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ideation 2014: The WhichPLM Report

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WhichPLM’s Founder & MD, Mark Harrop, recently returned from Gerber Technology’s 16th annual technology conference: ideation 2014. Held in Boca Raton, Florida, the two day event (23rd & 24th October) was dedicated to the fashion and retail professionals who rely on CAD and PLM solutions from Gerber Technology. This is the exclusive WhichPLM Report.

MarkNestled between Palm Beach County and South Beach (nicknamed SoBe), the sun-drenched city of Boca Raton, Florida, can only be described as pure luxury. The Boca Raton Resort & Club (a Waldorf Astoria Resort), situated right on the edge of Lake Boca and the Atlantic Ocean, was the perfect setting for Gerber Technology’s ideation 2014. Guests from all over North America (and some as far as Europe) came together for two days of panel discussions, breakout sessions, workshops, and demonstrations. And with representatives from some of the world’s most well-known fashion retailers, brands and manufacturers it was certain to be a memorable event.

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The event actually began on the evening of Wednesday 22nd October with a welcome reception in the impressive Cathedral Room. This was a great opportunity for guests to check-in, obtain badges and break the ice over a few welcome drinks. It allowed guests to meet their Gerber hosts, converse with sponsors and network with peers. I used the opportunity to do just this, as well as catch up with some former friends from Microdynamics, and Gerber Technology.

Mike Opening small

The following day around 200 attendees began their day in the Camino Garden with an early breakfast. Shortly after, ideation was officially opened in the Great Hall by Mike Elia, President & CEO of Gerber Scientific (pictured above) and his co-host, Bill Brewster, VP, General Manager, Yunique Solutions (pictured below). Bill began by stating some challenges the industry is facing today including: global economies, global competition, increasing labour rates, raw material costs and the ever increasing need for speed and agility to bring innovative products to market. He went on to explain how Gerber had listened carefully to the voice of its customer since the last ideation event, taken enhancement requests on board, and worked hard to ensure their solutions match their customers’ vision for a true 360-degree cycle from concept to consumer.

Bill 1

Closing his introductory speech, Bill presented the audience with a video; the presentation depicted the journey for a typical brand or retailer following the future design milestones that follow a typical business using the latest tools and solutions from Gerber. Solutions including Version 10 of AccuMark® – both a 2D and fully integrated 3D solution that helps to improve design and pattern development, and brings to life a designer’s vision using lifelike visualizations that operate seamlessly across AccuMark® and YuniquePLM’s development processes. This brings together the virtual and physical worlds from the designer all the way through the supply-chain to the consumer. Gauging from the rapturous response that filled the room, it was clear that commitment to continuous innovation and development on the way the industry works today was greatly appreciated by all.

Chief Executive Officer, Mike Elia, took to the stage to thank his guests for their attendance. He went on to explain how many of Gerber’s employees had apparel backgrounds; indeed many had previously held down leading positions with leading retailers, brands and manufacturers, including roles as merchandisers, designers, patternmakers, garment technologists, buyers, and production managers. The importance of this was to make the audience aware of the skills and passion that had originated in these roles, and has been displaced in Gerber’s customer care.

Mike 2Mike then shared the company’s financial position: revenues for 2014 Q1 up by 6% and earnings up by 40%. This financial strength was due, in part, to Gerber’s latest solution developments and will allow the business to continue to heavily invest in research and development. Gerber’s recent developments have helped their customers to realise the next phase in their technological development: digital transformation, integrating Gerber’s combined solution stack and beyond to their customer’s extended solutions (Adobe Suite and others) that make up the end-to-end design and development process. The latest version of AccuMark®, Mike continued, is due for release in March 2015; AccuMark® 10 will denote the solution’s biggest ever release. With 14,000 customers and 25,000 users across the globe AccuMark® is one of the most well-known CAD systems in our industry, and with the recent introduction of the optional 3D package, the Gerber team expect a continuous rise in demand for the future.

Continuing with the theme of integration, Mike went on to announce the latest release of YuniquePLM Version 6, which incorporates a new line planning module, and improved calendar capabilities. Perhaps the most important factor, however, is that AccuMark® and YuniquePLM are now seamlessly integrated – the two solutions share a common set of data that enables designers, pattern technicians and development teams to operate from one single platform.

