Home Guest blogs Practical PLM Approach for RFA: Think Big, Start Small, Build Incrementally

Practical PLM Approach for RFA: Think Big, Start Small, Build Incrementally


In this exclusive guest blog, Jamie Pappas (Senior Vice President at PTC) and Vipin Goyal (Senior Manager and Retail, Apparel and Footwear Practice Leader at Kalypso) present a measured and practical approach to delivering on the promise of PLM within the retail, footwear and apparel industry.

The PLM value proposition in the retail, footwear and apparel (RFA) industries is driven by several unique industry factors, including the ever-shifting landscape of retail, changes in consumer behavior, and a growing demand for “fast fashion.”  Top those off with the global nature of product design and development, and it’s clear that there is a great opportunity for PLM to add value by reducing cycle-times required conceive products, develop them, manufacture them, and deliver them to a diverse range of markets around the world. Businesses today also work with a growing number of supply chain partners, and PLM helps by ensuring consistency and speed of collaboration across the global landscape.

PLM can enable RFA companies to manage critical product information as a single source of truth with distributed teams, across the extended supply chain, and throughout the entire product lifecycle. But too often, companies embark on their PLM journeys without a coordinated, cross-functional plan of action. This can lead to conflict, confusion, redundant investment and ultimately a failure to deliver on the promise.

To enable PLM to fully address these challenges, companies must develop a comprehensive strategy to drive the most benefit. A “think big, start small, build incrementally” approach can help ensure successful implementation of PLM technology and processes, while addressing change management and adoption issues.

Think Big

To ensure that PLM creates the most value and delivers the most significant return on investment, RFA companies must take a strategic approach to PLM and move from a systems installation mindset to a transformational approach. Leading companies that have adopted this “vision-driven” approach to PLM are significantly outperforming those that view their programs more tactically.

When PLM is implemented not just as a technology but as a strategy to guide people, processes, and change, it enables global product development teams to work more effectively, better meet consumer needs, reduce time to market and shrink development costs, ultimately resulting in profit improvement.

RFA companies should  clearly define a future state to achieve from PLM transformation, and tie that vision back to the overall business strategy. PLM yields transformational improvements for companies that have stuck with their strategy and viewed their PLM programs as long-term journeys.

Start Small

Being strategic with PLM does not mean attempting to “eat the elephant” in one sitting. The most successful companies are taking an incremental approach to implementing PLM.

The components of a comprehensive PLM offering include the functionality and technical infrastructure to support strategic, design, data management, and collaboration processes. When picking a starting point, it’s important to understand the components available, and identify the areas that will help deliver value quickly. Those quick wins are key drivers for keeping the momentum going and fueling organizational change and adoption.

Given the varied facets of each component of a comprehensive PLM solution, these capabilities are almost never implemented all at once. Rather, most companies find that the best approach to a PLM implementation is to define a strategy based on a commercially available platform and create a roadmap that integrates additional new capabilities over time.

Build Incrementally

Gone are the days when companies would attempt to overhaul their PLM systems at once in a big bang approach, as change management hurdles can jeopardize production in the short term and leave the program with an exhausted budget and no long-term results.

Companies taking a strategic, evolutionary approach to PLM are the most successful in generating returns on their program investments. Best-in-class companies evolving their PLM solutions are delivering significant top- and bottom-line benefits, and, more importantly, they are outperforming their peers that are taking a more tactical approach.

Recent research from PTC and Tech-Clarity backs up a “think big, start small, build incrementally” approach to PLM, showing that that the high-performers aligned PLM strategy with business strategy, developed executive agreement on value, and used detailed roadmaps to plan and measure PLM implementation value.

Importance of Executive Sponsorship

People are the fabric that makes your organization successful and every company’s organizational needs are unique. Executive buy-in is important, but leaders must move a step beyond this to take charge of the PLM implementation, so they can inspire, motivate and lead teams to improve.

In a PTC interview on PLM Advocacy, Kalypso’s Cynthia Ridley says, “Everyone knows that executive sponsorship is important. But simple sponsorship is not enough to ensure a successful program with real business impact. The real challenge is having executive advocates that are passionate about the initiative being successful, that constantly share their vision, and that make it important to their direct reports.”

According to Ridley, the vision is just the beginning. RFA companies also need to understand how to bring the organization through a major change, which usually means building out maps of stakeholders, looking at the impact of the new solutions on them, identifying advocates, understanding how to influence different stakeholders, and building the right relationships at the executive level. When done correctly, executive sponsorship inevitably leads to easier change management and better, faster user adoption.

A Practical Approach to PLM for RFA

PLM can be a true innovation enabler for RFA companies. These solutions provide a framework that allows for clearer communication and greater collaboration across all product development phases, from initial design through production, on a global scale. Contrary to common belief from the creative masses, effective PLM processes and systems can actually improve creativity by eliminating time spent on non-value added activities.

PLM addresses many of the common challenges RFA companies face today, but it is a journey. Companies should develop a long-term PLM strategy and initial roadmap centered on solving a single, high-impact business problem, and use this as the foundation on which to build a comprehensive solution.

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.