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NRF Conversations – Mark Burstein of NGC

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In the tenth in our continuing series of exclusive vendor interviews from NRF 2013, our Editor talks to Mark Burstein, President of Sales, Marketing and R&D for NGC, about supply chain compliance, the transformations that are affecting people’s perceptions of PLM, and his company’s plans for the coming year.

Ben Hanson: How was 2012 for NGC?  What were your priorities for the year, and did you achieve them? Did you release any notable software updates, sign any particularly noteworthy deals or expand into any new territories?

Mark Burstein: 2012 was an exceptionally strong year for NGC, as we added over 20 new fashion clients, including Nicole Miller, J. Mendel, Alberto Makali, Fashion Avenue Knits, Sport Obermeyer, Revise Clothing, Excelled Sheepskin, and GTM Sportswear, among others.

We also expanded into new market segments, while continuing to maintain our strong focus on fashion, apparel and footwear, based on our many years of experience working with fashion brands and retailers. Some of the new categories we’ve moved into include action sports, home fashions, consumer products, jewelry and furniture, and we have brought on marquee customers in each of these segments.

From a product standpoint, we’re very excited about the new version 14 release of our PLM and SCM system. We’ve invested tremendous R&D resources in this release and worked closely with our customers to incorporate their feedback. As a result, v. 14 is our most advanced PLM/SCM release yet, with a host of new features: KPI dashboards with data discovery features, a completely updated user interface, and advanced product costing with comparisons of actual vs. estimated costing. Other highlights include logistics equipment planning, global marketplace selling tools, 3D sampling applications, and vendor and social compliance.

[quote]We believe that vendor compliance and factory safety are the top issues affecting PLM and the supply chain right now.[/quote]

BH: With NRF being a retail-focused show, where do you see PLM’s role here?  Obviously it has many points of interface (mobile applications, marketing data and so on) to the extended enterprise as well as its core functionalities for product development.

MB: The major trends that are transforming retail — mobility, social media, big data and omnichannel selling — are changing the way that people think about PLM and SCM. For product planning, retailers now must consider not only traditional data streams such as POS and e-commerce data, but integrating social media input from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, as well as user comments and reviews. How well companies can harness this data can have a huge impact on product development; for example, forward-thinking brands can now put product concepts in front of users to gauge their popularity based on the number of likes, then make their final style decisions based on user feedback.

Integration with planning and forecasting systems is critical, too, as retailers now must continually make in-season inventory adjustments in order to strike the right balance between inventory and demand across all channels. It’s critical to be able to quickly access and understand this information and then make adjustments in the supply chain—for example, by accelerating the production of the top selling SKUs, making the necessary sourcing and logistics decisions to help speed replenishment. Conversely, retailers need to put the brakes on slow-moving items, shifting materials and capacity to the items that are really selling. Speed and agility are of the essence in making these decisions, and that’s where PLM and SCM can help.

BH: Having had the chance to see what was on display at NRF expo, what do you personally see as the biggest emerging trends for 2013?

MB: We believe that vendor compliance and factory safety are the top issues affecting PLM and the supply chain right now. November’s tragic fire at the Tazreen factory became a tipping point for brands and retailers to insist on better guarantees for worker safety, strict compliance with safety regulations, and complete supply chain transparency. Wal-Mart recently announced a zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized subcontracting, and other brands and retailers are certain to follow their lead. It’s a huge wake-up call for our industry, and we think that PLM and SCM systems can play a vital role in helping to ensure supply chain transparency.

That’s why NGC developed our Vendor Compliance software last year as part of our Extended PLM system, in order to help our customers more closely monitor and manage their global sourcing vendors. It includes information such as factory safety records and vendor scorecards, along with vendor profiles that include each supplier’s current compliance audits, performance and quality history, and other information, available through a web-based portal. These types of systems can help companies take the right steps to ensure worker safety and comply with regulatory and social mandates. The reception from our customers has been very positive.

BH: Finally, what are NGC’s plans for 2013?

MB: We are bullish on growth and our overall prospects for 2013. We’ve doubled the size of our business over the past five years, and we’re anticipating continued double-digit growth as we bring on new customers. In addition, we’re hosting our first global users group conference this fall in Miami. It’s another exciting milestone for NGC, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on our plans.

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.