“Realising the Business Benefits of PLM” – WhichPLM Reports on Gerber Technology’s January Seminar
On 24th January, the Rootstein Hopkins Centre at the London College of Fashion played host to a collection of UK retailers, brands and consultants – all of whom were there to learn more about Gerber Technology’s YuniquePLM solution.
Gerber have used the space before, but this week’s event was intended to address a range of new talking points as well as providing some insight into the role of fashion-focused PLM to a unique crowd. The company is in the transitional stage of attracting both new customers and existing users of WebPDM to YuniqePLM and, having spoken with Peter Bambridge, Director of Software Solutions for Northern Europe, and Madhur Mahajan, Senior PLM Consultant, about it at last week’s NRF show in New York, I knew that the Gerber team were keen to draw attention to the integration between their solution and Torex merchandise planning.
The choice of venue was no coincidence, and handout packs distributed at the seminar featured the strapline “Designed for the business of fashion”. The composition of the audience and the morning’s agenda similarly left me in no doubt that Gerber Technology are aiming to position YuniquePLM at the forefront of PLM technology for the apparel industry.
Peter Bambridge opened the proceedings, setting out to introduce Gerber Technology and explaining last year’s acquisition of the company by Vector Capital. According to Bambridge, Gerber is unique because it “combines fashion industry knowledge with good software and worldwide support”. After citing more than 25,000 Gerber Technology customers worldwide (a statistic that no doubt encompasses Gerber’s full range of hardware and software), Bambridge went on to highlight some of the most noteworthy YuniquePLM clients, as well explaining that 2011 brought thirty-six additional customers into that fold.
Bill Brewster, the US-based Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for Gerber Technology, then took the stage to examine the business case for PLM in the apparel industry, looking at the particular drivers behind its adoption by some of the world’s largest retailers and brands. For him, YuniquePLM deserves its title because it is the only solution designed by the fashion industry, for the fashion industry.
Recognising after a show of hands that many in the audience had limited experience of working with PLM, Brewster set out to explain why – in a world where we design, source, cut, sew and deliver on a global scale – having a centralised method of managing all those disparate data and processes is fundamental to modern product development. Brewster then outlined what he considers to be the baseline requirements of any good PLM solution, explaining that it should be:
He went on to explain PLM’s place in supporting the rigorous ethical and environmental compliance that is required of multinational companies, and revealed that he considers the tracking and data centralisation capabilities of PLM to be a prerequisite for that kind of sustainability.
Following a question from the audience, Brewster was candid about the fact that YuniquePLM is intended to replace the company’s WebPDM solution. He was careful, though, to explain that a sudden migration to the full YuniquePLM suite is not necessarily the best choice for all businesses, and not something to be undertaken lightly.
After providing an implementation overview and a series of potted customer success stories (including Cutter & Buck, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kwintet, Jonathan Fletcher and the newly-announced Fruit Of The Loom), Peter Bambridge then handed over to Mike Prefontaine of SD Retail Consulting. Prefontaine is a retail consultant specialising in change management – particularly where it precedes and underpins the adoption of enterprise-level systems like PLM. He discussed what he considers to be the primary challenges facing companies in the apparel industry (namely empowered customers and the need to adopt a more refined business operating model) and examined how detailed planning using the RACI framework can help to streamline the merchandise cycle process before PLM implementation even begins.
Despite the lack of a live demonstration, Charlotte Kula-Przezwanksi’s analysis of the integration between YuniquePLM and Torex (for whom she works as Global Enterprise Practice Lead) provided some genuine insight into the role of merchandise planning. Like nowhere else, success in the fashion industry is predicated on delivering the right product at the right time and the right price, and then having the insight and adaptability to learn from its performance in the retail marketplace. From what I saw, merchandise planning data from Torex can be imported into YuniquePLM to create and manage styles, line plans and the various other stages of the product development process, before eventually being exported back to Torex at predefined milestones.
I look forward to seeing the integration in further detail in the new future, since it promises to become a major part of the YuniquePLM suite.
The session drew to a close with a live demonstration of YuniquePLM from Senior PLM Consultant Madhur Mahajan, who aimed to show how the solution can help to remedy “pain points” specific to the apparel industry. These capabilities included:
• The use of line plans
• The use of formalised templates, libraries and calendars to assist in the standardisation of business processes
• The benefits of a centralised,“single version of the truth“ in the management of large quantities of complex Tech Packs
• The use of a supplier portal to facilitate collaboration with suppliers across the global supply chain
Mahajan also revealed that Gerber had intended to demonstrate its 360-degree visualisation tool, but last-minute setbacks meant that this remains under wraps for the time being. WhichPLM hopes to bring our readers more information as soon as it becomes available.
Supplementing the usual crowd of retailers and industry figures, the presence of employees from the London College of Fashion (many of whom work with industry-leading CAD/CAM and 3D visualisation tools) at Tuesday’s event suggests that PLM is gaining a wider acceptance throughout the product development spectrum, and Gerber Technology’s various presentations left me in no doubt that the company intends to compete at every stage.
Copies of the presentations given on the day are available directly from the event organiser, Madhur Mahajan, who can be contacted on email@example.com
Ben Hanson is the Editor of WhichPLM