Home Event Reviews Lectra’s Fashion Forward Event 2016: the WhichPLM Report (part one)

Lectra’s Fashion Forward Event 2016: the WhichPLM Report (part one)

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Mark Harrop, our CEO & Founder, has recently returned from Lectra’s Fashion Forward event, where he was one of eight guest speakers. With such a wealth of information to share with our community, his coverage is split into two parts. Here, in part one, Mark discusses the live customer interviews, Q&As and presentations around PLM, CAD/CAM, 3D and Fit.

Lectra’s Fashion Forward seminar took place 11th – 12th October and brought together almost 200 industry guests, and eight guest speakers including customers of PLM & 3D, educationalists, analysts, and our own CEO, Mark Harrop. The event was the first of it’s kind and was spread over the full two days and evenings.

During these two days attendees could watch live, on-stage customer interviews and participate in lively Q&A sessions, as well as attend solution demonstrations around exciting new developments and announcements, including a demo on what Lectra is calling it’s ‘Cutting Room 4.0’, extending connectivity from its PLM platform(s) to its manufacturing solutions that, collectively, make up Lectra’s Fashion PLM & Internet of Things solution stack – but more on that in part two of this coverage. 

Fashion Forward was a home run before it had even commenced; due to over subscription the venue had to be changed from the original Lectra campus to the Palais des Congrès Cité Mondiale in Bordeaux centre.

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The event housed almost 200 attendees from 21 different countries, and was the perfect opportunity to not only meet and greet but to educate, share and network together at what is perhaps the most technologically advanced period in the history of fashion. And I know that I speak for many of the visitors –  customers and journalists alike – when I say that the Lectra team has certainly advanced their game on a number of fronts including PLM platform(s) aimed specifically at retailers, brands and manufacturers. Not to mention 3D for fashion garments and the IoT (Internet of Things) as part of a broader strategy to use PLM to help push style and development data that will be used to drive and monitor both spreaders and cutting equipment throughout the extended supply-chain in the near future.

The event was a great opportunity for attendees from around the globe to meet the real unvarnished Lectra – an open, conversational and transparent Lectra. We hear the message from retailers every day that customer experience is vital to business survival and I’m happy to say that Lectra has certainly listened, paying close attention to that critical point. We, at WhichPLM, use what we call the “3 Ps: People, Processes & Products” and are happy to report that “talent, knowledge of the fashion business and supply-chain expertise” comes incredibly high on their agenda. Lectra’s focus on delivering that unique, fulfilling customer experience is apparent from what I heard from its long-term customers.

The Lectra team are collectively very ambitious and unashamed, and at the same time very humble – nice traits for any technology vendor to have these days.

The two-day event was the first time that I can honestly say that I experienced what I believe to be the new beginnings of the near future – what we can expect to see in the next couple of years from PLM, 3D & the IoT integrations spreading fast across the extended supply-chains.  I know that it’s still ‘early days’ here, but it’s clear that Lectra has started down it’s digital transformation journey in joining it’s technology stack; and at the same time creating a key differentiator for both Lectra and its customers who are interested in joining the technologies that make up their global supply-chains.  It made me think back to the last Lectra conference I attended, when Daniel Harari, CEO, shared Lectra’s ‘3.0 strategy’, in which he stated that Lectra would offer a multi-platform PLM solution for both retailers & manufacturers. He also stated that the company would come to market with a Cloud-SaaS (System as a Service) offering, mobile solutions and a connected cutting room …and I have to take my hat off to Daniel and his team and confirm that they have indeed achieved all of these objectives. And then some.

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There’s one thing that we can say for certain: Lectra has embraced what it sees as the one unavoidable constant: change.

And recognising that change is inevitable; the fashion industry is never going to go back to the way it was before, The fact is that our ever-changing industry is going to move even faster and retailers, brands and manufacturers from around the globe will experience a constant state of flux. Retailers and brands have always worried over trends and seasonality, yes, but today accelerating technological development, transformations in the geopolitical status quo, the rapid adoption of new avenues for brand exposure, and the ever faster intake of consumer demand have all conspired to create even more change than ever before. This is change not just for change’s sake, but a reaction to fundamental shifts in our everyday lives – change that’s felt to a more acute degree, compounded by the fact that existing market pressures remain in effect alongside them.  Operating a fashion business is no longer solely a matter of being successful in pure fashion terms – the best products, and a brand that resonates with its customers – but rather requires businesses to fight to retain their identity and integrity in an entirely new, ever-shifting context.