Marshal Cohen (pictured below), casual and captivating, took to the platform. Currently the Chief Industrial Analyst for NPD Group, Marshal is a national expert on retail and consumer behavior. Having followed industry trends for over 3 decades, it was clear he knew a thing or two about marketing.

Marshal

Marshal made an array of intelligent points, and urged his audience to “make tomorrow happen.” After all, “time waits for nobody,” time will pass you by. As clichéd as it might sound after the fact, Marshal’s speech was strong; as is his forte, he predominantly discussed the importance of marketing your products and, more specifically, the importance of linking your marketing department to your PLM system. The marketing department, in any business, holds the information on demographics and buying power; most marketing teams converse with design teams, but outside of PLM (in meetings for example). Marketing should be captured in PLM – taking a hard, technical product (a combination of materials, trims, components) and romanticizing it.

Marshal concluded by stating that the world is “entering an era of more.” People want more technology, and walk around with more devices on their person than ever before. Grandchildren know relatives who live abroad through iPads or android phones, and you only have to step out into any public forum to know that the world relies on mobile phones.

The next speaker introduced was Karsten Newbury, recently appointed Global VP & General Manager for Software at Gerber Technology. As an ex-VP & General Manager at Siemens, Kartsne’s understanding of enterprise scalable software and global market challenged will help the Gerber team to strategically design a blueprint for the future R&D team. Having previously led management and software development teams, Karsten will help Gerber build upon continued success, allowing the company to expand and strengthen its vision for 360-degree integrations between the existing solution portfolio whilst simultaneously developing new offerings for a broad range of industries.

Mike ended his session by empowering the voice of the customer. He invited attendees to share their thoughts and challenges to the upcoming presenters, in the hope that their feedback would help to drive further innovation from Gerber.

PLM & CAD duo, Bill Brewster and Mary McFadden, took to the platform next to share their vision of a combined solution stack (YuniquePLM & AccuMark®). They began with an introduction to 3D and laid out the challenges of getting physical products to market at the right time and the right cost. They explained how using 3D will enable lifelike virtual, accurate and aesthetically pleasing samples – allowing customers to realise their vision without the need for materials, components or even thread.

Dress 1The new 3D module is very intuitive as it is fully integrated with AccuMark® – sharing the same user interface, experience and workflow processes. Mary’s outfit on the day – a blue dress with floral detailing – was designed using the newly combined YuniquePLM, AccuMark® 2D and 3D solutions. As I mentioned a few paragraphs up: YuniquePLM and AccuMark® use a shared material library, which allows users to share material characteristics with additional attributes. This helps to improve product visualization and drape (utilising new attributes e.g. thickness and bend properties to help improve visual draping).

Users were informed that they will be able to share sketches, photographs and a broad range of image types from PLM. The new 3D solution will come with a standard set of avatars (men, women, children etc.); users will have the ability to source avatars from Alvanon Inc. – a leading supplier of body forms and sizing survey experts who operate around the globe. Beyond purchasing digital avatars, users will be able to obtain their own avatars from the internet and use motion capture to illustrate the model striding down a catwalk, holding a certain stance, or making a certain pose to test the design of the product when using lifting or stretching movements.

Mary continued presenting a custom designed pet avatar in the form of a dog, to enable designers to test virtual pet friendly designs. Although the 3D solution is working well, Mary made a point of saying that her team will continuously solicit new ideas and listen to challenges coming from the user community to continuously improve the solution.

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Attendees were then presented with some of the latest functionalities of AccuMark® 10. These included UI (User Interface) improvements; ERP integration tool; Easy Plan – allowing cut orders with size ratios coming directly from the ERP solution; productivity improvements in pattern design – shaving hours off an employee’s daily working time; fabric textures; logos; trims and components. The fact that trims and components are now available in AccuMark® allows pattern design and development teams to better communicate design requirements across the extended supply chain, which in turn will result in fewer mistakes and sample iterations. Taking things further, graphical marker output can be sent directly from AccuMark® to a digital sublimation printer (pictured two images below) enabling sampling teams to develop photographic samples in a matter of a few hours – or more realistically 24 hours when allowing for the processes of cutting, sewing, trimming, pressing and finishing.

