If we go back far enough – designers and merchandisers would use a preprinted form (usually hot off the photocopier (and normally a copy of a copy of a copy)) and then hand write information regarding specifications and requirements onto this early technical document. Early Product Data Management (PDM) systems were borne out of the recognition and very real need to capture, store and access garment data in a more effective and efficient manner. The solution was a central repository within the enterprise. The specification pack could then be extracted and faxed or possibly emailed to the suppliers.
The first PLM systems were little more than PDM and spray paint. But as it began to mature – and the solution was becoming more well defined – PLM expanded the PDM concept with wider access to more data along the supply chain. It also broadened the scope of the processes supported – from the pure product development data where it began – to something that spanned from product concept to product sourcing and beyond.
What is often forgotten is how PLM has been transformed from simply addressing product data to holding far more valuable data and information. Once you hold all your design, development, and sourcing information in a central repository, you have also effectively created an Intellectual Property (IP) database.
Instead of each designer and merchandiser holding data in separate drawings, documents and spreadsheets, which often only reside on the hard disk of their local PC – you have this invaluable information (on which your brand is reliant) in its rightful place and on an enterprise accessible system. So, when a key person leaves or a PC hard disk crashes, you still have a copy of data available for all people with the relevant user rights to access.
In today’s world of fakes and similar copies, your PLM system can also provide your lawyers with easy access to definitive information about the process that you followed in the creation of the intellectual property of your brand– possibly your most valuable assets!
This of course begs the question – how can any fashion company of a reasonable size risk operating in today’s environment without a PLM or equivalent system?
Let me know your thoughts on this topic by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industry Strategy Director