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Lectra serves just three industries: fashion, furniture and automotive textiles, with fashion remaining its number one focus.  Since I started out in the industry in 1974 (only one year after Lectra began) Lectra has always operated in the RFA sector, deeply rooted, and it’s certainly a business that both understands and speaks the technical language of our industry.

And it’s worth sharing with our readers that in our Annual Review 2014 survey results more than 80% of PLM prospects ranked fashion industry experience, expertise, heritage, and focus as a major criterion for selecting a vendor partner. [Editor’s note: this survey question was retired after 2014 but, if this had not been the case, we would have expected this number to gradually incline year on year.]

I had the opportunity to speak with Celine Choussy-Bedouet, CMO at Lectra, and she informed me of exciting developments and plans to the ever-increasing level of change that’s afoot within Lectra at the moment.

This pioneering mind-set of change was in no short supply during each of the presentations and customer interview discussions that followed, with the audience able to ask “any questions” without them being vetted in advance by the vendor. This makes for a very refreshing change from many technology events I’ve covered in the past.

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Françoise Replumez, Senior Marketing Manager for Lectra and host of the event, kicked off day one. Françoise was a very able host, asking incisive questions of her international speakers.  After a warm welcome Françoise asked the attendees to respond with applause when each of their country flags came up on screen – a fun way to begin, and a wonderful way to set the atmosphere between attendees from 21 different countries. Attendees also came from 100 different companies. Françoise shared the agenda for the coming two days including where the fashion industry is heading, based upon the insights coming from each of the guest speakers, and how Lectra technology will help to support the future from concept & collection all the way through design & development and eventually into the cutting room.

Throughout the event Lectra allowed attendees to download a small audience interaction application, Slido, that would allow them to pose questions live to each of the presenters and to vote on the best presentations. Another mission for the attendees was to network with each other and inform and educate throughout the event and, of course, to enjoy ourselves!

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Next on stage was Edouard Macquin, EVP Sales for Lectra. Macquin shared his thoughts on “resetting the economy”, the factors that are shaping our world today and the world of tomorrow with technology continuing to change our daily lives from both a personal and professional standpoint. He made the point that we want to access data and services anywhere, at anytime, and on any device. He spoke about the three industries that Lectra supports and the benefits of sharing newness from each to help define future strategy. He also announced the opening of the latest office in Vietnam, formed to support the increased business coming from the region.

Macquin shared that Lectra has spent $185 million in R&D – around 9% of its revenues. He shared his thoughts on the millenial generation (those born between 1977-2000): the early adopters of new technologies, the same millenials that today are homeowners and parents! They’re also the generation that cares and will pay a little extra to support a good cause (sustainability comes to mind, here) and who are changing the way we buy and consume, and the way we work. It’s important to remember that millenials are the early adopters of new technologies, with expectations overall very different to generation X. It is all about experiencing everything and anything now.

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He continued by sharing his thoughts on ‘Industry 4.0’ combined with the IoT, Cloud, Machines to Machines, Machines to People, and Analytics that are starting to revolutionise the way we design and manufacture goods and equipment. He reminded the audience of each of the previous industrial revolutions and how each of them changed the world for the better. Certainly a new era has started and we must all hop aboard this train quickly, otherwise we will see it passing by, leaving us on the platform.

Macquin spoke at some length on Mass Customization, stating that we are removing the middle market that will allow consumers to design and purchase their own products; he announced how Lectra can support this paradigm shift with new connected software and machinery that will help to enable this change and which would be shared tomorrow, on day two of the event. Indeed, the following day, he shared a new Made-to-Measure software module with full integration to ERP/CRM packages for ordering, linked to single ply cutting systems located next to the sewing machines and finishing departments.

Macquin ended his presentation with what he called the ‘China revolution’: China is a huge market that is changing direction quickly, serving its own population, and an economy which is moving away from a low-cost manufacturing sector to a smarter high-technological economy based upon massive government support to become even more advanced.

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The following customer interviews formed the first hint at this event’s promotion of the expansion of both its PLM and 3D solutions as the backbone of holistic change, with the interviewees acting as the change agents for each of their companies. This is a whole-business project that can simultaneously unlock creativity in the face of change and the functional solutions that can ensure its execution.