Bill Key Features

Next, Bill Brewster officially launched YuniquePLM V6. Version 6 focuses on four key areas, each of which Bill then went into in more detail. The first area is a fully integrated Line Planning solution, which includes ‘top down and bottom up’ financial plans, a line list, assortment plans, driving the development efforts and the ability to utilize 3D imagery and a fully cross-solution integrated calendar and workflow management module. Workflow and Critical Path management is now operating across all of the PLM modules and sub-processes with improved triggering and the ability to visualize the entire design and development process. The new Toolkit configuration engine gives customers the power to make their own configuration changes and helps to reduce the total cost of ownership, putting continued and specific configuration needs in the hands of ‘super users’ to help better fit the ever changing needs of the business.

3D Support

3D File Support is the fourth new key area for V6; YuniquePLM now comes with the ability to design, store and manage 3D files and also the ability to drive 3D printers to develop a broad range of prototype sample accessories, trims and components that would otherwise take days or even weeks to acquire. Linked to the extended Supply-Chain, designers will have the ability to dynamically share 3D real-size sample prototypes, to be printed via their suppliers’ own 3D printers and move on to further develop into production-ready accessories.

Going backwards for a moment, I should mention that prior to arriving at the ideation event, registered attendees were encouraged to download the Gerber Technology ideation App. This application provided each of the guests with the full event guide (schedule by day, track, topic), a list of speakers, various location maps and shuttle routes, a list of sponsors, a list of attendees, information on each host, airport and city transportation, and workshop surveys.

The workshop sessions made up a large part of the ideation 2014 event, and no report would be complete without delving into some of these interesting sessions. It’s important to note that there were simply too many workshops to attend, and that the following sums up those workshop sessions at which I was present.

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‘Your one stop shop for education’, by Gerber University:

Elizabeth King, VP of Software Customer Experience for Yunique, and Barry Fuhrman, Education Facilitator, hosted this workshop. Presented was a selection of learning content that users can access online or that can be instructor led. This solution has the ability to track a user’s progress, history and experience and enables users to communicate with course instructors along the way. Elizabeth and the team have been developing a broad range of classes to help their customers quickly and effectively improve a person’s knowledge and efficiency and to help on-board new employees – to help bring employees up to speed on a broad range of solutions that today are starting to operate in a shared data loop.

Fruit of the Loom‘PLM – Where we are two years later’, Fruit of the Loom Case Study:

Bruce Smith, VP Product Development for Fruit of the Loom, delivered a case study on the highs and lows of implementing the YuniquePLM solution. He discussed Fruit of the Loom’s original plan versus the plan in reality, including an honest assessment of elements that worked well, and those which didn’t quite go to plan.

‘Line Planning – take it from the top’, by Yunique team:

Glenn Funk, PLM Solution Consulting Manager for Yunique, and Oshi Pinto, PLM Project Manager, came together to debut the new line planning module in YuniquePLM Version 6. Functionalities include: Financial Planning (top down and bottom up), Development Planning, Colour Planning, Material Planning, SKU, Line List, Workflow Triggering, Notifications Management, Drag & Drop capabilities. The solution will also support the uploading of previous seasons’ sales from both ERP and/or a company’s current merchandise planning solution via an API (application protocol interface).

ARGO logoGerber handed over to Regina Gorinshteyn, President of ARGO Insight, to demonstrate the integration between ARGO and YuniquePLM. ARGO Insight is a technology consulting company providing services and solutions specifically for the fashion retail sector. Their product – BEST Analytics – is an application that utilises a centralised data repository that stores information from multiple sources across all aspects of the business. It can be implemented as a B.I. (Business Intelligence) solution, sharing planned data pulled from PLM and actual sales data from ERP; it serves as an integration platform and a foundation for custom add-ons that bring efficiency to every day processes.

ARGO Insight has partnered with Gerber Technology in an effort to offer YuniquePLM customers an opportunity to integrate information between PLM and other systems, like ERP, and the ability to make more informed decisions. In the future the R&D team will continue to focus on developing Range, Store, Capacity and Assortment planning.

performgroup‘Recognising PLM Efficiencies’, Perform Group Case Study:

Phil Weaver, Director of IT for Perform Group LLC, and Vincent Candela, Partner at Singletree Technologies, presented this session. Perform Group is a leader in providing high quality performance apparel for the global markets of dance and gymnastics. Phil took this opportunity to share the company challenges and business case that prompted them to search for a PLM solution; their PLM solution needed to resolve the challenges and provide further benefits for the business. The project team did their research and after careful consideration decided that YuniquePLM was the best fit for their specific requirements.

