner. When the applications affect the bottom line in a positive way, the companies implementing are in a win-win position. In a credit crunch, saving money is on everyone’s mind. When you save money AND streamline the business process, you become a visionary…”

Want to hear more from the experts?

WhichPLM asks a new question next week, so visit www.whichplm.com again soon if you want to hear more from the leading Fashion PLM experts!

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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.