First up for the customer side was Jami Dunbar, VP of Lighthouse Apparel for Under Armour. Under Armour was recently nominated the 6th most innovative company in the world, and Jami posed the question of how they could hold onto this position and continue to harness new technologies – the likes of Industry 4.0 – to create and scale their goal of building a “local for local” business model in Baltimore. Jami raised questions on how the business can plan for advance manufacturing; what Lighthouse is and how it will support improved manufacturing at that future product engine; whether it can help in re-shoring; how it might help gain speed and become quicker to market; and whether Lighthouse would support the paradigm shift in completely re-modelling the way that we traditionally bring new products to market.

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Dunbar dubbed the Lighthouse as “Under Armour’s secret weapon in how tomorrow’s products will be made”, although instead of keeping it a secret she wanted to share their success with the audience to support a better future for retailers, brands and manufacturers the world over.

The company opened up to the world their Lighthouse facilities in June of this year. The facilities are where entire teams of designers, product developers, computer scientists, engineers, manufacturers and visionaries co-collaborate to help bring new products to market – all made locally, for local consumers. Beyond it’s own facilities and knowhow they also collaborate with partner businesses, educational establishments, and third party developers to create new technologies and new methods of working.  The objective is to modernise the century old ways of working in Fashion and to help bring the Apparel & Footwear industry into the future using advanced technologies and best practices for small order quantities, allowing the business to bring product to market.  It’s an incubator for testing and proving new ideas based upon a 360-degree view; local for local will be taken around the world, and the team are pioneering what the factory of the future will look like.  A factory that will be more streamlined and help to deliver consistency in fit and quality.

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What the team at Under Armour learns will be shared not only within the company, but also across its bulk production units located all around the world. Today, Lighthouse starts with what they call the “Maker Space” giving the team access to the latest tools all within one space; in the future designers will collaborate with the manufacturing side for both Apparel & Footwear, sharing all technologies and smart ideas, proving new methods and testing linked to new processes that will be exported to off-shore manufacturing units.  The objective is to design with new manufacturing machinery and capabilities in mind, rather than the way most designers work together (who have rarely seen the inside of a factory), by simply designing a Tech-Pack and leaving the manufacturing methods to the factory management team

Jami believes this is the best time ever to be a designer of the future, helping to unleash tomorrow’s technologies and processes on our industry.

Another aspect of the Lighthouse is its “Virtualisation Area”, which uses a range of 3D solutions and advanced body scanners to enable the use of these virtual technologies. Today, Under Armour virtualises between 30 and 50 percent of product, which allows their design teams to develop more and more carefully engineered prototypes that can be tested by the manufacturing team working alongside, allowing all concerned to build next level products of the future.  In addition they also have what they call the “3D printing and rapid prototyping lab”, that allows the team to fast track any idea to become a real product in a fraction of the traditional timeline. They also use the lab to help produce new moulds that in the past may have taken six months to produce and would have had high associated cost, but today are able to create rapid prototypes based upon a broad-range of produce types – including Apparel, Footwear, Components and even Packaging – that can be turned out overnight.

Another game changer is the subtractive manufacturing section – an area that allows designers to work with the most advanced manufacturing tools, taking new designs to the next level, including the making of new moulds that will work for both manufacturing as well as design characteristics.  Strategy and portfolio development teams take all of the learning and improvements and transfer these out to partners around the globe, which is helping to revolutionise future manufacturing.

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Not only is Under Armour all about new technology but they’re also exploring how to get the best out of existing technologies, by examining the process and using software and machines that are that much smarter; in some cases it will be a simple addition of attachments, jigs, folders, material handling equipment, or software that’s connected to the many solutions within the design process, all helping to streamline the process and at the same time help to produce better quality sustainable products. Furthermore, they’re exploring new automation of avatars both at work and play, design solutions that share material characteristics to help drive automation and connectivity using a PLM 360-degree enterprise approach, and even the use of Robots for repetitive sewing operations. The list went on.

Dunbar made the point that it no longer makes sense to continue to chase low cost manufacturing countries – which of course we’re running out of in any case!  Ultimately, the end goal for Under Armour is to create a new paradigm – business model if you will – that allows for “local for local” design & manufacturing, for example designing and manufacturing in the USA for the USA, in Brazil for Brazil, and in Europe for Europe. In a nutshell, “local for local” means anywhere that makes sense for the business and its consumers. Today, it takes around six months to develop product, which goes back and forth multiple times before production. Jami asked, “what if we could change the way that we design and build using virtual materials, fit, colours? And then commercialise and take the 3D content to use in the Cloud for marketing and selling? And even use the 3D assets for manufacturing?” …which would take only 3-6 months in total. Under Armour can also use these assets to develop new personalisation and mass customisation.

