Alongside his appearance at the company’s PLM Innovation Forum in September, our Managing Director, Mark Harrop, was interviewed for an appearance in the latest issue of Technia’s PLM Magazine.
The profile is reproduced below, and looks at Mark’s 37-year history in the industry and what drives his work in PLM to this day.
“A man tailor-made for the apparel industry
You don’t get a badge like ‘Mr. PLM’ without good cause, but Mark Harrop has earned it.
A 37-year veteran of the retail, footwear and apparel industry, Mark, now 53, has worked in the cutting room, the boardroom and everywhere in between. As far back as the 1980s he was instrumental in developing and promoting advanced computer systems within an industry accustomed to doing everything by hand.
In his roles as Cutting Room Manager, Factory Manager and Production Manager Mark worked with high-profile companies like Marks & Spencer and Benetton, Mark was a catalyst for a transition that, in many cases, is still ongoing. As pencil drawing gave way to CAD (Computer Aided Design) and traditional manufacturing techniques were supplanted by CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) within those companies, Mark was a guiding force in what became their evolution into the advanced PDM and PLM systems that populate the market today. Throughout that time Mark also managed sales, design, business development and technology investment at a range of different software and apparel companies in Europe and the US.
As a result of that first-hand manufacturing, development and implementation experience, Mark knows the apparel industry inside out, and he understands PLM from the foundations upwards.
It was that unique combination of apparel and software expertise that lead mark to found his own business in 2007. The Product Development Partnership (PDP) is dedicated to providing world-class consultancy services to companies in the retail, footwear and apparel industry; helping them navigate a crowded marketplace, chose and then implement the right PLM system for their unique business needs.
According to Mark, “there were, and still are, too many companies overselling their products, solutions and services and under-delivering on those promises. There was some policing that needed to be done – an opportunity in other words. With my unique technology and manufacturing experience I recognised an opportunity to act as an impartial, expert point of contact between the real customers of PLM (fabric technicians, designers and CEOs) and the suppliers themselves – who often lack the industry knowledge to talk directly to their end users.”
In 2008 Mark and his growing team launched WhichPLM (www.whichplm.com) with the aim of providing a single destination for PLM news, opinion and tools specifically designed for the apparel industry. Fiercely independent and steadfast in their impartiality, the WhichPLM team began benchmarking and evaluating PLM solutions in notoriously exacting detail. While financial support comes from writing independent , industry-defining reports and from advertising initiatives, WhichPLM’s mantra remains that the right solution is the one that’s right for that particular company – not the one with the best marketing or the loftiest claims.
As Mark explains, “we don’t work for any single PLM supplier. We work for the industry itself”.
It’s this belief in the potential of PLM and this long-standing love for the apparel industry that drives Mark, rather than the lure of glamour and the catwalks. In every sense, he is enthralled by the deep processes that underpin fashion and allow the biggest and most renowned international retailers and brands to do business – not the glitz on the surface. For Mark, brands live or die on the strength of their product development processes, and the opportunities to streamline, enhance and develop those processes are growing more rapidly now than ever before.
“Many PLM solutions have their roots in the aerospace and automotive industries – but it takes seven years to build an airplane, as opposed to seven weeks for an item of clothing. The fashion/apparel industry is so fast by comparison. In that relatively short period, you see a product conceived, designed, sampled, manufactured and delivered to the hangers in the retail stores. For this rapid turnaround to be effective, we need systems specific to the industry that are designed to support speedy trend development. The advent of new technology and global collaboration means that we now have the capability for a trend-spotter to snap a picture of a garment on a smartphone at a catwalk show or in the global fashion capitals, then communicate that concept to designers and brand executives anywhere in the world via the company’s end-to-end PLM system. With these kind of developments (and more emerging every year) ours remains an exciting, accelerating industry that shows no signs of slowing down.”
With the growth of the PDP and WhichPLM teams, who together are working on a range of industry-defining projects, neither does Mark himself.”
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