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Remembering David Smith, friend and colleague

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David Smith (born 22 June 1959), a valued member of the PLM community, devoted husband and loving father died on 28th March 2011.

David (or “Dave the rave” to his closest colleagues) was one of the founding fathers of PDM/PLM for the apparel industry, and went on to become a consultant for PDP and a key contributor to the WhichPLM benchmarking process.

Our Managing Director, Mark Harrop, worked closely with Dave for many years and, after speaking with Dave’s family, he and several of Dave’s colleagues decided to dedicate their time to remembering a beloved friend who will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

Mark Harrop, Managing Director of PDP:

“I had the great pleasure and privilege of working alongside David Smith on and off for more than 26 years we became close and loyal friend throughout our working careers.  Dave was a highly intelligent individual, always able to think outside the box.  He would always carefully consider the challenges we faced during our customer facing meetings and would devise smart ways of improving the user experience based on helping to streamline processes or optimising software developments.

During our many years of globetrotting we had many experiences some funny and some sad.  I know that despite Dave’s fear of flying (not helped by a return flight from Istanbul where we heard the captain shout “aborting landing, debris on the runway!”, resulting in one very green-looking Dave to my left and one quaking first-time Turkish flyer to my right) he had a fantastic time travelling the world.  We met some wonderful people along the way; always broad-minded, he took it upon himself to educate himself about different cultures and politics and was always a winner with the locals.

I remember first meeting Dave in November 1985, when all 6 feet 4 inches of him came to view the Microdynamics CAD (Pattern Design  & Marker Making) system.  At a modest 5 feet 5 inches myself, Dave and I later became known as the “little and large show” in our presentations to prospects and customers!  At the time of his first visit to Microdynamics he was working for Ramar Dresses in Crook (near Newton Aycliffe in the North-East of England), we had only recently formed the Microdynamics business in the UK, where we shared offices with Marks & Spencer supplier Lawtex.

On that day in 1985 he and his management team (including the flamboyant, cigar-smoking Colin Radan) attended what turned out to be a successful presentation, with the owner quickly approving a deal.  I remember asking Colin what IT support the company had for Dave, to which he replied “he’s it!” – pointing to Dave – and suggested that I had better look after him or else!

Thankfully Dave’s intelligence and resourcefulness saw him quickly get to grips with the solutions, and he became an expert in no time at all.  In fact, I know that the Dallas-based R&D team depended heavily on Dave’s feedback to carry out crucial bug testing of new releases and develop improvements to the solution.

Like many businesses at the time, work eventually moved off-shore and the Ramar Dresses factory in the North-East was closed.  Happily Dave was able to find employment with the support team at Microdynamics, where he worked for Pam Drury.  Dave and Pam became a great team, and I would not have been able to head up PDM sales without their fantastic support.

In the late 1980s Microdynamics began to broaden its portfolio with the development of the very first PDM system, which we named “Spec”.  With his strong manufacturing and software skills, Dave was selected as one of the core team members and tasked with helping to steer development of the solution.  Together, Dave and I spent the next twelve years travelling all over the world; we went all over Europe, to India, Turkey, Israel, the USA, and North and South Africa, to name but a few destinations.

One memory of mine and Dave’s travels that never fails to make me laugh (although it is a sad story) came on one of our trips to South Africa.  Dave and I were on our way to a dinner meeting with one of the country’s larger store groups when we came across an armed robbery in a shop.  Tragically the owner was killed before our eyes.  I was driving the car at the time, so I told Dave to lock all the doors while we pursued the killer, who sprinted away from the scene with us pursuing him in the car.  Eventually the police intervened and arrested him a few miles from the scene.  Needless to say we were both pretty shaken up – even a big guy like Dave!  Now, a couple of days later Dave and I returned from a late meeting, had an even later dinner and retired to our rooms.  A minute or so later I heard Dave running down to reception shouting “there’s someone in my room!”.   As it turned out, one of the cleaning staff had decided we weren’t going to return that evening and had taken a nap in Dave’s bed, not realising the impact this would have after our earlier ordeal!

Throughout his travels, Dave made many friends.  I know some of them struggled to understand his North-Eastern accent and, after a few repetitions of “wae’aye man!” would ask Dave to focus on the keyboard while I gave the running commentary!

Dave’s international trail of friendship has seen colleagues and customers alike contacting me, and each of them has asked me to pass their condolences on to his wife Ann and his two daughters, in the knowledge that hearing some stories of his working career and the many lasting friendships he made will mean a great deal to them.”

We have collected the thoughts of these colleagues and friends below.  If you worked with or knew Dave and would like to share your experiences, please contact us on info@whichplm.com.

I had the chance to work with Dave at Micro, Gerber and Porini, he was simply great, both professionally
and as a person, a friend!

Flavia Collalti, Italy

He was at home eating snails!! We remember him very well

Pascal Jouet and his wife Sabine, Paris, Gerber

I have nothing but good memories of him. He was such a helpful and decent person. Very softly spoken and intelligent and didn’t indulge in tittle tattle or other nonsense – just came to work to do a great job.

Emma Ridy, UK, MicroDynamics and Gerber

I’m so sorry to hear this. Dave was as you’ve said below a very nice person to be around and to work with.

Joe Huff, Dallas, USA, MicroDynamics and Gerber

I’m sorry to hear this. I always respected Dave’s ability and personally liked him even though I couldn’t
always understand him. It’s a sad day. Sorry I can’t attend the funeral.

Steve Fineman, Dallas, USA, MicroDynamics and Gerber

I remember him well he was with Gerber when I joined. In fact Dave gave me my first training on the PDM
system and I worked with him on several projects in the first few years. He was always one to try and help
and good for a laugh and made it part of the fun to work at Gerber in the PDM years

Kev Ryder, UK, Gerber

Dave will be greatly missed within the Apparel world. He was a special guy, a great friend, always helpful
and smiling – except when he was in a plane (he hated flying)

Pam Drury, UK, MicroDynamics and Gerber

Dave will be sadly missed he was a great guy that leaves a massive hole to fill. My thoughts are with Dave and his family

Chris Grayer Talbots USA

Other colleagues from Micro and Gerber who remember Dave fondly are:

 

Derek Jones, UK

Peter Roberts, UK

Karl and Suzanne Burbridge, New York

Johan Söderberg, Norway

 

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.