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Supporting Tomorrow’s Retail Professionals: One Year On

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Just under one year ago, WhichPLM established a strong relationship with the University of Huddersfield (UoH). At the beginning of November, WhichPLM’s CEO & Founder, Mark Harrop, paid the University another visit.

In November 2014, two WhichPLM representatives were invited to the University of Huddersfield, to attend and participate in a PLM-focused education programme. WhichPLM was thrilled to see a university like Huddersfield leading the way in developing one of the first PLM-specific fashion courses – a course which we hoped would play a large part towards setting a formal education and qualification around the subject of PLM & E-PLM (Extended-PLM) in the retail, footwear, and apparel space.

Mark Harrop, paid a second and third visit to the university in March of this year, just days apart. The ‘PLM event week’ in March was the culmination of an educational PLM project organized by Jo Conlon, Senior Lecturer in Fashion & Textiles at the University of Huddersfield, and Mark was invited to pass on some of his expertise, and help judge each of the students’ PLM research projects and portfolios on competition day.

In early November 2015, just one year on from our first visit, Mark was invited back to UoH to see the huge strides the University has already taken to include PLM for Fashion in their curriculum.

Senior lecturer, Jo Conlon, is an advocate for the importance of PLM-specific education at the university level. She states, “given the fast pace of technology developments and the increasing investment in fashion-specific PLM solutions by retailers, brands and manufactures, we were keen to introduce PLM education at all levels in the programme. This ensures that our graduates enter employment with a baseline of PLM knowledge, recognising the realistic solutions that PLM can generate, the problems it can solve and the additional opportunities it can provide.”

In 2014 the university implemented PTC’s FlexPLM system into the second year course for BA (Hons) Fashion Buying Management. The university believes, and we agree, that this has created a unique learning programme for the next generation of industry professionals that will have the advantage of understanding the critical requirements of a business as it relates to the subject of PLM & E-PLM.

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Part of this programme included participation in WhichPLM Academy’s bronze level. The bronze modules provide industry best practice for understanding how to make a business case for PLM and how to implement PLM effectively. Jo explains, “our students are now able to differentiate themselves from the crowd with this external certification and their knowledge and enthusiasm for PLM solutions in the workplace. Recently, several graduates and placement students have been back in contact with me to inform me that they are now participating in the evaluation and implementation of PLM within their workplace!”

So, with such a positive outcome since our last visit, Mark was delighted to return to the university and speak with an entirely new set of students. 2015 marks the second year of the implementation; Mark was invited to witness a whole new round of presentations from 2015’s second year students, who have worked in small teams to critically evaluate the various PLM solutions available. Mark discussed with each team their findings and understanding, giving them the benefit of his extensive experience and direction.

The university’s 2015/16 programme will include the opportunity to work with Optitex 3D software, as the course encourages students to think beyond PLM to E-PLM. Huddersfield students can now benefit from a tiered integrated industry, technology-focused learning experience, firstly as individual users of the FlexPLM 10.2 system, then at a process management level, and finally exploring strategic, real-world, applied opportunities for extended and innovative PLM technologies.

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Jo Conlon has found this experience invaluable: “We have benefited enormously from the expertise and commitment of several partners in this project – WhichPLM, PTC, ITC Infotech, George at Asda – to support and embed each stage, developing a rich understanding of PLM as a holistic business process solution. We are extremely grateful for all the generous support as we continue to embed PLM into the curriculum and we would be glad to hear from anyone who would like to know more or be involved in similar educational PLM programs.

“We are delighted with the outcome of this project to date, we believe it will enhance the currency of the programme, inspire and evolve new directions for potential career development of our graduates and support the success of future PLM initiatives. Our students are already reporting PLM knowledge as a key differentiator in competitive employment markets and their knowledge and PLM-focused enthusiasm to make a positive contribution in the industry.”

We are delighted that, just one year since our first visit, the students at the University of Huddersfield are already reaping the benefits a PLM-focused education can offer. We’d like to commend everyone involved; integrating PLM into the curriculum at a university level is a sure-fire way to ensure that graduates are stepping out into the industry armed with the knowledge necessary to gain employment, and make an impact on the future of the fashion industry.

As Mark stated on the day, UoH is “building something quite unique”.

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Anyone wishing to get in contact with Jo Conlon or Mark Harrop is asked to please reach out to our Editor to arrange this.

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Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.