PLM-as-a-Platform: A Conversation about PLM’s Evolution with Mark Burstein of NGC Software (Part Two)
Mark Burstein of NGC Software continues on PLM as a Platform in this second instalment of a two-part guest interview. This instalment begins where we left of last week, with the last question from Part One repeated here for our readers.
Question: How does the concept of PLM-as-a-Platform play a role in breaking down these silos?
Mark Burstein: 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.
Q: How can fashion companies extend these systems to third-party suppliers?
MB: In working with third-party testing labs, factories, inspectors and others, companies can grant them access to a secure central repository where information can easily be input, shared and updated. Once vendors have entered the information, it’s immediately made available to everyone that needs it. Workflow calendars and exception management dashboards can help ensure that testing deadlines are met, and provide accountability throughout the entire design/production process.
We’re seeing a lot of innovation in extending PLM capabilities to third parties. In the areas of product quality and factory safety, for example, inspectors can now take photos with their mobile phones, upload the images directly into a web-based PLM system, and immediately make the information available to anyone who needs it. That saves a tremendous amount of time. If there’s a significant product defect or problems at the factory, the responsible parties can be alerted right away and take appropriate action.
Q: How do companies begin to implement these capabilities within PLM?
MB: You don’t have to do it all at once, and that’s the beauty of this approach. You can start with PLM, then gradually build on that foundation with SCM, ERP and other systems. NGC, for example, takes a modular approach to all of our software, which means that our customers can start with what they need now, and then add other software components as needed, with the assurance that all the systems will fully integrated in order to provide a central repository for collaboration and information. All of our solutions – PLM, SCM and ERP –integrate with third-party software and existing systems, which gives companies the greatest possible flexibility in how the software is implemented.
Q: What do you believe is the future of PLM?
MB: As PLM continues its evolution, it is increasing being viewed as a platform. The notion of PLM-as-a-Platform is a viewpoint that’s being advanced by CIMdata, a PLM research and advisory firm.
CIMdata views the continuing evolution of PLM as critical to product innovation and has recently published a series of position papers on PLM-as-a-Platform. According to CIMdata, “PLM solution providers are developing platforms—a construct of software solutions, enabled business processes, and business strategies—that embody new approaches to work tasks and how best to accomplish them.”
CIMdata goes on to say that, “platform-centric solutions are reliable, robust, and boundaryless. Reliable solutions withstand multiple system upgrades and platform migrations. Robust solutions are adaptable, maintainable, extensible, scalable, reconfigurable, compatible, and stable. Boundaryless solutions are free of artificial limitations on functionality that are imposed by the marketplace segmentation of design and engineering systems with conventional architectures.”
This thinking is very much in line with the trends that NGC is seeing in the market, and this matches very closely with our vision for the continuing evolution of PLM.