The Perform Group purchased YuniquePLM back in 2012 and went live around one year later, following a fast implementation methodology and staying very close to the OOTB (Out of the Box) processes and functionality. Since this time, the company has expanded their use of the PLM solution and recently integrated it to their AccuMark®, Adobe Suite and ERP solutions. Phil shared some of the benefits they’ve seen since implementation, including: reduced data entry through integration & automation, increased visibility and collaboration across the entire design and development process. Today, the Perform Group has around 60 full time users of the YuniquePLM solution and a further 30-40 partners using the vendor portal to communicate throughout the extended Supply-Chain.

CMYK-originalCombined with YuniquePLM, the Perform Group utilise Power Grid (recently named Intellimas®) from Singletree to further enhance their PLM solution. Via a grid-like user interface, the solution allows the business to perform real-time data analysis; the spreadsheet-like view can be adapted specifically to a customer’s unique needs, and the solution supports the development of extended data integration and extended reporting. Phil explained, “Power Grid allows us to summarise any information that is held within PLM into a single spreadsheet.”

As part of their continued PLM journey Perform Group’s next task is to implement a DAM (Digital Asset Management) module to improve the sharing of quality graphical assets coming from photographers, graphical designers and publishers. Assets are all stored in a single data repository together with their supporting Meta data, and can be easily found and worked on on with full versioning control.

When discussing lessons learnt Phil stated that, on reflection, the company should have completed a deeper ROI (Return On Investment) analysis that would have clearly highlighted the percentage improvements made along the way. Today, improvements tend to be a key stakeholder’s best estimate rather than a scientific measurement, which would play better for the executive team when you are asking for more funding to continuously extend the project. Phil also stated that implementing PLM is a continuous process and their next phase is to bring on more of their Supply-Chain partners, keeping things very simple to start with and increasing shared processes and data along the way.

‘Unleash your Vision with AccuMark® 3D, by Gerber Technology:

AccumarkFor this workshop, Mary McFadden presented the latest version of AccuMark® 10, featuring a fully integrated 3D solution for garment development and patternmaking. It was announced to attendees that AccuMark® 10 will be made available to users in the spring of 2015, with the 3D solution being available as a new optional module that can be linked directly into the YuniquePLM V6 solution. Both will share the same material library to avoid any re-keying of material attributes and to reduce the time taken to develop 3D virtual samples.

The new version will allow designers to share 3D images and motion files, furthering collaboration and centralisation of data. Designers will have lifelike visualisation of designs and be able to make pattern corrections that can then be seen in 3D.

“AccuMark® 10 will truly transform the pattern making process,” voiced Mary McFadden. She went on to say, “This technology will bring a new level of efficiency and speed to design and the optional 3D technology will fully integrate with our AccuMark® and YuniquePLM softwares.”

Ever-important customer feedback led to Gerber’s initial 3D focus, recognising that accurate 3D visualisation will dramatically reduce the time involved in product development and sample making. “This is a very important development from the creative perspective,” announced Mary. “It allows designers to unleash their creativity in lifelike visualisations of designs that could previously only be imagined through 2D sketches.”

Accumark 2

Gerber Technology, as part of its roadmap development, is aggressively working on additional future 3D functionalities that will be designed to address a broad range of needs in the areas of garment visualisation, testing, fitting and others yet to be shared (although the movement of fabric and fit, merchandising and e-commerce are amongst them).

“Managing data and helping our customers to gain insight quickly is becoming more and more important in the fashion industry,” Mary continued. On this point and with an image of a 3D dog in view, Mary invited all attendees to reach out to her and the team with their ideas on 3D, regardless of how farfetched an idea may be.

The 3D module will come as standard with a limited number of Avatars; beyond this users will be able to source model-like avatars from companies like Alvanon in their correct height, weight, shape – and other physical dimensions that will be digitally designed to match a company’s specific fit model requirements. Users will also be able to develop their own avatars using commercially available software and tools like Make Human and Carnegie Mellon to name just two.