Helping to build a 360-degree, holistic design to consumer model is all part of the Lighthouse objective in helping to build tomorrow’s world of manufacturing and, like Dunbar stated, they’re only just at the beginning of this transformational journey.  The next stage is to rollout this new technology to partner factories, including Lectra’s advanced software and machinery for smaller lines, costing, 3D and the complete end-to-end process. I’m looking forward to learning more and following the progress at Under Armour; it’s very exciting work and, for those of you that know me well, you know that it would make my perfect playground!

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Next to take the stage was Françoise Replumaz, Senior Marketing Manager for Fashion at Lectra. Françoise was presenting “a full package offer for Fashion & Apparel” and began by asking the audience to consider the following critical challenges in our industry today:

  1. The growing number of SKUs,
  2. The speed at which we need to make and bring products to market,
  3. The issue of fit for the global market – Françoise added that still today 19 percent of consumers are unhappy with fit,
  4. Changes in business models,
  5. Changes in supply-chains to help a business to become more agile,
  6. Cost control and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), which continues to be an ever-increasing requirement for both consumers and shareholders.

Replumaz suggest that the success of your business is highly dependent upon how you meet these challenges, with superior quality products and services delivered to your customers. She went on to make the point that Lectra will partner with its customers to make this goal a reality, helping them from conceptual design all the way through development and onto manufacturing, by using advanced software solutions, services, connected machinery and fashion knowhow.  There is no one size fits all; it’s about industry specifics and a deep understanding of the fashion supply-chain and Lectra continues to educate not only its own internal teams, but also the next generation of designers and developers coming from the hundreds of partner education facilities around the globe.

Replumaz went on to share several customer success stories, using the end-to-end Lectra solution stack to help overcome many of the listed challenges. We were also shown a couple of supporting videos for these. Replumaz then walked the audience through the entre solution stack from Concept, Design, 2&3D, Development, Material estimation, Order planning, Made-To-Measure, Spreading, Cutting (including small and high ply options) – with all solutions sharing the same underlining technology platform.  She made the point that the IoT (Internet of Things) is nothing new to the Lectra business and indeed they have been monitoring cutters all over the world for the last seven years and working with customers not only to provide maintenance after the issue, but also to prevent said issue happening in the first place.

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Next came a great live interview session of Celine U, Head of Merchandising at Les Enphants out of China, by Anne-Laure Louis, PLM Marketing Manager at Lectra.

Celine discussed at some length the challenges faced by her company – the same challenges many retailers and brands in the western world face. She shared how, in China, they see challenges around new business models, speed to market, improved efficiency linked to increases in labour cost, and new demands coming from their customers for improved designs, materials, quality and of course fit. And this list represents only a few of the challenges faced by Les Enphants.

Les Enphants was reportedly the very first company in China to implement a modern PLM solution which, quite rightly, the business is very proud of. They are now beginning to expand the company’s usage of the solution to incorporate more processes from early design all the way through to order management. At the same time the business continues it’s aggressive expansion plans across Asia.

Celine shared the scope, design and implementation journey with those present, commenting that it was challenging in the early days to sell PLM internally to the management team and user community. They started by re-examining their internal processes and data model, making improvements to the process before configuring the PLM software to support the new ways of working. The objective was to make each process leaner and smarter; in some cases processes became a little more complex, and in others less so, with some disappearing completely due to new methods of working.

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The services team at Lectra have been working closely with the Les Enphants team since the project kick-off and, according to Celine, have always made life easy for the users, due to their deep domain knowledge and understanding of the fashion design process. Celine also made the point that implementing PLM is a “journey of discovery” that will continue as PLM usage expands, with new solutions and processes being added to the growing project – the likes of 3D for virtual sampling for Les Enphants.

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As WhichPLM’s Founder and CEO, I was asked to present a piece on the journey of PLM. I spoke on PLM from its humble beginnings in the early part of the millennium, sharing insights taken from the past eight years since we have been measuring the RFA PLM market sector. I shared at length, too, what PLM means to the team at WhichPLM: a methodology and ideology rather than just a piece of software. I continued, discussing each of the process maturity levels of PLM from basic PLM, through what I consider to be advanced PLM, onto the future; the past is crucial in understanding the present, and mapping the future.

The team at WhichPLM, as most of you know, has been involved with PLM for many years. I began working with PDM during my time at MicroDynamics in 1985, and was part of the team that brought to market the world’s first Retail Footwear and Apparel PDM system. I was involved in the inception of CPM (Collaborative Product Management – a predecessor to PLM – in the late 1990s, and for PLM as we know it today.

