Yvonne Heinen-Foudeh, Gerber Technology’s Marketing and Communications Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa looks at the apparel industry’s latest buzzword…
Every so often a new three letter acronym hits the industry with force. PLM is the latest. Short for Product Lifecycle Management, PLM is the talk of every CAD and IT company. Let’s look at what PLM actually is by taking a closer look at Gerber Technology’s particular solution Fashion Lifecycle Management™ (FLM).
Product Lifecycle Management can help fashion brands and retailers cost effectively manage multiplicity of suppliers located in numerous different countries globally operate product design, development and production in ever faster moving market place.
What is PLM?
Essentially, PLM is a tool to help a company control its collection from the point of range conception to the point of sale. This is even before the conception of any particular design within the collection; it starts with the planning of what the collection ought to contain and when it is due in store, and the control and monitoring of all stages in between. It is an extension of PDM, or Product Development Management, which is used to help control, monitor and communicate a new style and acts an extended link between CAD and ERP.
All garments will have complex pre-production activities and critical paths. These include making patterns, sampling, grading, sourcing fabric and trim, lab dips, producing manufacturing and quality specifications, measurement charts, etc. All these items need to be controlled, managed and expedited.
- • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) in essence controls the manufacturing aspects of scheduling, fabrics, labour, trim, production purchasing and warehousing both within the company’s own factories and at subcontractors throughout the world.
- • PDM (Product Data Management) is a warehouse of product information including specification and measurement charts, fabric and trim details and costing. Capable PDM Systems facilitate communication and accelerate the coordination of product development tasks by connecting design, engineering, costing, and manufacturing information through a centralized database of product-related information that is fully functional with only a web browser running on the client PC.
- • PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is the management of the collection from concept to store. It includes merchandise planning starting by defining what a collection should contain – what sort of garments, in what sizes, in what colours and what price and margins and profitability using store concept and forecasting information. From there decisions can be made about what samples are required at what price point and in what time scale. This leads to the identification of which potential suppliers could technically make them and who has the capacity, and thus who should sample and cost them. This therefore necessitates supplier collaboration and communication and hopefully a reduction in the amount of sampling as sampling becomes much more targeted to requirements.
How PLM for fashion differs from PLM for other industries.
The term PLM seems to have been borrowed from other manufacturing industries where in the lifecycle of a product, be it the new Airbus or a packet of headache pills, all components within each batch of items need a full accountability trace from stage one of design to way the product is sold in case of any recalls or quality issues. However, the fashion industry is different. Individual products are not the all important issues, a range or collection of product is. To launch a collection onto the market, the whole range must be ready, on time, at the right price, at the right quality, in the right size mix, in the right colour mix, at the right quantities and in the right place. This may include various sub ranges of trousers, dresses, blouses, jackets, coats, etc. There may be various shape rages, i.e. misses, petite, plus, each with different size range within them. There will be many different fabric suppliers and even more fabric ranges, button suppliers and ranges, interlining suppliers and ranges. Thus a collection is made up of many, many sub ranges of products, fabrics and trim. It is exactly this elementary difference that Gerber Technology’s PLM solution for the fashion industry applies to.