Once users have obtained or designed their own avatars they will then be able to move to an advanced step and develop their own motion capture video (Mo-cap for short) recording the movement of objects or people. Today Mo-cap is often used in the fields of military, entertainment, sports, medicine and robotics. In filmmaking and video game development, it refers to recording actions of human actors, and using that information to animate digital character models in 2D or 3D. When it includes a face and/or fingers or captures subtle expressions, it is often referred to as performance capture. As a side note: in many fields motion capture is called motion tracking, but in filmmaking and game development, motion tracking usually refers more to match moving.

AccuMark Dress

In motion capture sessions, movements of one or more actors (or in the retail/brand’s case: models) are sampled many times per second; your virtual catwalk is almost at your fingertips. Mary ended her session by saying that it would be “a major disadvantage of yours not to develop 3D samples in the future.”

randa-logo‘Now in 3D! Not only in the theaters!’, by Randa:

That future that Mary spoke of is a reality when it comes to Randa and YuniquePLM. Robyn Howard, Senior PLM Manager at Randa Accessories, and Trevor Wills, Product Designer for Randa, presented how their company utilises YuniquePLM together with 3D, as part of their advanced 3D sampling processing.

Randa is an industry leader in scope and scale that offers the broadest spectrum of choices and the highest caliber of product to the finest marquee retailers, worldwide. From Kenneth Cole dress belts to Levi’s casual leather belts and wallets, from Williamson-Dickies belts to Columbia Sportswear active performance gear, from Guess wallets to Tommy Hilfiger accessories, and Dockers (America’s most successful belt brand) belts, Randa defines leather goods and gifts for retailers and brands all over the globe.

This is a company that walks the walk when it comes to speed-to-market, utilising unique technologies including the Adobe Suite for 2D creative designs. Integrated directly to YuniquePLM, this supports the end-to-end design and development process. Also supported are specification development and management, workflow & critical path management and, importantly for Randa, the ability to store, share and view 3D modeling files, drive 3D printers and share 3D print files with all extended Supply-Chain partners from around the globe. The company has a vast global development team that create, manufacture and deliver the finest men’s accessories, based on a just-in-time sampling process.

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The Randa Supply-Chain is global and as an end-to-end operation working from concept to consumer, Randa has eyes, hands and minds on every touch point – from on-site 3D sample making to in-store selling, quality assurance and in-house customs brokerage. It was stated that Randa’s culture and competency is to re-evaluate, reformulate and optimise every product, brand and process to flawlessly assure that their customers can buy precisely what they want, whenever and wherever they want.

Let’s just break away for a moment to discuss 3D printing. What is 3D printing? In short, it’s the process of taking digital files and turning them into physical products. It is often referred to as additive manufacturing (AM for short) as the product is built up (added to) layer by layer in the material of your choosing. 3D printing refers to several different processes that are applied based on the specific material type, including the most popular ‘Selective Laser Sintering’. To avoid going into too much I shall tell you that, for the curious minds, a quick Google search (or, dare I say – Wikipedia search) will explain these processes further.

Benefits to 3D printing include: in-house printing, no expensive tooling costs, samples generated in hours and not weeks, ability for instant changes, and increased speed to market. Final samples can be ordered using 3D files ensuring exact duplication, decreasing sample time, and eliminating the need for multiple revisions.

And so – back to the presentation – with the cost of 3D printers continuing to drop the team at Randa predicted that most designers from the fashion industry would quickly begin to follow their lead and utilise the latest 3D techniques to design and share their latest design innovations, allowing the customers and/or suppliers to fully appreciate the design requirements. The new 3D process, combined with YuniquePLM acting as the vehicle to store and share 3D files, utilises the bi-directional integration to the Adobe Suite for colourings etc. and actually becomes your modern 3D specification for parts and accessories (or in other words your modern 3D Tech Pack).

Abercrombie logo‘PLM & Power Grid’, Abercrombie and Fitch Case Study:

Helen Watson, Senior Manager at A&F, and Jim Ray, the Senior IT Manager, presented a case study on their YuniquePLM implementation. Combined with the Intellimas® solution from Singletree they are able to deliver the following services to their customers: PO and WIP tracking, vendor compliance audits, vendor certification tracking, product testing logs, employee tracking, customer visit tracking, store visit tracking, product costing RFQs, issue tracking, capacity planning, materials requirements planning, production planning, and sample tracking.