Based upon our 2016 analysis of the PLM landscape, today’s industry includes more than 40 vendors offering some level of PLM to Fashion, but not all of these vendors are exclusive to Fashion and many of them do not understand what really goes on beyond the retailer. I shared with the audience that, today, there are some 2,150+ verified (meaning pure web architected PLM) implementations worldwide, and in fact there were 214 new PLM sales in the year ended 31st March 2016 [as reported in WhichPLM’s 6th Edition]. This number included 30% in the USA, 28% in Europe and, notably, 23% in Asia – showing the Asian region growing at double digits over the last couple of years. This is expected to further increase in the years ahead.

I shared my thoughts that PLM and smart technologies used to be reserved for large Tier 1 businesses (huge enterprises with annual revenues above US $1 billion) that had the founding and resources to take on and experiment with new technologies. These early adopters could afford to take a chance on building new practices, without the hindsight of others.  This is no longer the case, since the costs of technology in general (and in particular PLM) have decreased considerably, all while baseline functionality has broadened and improved – so much so that this year we recorded the first ever 100% customer satisfaction rating, when compared to a 32% dissatisfaction rating only six years ago.

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I talked of PLM having crossed the high-technology chasm based upon both it’s completeness and it’s lower cost of entry; in 2008 the cost of a PLM read-write license was around $8,000, and today that same license is around $2,000 for greater functionality and improved features.

An important word of warning I shared with the audience was not to fall for the “12 week implementation” sales pitch. There’s no silver bullet or quick wins when it comes to implementing a successful PLM solution; it takes time and dedication. Planning alone can take several weeks (or even months), data cleaning and gathering again takes weeks/months, and then there are configurations to be done. Understanding the big picture of your business and of your supply-chain partners is key. The only way that you can implement in 12 weeks is to implement in a very small part of the business with a very limited set of processes and often only delivering a PDM solution! A successful PLM implementation can take years, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thanking me, François Replumaz took the stage once again, and continued by reinforcing the concepts that had defined much of the day’s discussions thus far: the challenges of connecting dispersed teams within an organisation and providing access to the information they require to create and develop new products; PLM’s role at every stage of the concept to consumer lifecycle; the importance of quality management and collaboration; and the unification of theory and practice through effective change management.

Change was the central topic of Frédéric Gaillard’s presentation. Frédéric (not to be confused with the French footballer of the same name) is the Product Marketing Director for Lectra’s Cutting Room, and held his session at the close of day one. He referred to PLM as a transformative exercise, as well as the fact that the kind of transformation demanded by the modern fashion industry (increased profitability, heightened innovation, reduced costs, a truly networked supply chain) has prompted organisations from the multinational to the boutique to turn to PLM and integrated spreading and cutting systems (that are now underway as part of Lectra’s Cutting Room 4.0 project).

Although many PLM vendors can claim support – often to a very limited degree – for CAD/CAM, Lectra has very few competitors who can equal this ability to connect the entire product lifecycle, from design to delivery, via the intermediary processes of manufacture.  Only through native support can a vendor account for the so-called “ripple effect” whereby alterations to a given product originate in any number of different solutions – 2D creative, 2D pattern, CAD, Optiplan, bill of materials – cascade throughout other interconnected systems, ensuring that every point of access displays the same, current information.

In 2014, Daniel Harari stated his company’s intent to develop and serve three key business models with fashion PLM including: brands, retailers and manufacturers.  Rather than simply bundling as many processes as possible into a single solution, Harari instead wanted to produce, as he calls them, “a PLM for brands” and the same for manufacturers and retailers – each of whom has a DNA distinctly different from other sectors.  A brand may have retail operations, Harari then explained, but according to the Harvard business model, their essential activity and true calling would remain the creation and curation of an aspirational brand lifestyle, and products with an identity that resonates with the target consumer.

The new RV 5.0 software builds upon Harari’s own conviction that each of these sectors deserves a solution that caters to its own singular challenges.  And with these tailored solutions, Lectra works with customer partners to manage the mounting complexity of their businesses, allowing them to remain flexible in encountering the unexpected change.  A large part of this flexibility is inherent in the solutions themselves (connected Spreaders & Cutters, 3D prototyping, Material Estimators and more), and Lectra is continuing to leverage pure functional clout within its “smart connected services” that monitor the health of machinery as part of it’s IoT expansion.

*In part two of my coverage on this event, I’ll continue with Lectra’s Fashion PLM customer presentations, and explore the solution demonstrations from Lectra’s headquarters.

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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.