PLM-as-a-Platform: A Conversation about PLM’s Evolution with Mark Burstein of NGC Software (Part One)
Mark Burstein of NGC Software discusses PLM as a Platform in the first instalment of this two-part guest interview. This instalment discusses the continuing evolution of PLM, and begins discussing what the industry refers to as ‘silos’. The second instalment, posted next week, will continue where this piece leaves off.
Question: NGC wrote a series of blog posts for WhichPLM last year talking about the continuing evolution of PLM. At that time, you made the case that PLM should be viewed as a centralized hub that goes beyond product development to encompass other systems and processes, such as Supply Chain Management, ERP and Logistics. How has your thinking evolved in this area?
Mark Burstein: During the past year, NGC has had numerous discussions with industry analysts, customers, editors and industry insiders about an expanded definition of PLM. The reaction has been very positive, and we are seeing an increasing consensus that PLM is about far more than product design.
If anything, the thinking about PLM as a centralized hub is becoming even more all- encompassing. We’re seeing strong support for the idea that PLM should serve as the central repository to orchestrate all information, processes, systems, departments and geographies within the fashion enterprise. In other words, PLM can become the core platform in all phases of the product lifecycle: “PLM-as-a-Platform.”
Q: Is all of this information native to PLM, or are you talking about integrating information from outside PLM?
MB: We’re talking about both. The information that resides in PLM can come from within the PLM system as well as other enterprise applications. In a recent conversation with an industry analyst at the NRF Show, she mentioned that “PLM is a single source of the truth – but the data doesn’t all have to originate in PLM.”
We agree with her view. PLM should integrate information from a host of enterprise systems, such as Planning and Forecasting systems, ERP, Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and other systems, depending on each organization’s needs. PLM isn’t a fixed, static set of processes; it continues to expand into additional areas in product design and manufacturing – everything that is involved in bringing products to market.
More than any other enterprise solution, PLM has the ability to unify information and break down the silos that typically existing in product design and manufacturing. That’s why the notion of PLM-as-a-Platform is a hot topic in the industry right now.
Q: What kind of silos do you typically see in fashion companies?
MB: Fashion design and production is a complex, fast-paced, and information-intensive business. Dozens of different departments and external trading partners need instant access to data, but in most organizations, information resides in silos that can’t easily be shared – leading to a proliferation of spreadsheets, emails, faxes and an inability to access timely, accurate data.
For example, production planning and procurement may not have access to the latest sales data and fail to purchase enough raw materials for replenishing best-selling items. In other cases, production volumes may not match in-store demand, resulting in either out-of-stocks or markdowns, which is a huge problem in our industry – the global retail industry loses more than $800 billion a year due to markdowns and lost sales from out-of-stocks, according to IHL Group. These are just a few examples of the damage that can result when information isn’t seamlessly shared across an organization.
The fashion and retail industries are seeing tremendous disruption with innovative business models and new ways of connecting with consumers – but unless companies can overcome these organizational silos, they won’t reach their full potential.
Q: How does the concept of PLM-as-a-Platform play a role in breaking down these silos?
MB: Companies must be willing to integrate their enterprise systems with PLM. And in order to do this, some PLM vendors (including NGC) are responding with solutions that offer not only product design and development, but also Supply Chain Management — including WIP tracking, vendor collaboration and management, materials management, quality and logistics. The solutions must also seamlessly integrate with fashion ERP systems, Forecasting and Replenishment applications, and other systems. This level of integration is crucial for improving efficiencies, reducing errors, driving down costs, and shortening the concept-to-consumer lifecycle.
Best-in-class PLM systems will be able to incorporate these features, either natively within the PLM footprint or by integrating information from other systems into the platform. Having a web-based system is important here, for easy access by all the various departments in an organization as well as overseas suppliers.
Next week’s instalment will conclude this guest interview.