A&FThe team at A&F have taken a mixed approach to the YuniquePLM implementation and have used the Intellimas® solution to add additional value. It was stated that the A&F users like the look and feel of the Intellimas® solution. With a spreadsheet-like UI (User Interface) it’s very familiar for users, which makes the transition to this tool much easier. Data entered into the Intellimas® application is stored in a strategic database meaning users can easily create management reports against the data, share the information around the teams and securely back it up. The solution helps to replace many of the spreadsheets or standalone databases that are extensions of the data that is used across the A&F business and would, in some cases, not naturally be held within the PLM solution.

Intellimas® operates as an extension to the core YuniquePLM solution as well as taking and sharing data directly from other solutions e.g. ERP, CRM. I would call it a type of integration platform that sits in-between data repositories. Overall, it seemed as though the team from A&F were all very satisfied with the mixture of solutions that, today, underpin the design and product development processes within their business.

Yunique‘YuniquePLM & Beyond, the Roadmap’, by Gerber:

Of course, I cannot disclose roadmap information outside of the Gerber user community! I would suggest that to learn more about Gerber’s exciting plans you contact the team at Gerber/YuniquePLM directly. What I can say, however, is that this workshop was another interesting and crowded session. For myself, an important take away was that the Gerber team is certainly listening to the ‘voice of its customer’ and is now using a supporting software solution to allow users to share ideas, vote on new processes, or go directly and privately to the Gerber team with specific company enhancement requests. Although I am not completely convinced that those customers with the fullest pockets won’t continue to jump the queue, it is pleasing to see Gerber’s open approach to the voice of their customers.

Sponsorship for this year’s ideation was as follow: ‘Gold sponsors’ were Pointcarré and Singletree Technologies; the three ‘Silver sponsors’ were Alvanon, Flexbricks, and Methods Workshop; the one ‘Custom sponsor’ was American & Efird.

Sponsor Logos

Each of the sponsors presented attendees with their solutions between workshops and/or on demand throughout the ideation event. Several also participated in workshops, demonstrating how their solutions play a key part in the broader digital collaboration.

Customer Appreciation Event:

Moving on from the abundance of workshops and presentations I’d like to mention the, I suppose, non-work aspect of ideation. We all know – all work and no play…

All aboard the Lady Windridge, South Florida’s premier yacht charter. On the Thursday evening, sandwiched between two days of breakout sessions and workshops, guests were ushered onto what was, quite simply, one of the finest yachts in North America. The flagship of the fleet measured an amazing 170 feet in length with four long spacious decks which allowed plenty of room for dining, dancing, appreciating live music and networking with the many guests. The yacht conveniently departed from the marina at the Boca Resort and Hotel. Guests could see stunning prestigious homes and tropical views as we cruised north toward Linton Boulevard in Delray and Boynton Inlet. It truly was a case of seeing how the other half lives!

Throughout the evening cruise, a band played live music on the top deck and jugglers entertained attendees below; the drinks were flowing and guests were relaxed and able to network comfortably. Smooth sailing, a spectacular sit-down dinner, and an unrivalled atmosphere made for one customer appreciation event that customers truly appreciated!

Yacht 1

On the last day (Friday 24th October) the Gerber executive team summed up the two-day session over lunch, thanking all participants for attending and for their valued feedback throughout the workshops. Elizabeth King advised all present that Gerber would continue to work hard over the coming year to incorporate as many improvements as possible and that ideation didn’t end at Boca Raton; she encouraged everyone to keep using the ideation communication platform to continue sharing their thoughts and ideas over the months ahead.

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I must say that I came away from the event inspired by the level of commitment and enthusiasm coming from the Gerber team and as a third party looking into the session, I was pleased to hear and see for myself such positive customer feedback – true partnerships in action.

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To follow the ideation event use #ideation2014 on Twitter now.

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Mark Harrop Mark Harrop is the founder and Managing Director of WhichPLM. During a career that has spanned more than four decades, Mark has worked tirelessly to further the cause of PLM – providing the unbiased, expert advice that has enabled some of the world’s best known retailers, brands and manufacturers achieve efficiency savings across their entire supply chain through informed technology investments.