During the joint TexProcess and TechTextil shows – which ran from 10th and 13th June at the Messe Frankfurt – Gerber Technology gave an all-encompassing press conference, covering the products, people and processes that they believe make them a perfect long-term partner to accompany retailers, brands and manufacturers on their multi-year journeys into PLM and beyond.
Like many of the other vendors crowding the halls at TexProcess 2013, Gerber Technology was keen to talk about three things: its products, its customers, and itself. The latter of those might sound self-indulgent, but, given the competition Gerber (and its newly branded Yunique Solutions Group) and other established players in the market face from a sheer weight of new challengers, it proved to be anything but.
As our regular readers know, products (the highest-rated of which are fast approaching feature parity) are no longer the sole point of comparison for prospective customers of PLM. For any business looking to select a long-term partner to accompany them on a multi-year, multi-million-dollar journey, the people and the ethos behind the products matter just as much as the software itself, and the savviest vendors – Gerber Technology included – are tailoring their communications strategies accordingly.
And it was with those three pillars that the company supported its dedicated press conference, which was held during the morning of TexProcess’s second day at Gerber’s pristine booth, and hosted by Yvonne Heinen, Marketing and Communications Director for Gerber Technology in Europe and the Middle East.
Although the floor was eventually opened to members of the press, it was Heinen who asked the bulk of the session’s questions to a standing panel comprised of: Gerber Technology CEO, Mike Elia; President of Software Solutions, Bill Brewster; High Technology & Industrial Product Executive, Steve Park; and Vice President and General Manager for Europe & The Middle East, Theo Ostendorf.
Elia had the opportunity to open the discussion, being asked about what has changed within Gerber since his appointment as President and CEO. He explained that the company has been in the business of providing solutions for a long time, and that they remain as committed as ever in terms of their focus on the particularly industries they serve.
What the company does have, Elia said, is far broader and more comprehensive range of those solutions than at any previous time in its history. And today, he said, their customers increasingly look to them to spearhead innovation in a partnership that is increasingly characterised by speed – by their customers’ need to glance off one value milestone on the product roadmap and on to the next, as rapidly as possible.
Speed isn’t everything, though. Wherever the product development process starts for Gerber’s customers, it sooner or later has to travel the world – through distributed teams and a multinational roster of manufacturers and supply chain partners – all the while maintaining integration and visibility in order to achieve quality and consistency.
So, as Heinen and Brewster debated, how can the Yunique Solutions Group and technology as a whole help to tackle these key priorities?
As Brewster explained, the key lies in the company’s creation of an entire suite of products, all working together with the unified goal of reducing complexity, improving speed, achieving true visibility and enabling collaboration. And the important part of any suite, where fashion is concerned, is its ability to integrate the creative side and the business side – the two facets of any retailer or brand that have to work in unison.
So, while the Yunique Solutions Group was undoubtedly showing new things (including Yunique 360, which WhichPLM saw in action for the first time at last October’s ideation event) Brewster’s answers and those of his colleagues show that they haven’t forgotten the enterprise power of PLM, and its ability to serve as the backbone for a lot of the unification and expansion potential that they believe will underpin the future of the portfolio.
In recognition of its role as the foundation upon which other solutions can be built – its ability to bring together creativity and profitability – how, then, should prospective customers go about selecting PLM in what has become an incredibly crowded market?
In his answer, Brewster recommended that retailers and brands begin by examining their own people and processes, emphasising the importance of engaging their intended end users and supply chain partners lest they run the risk of jeopardising their return on investment from the very start. It’s then, he said, important to select flexible, scalable, extensible technology, from a vendor with the right domain experience and expertise.
As readers of WhichPLM will know, navigating the marketplace and having to make those sorts of decisions is far from easy, however, so Brewster listed some marquee reasons why, he feels, YuniquePLM and its parent company combine to create such a unique prospect.
YuniquePLM, he said, is designed for the needs of the retail, footwear and apparel industry, by people from that industry. It works the way the industry itself works. And as for the company itself (underscoring again the importance of picking a viable longterm partner) it has implemented the solution more than 80 times in recent years, giving it what Brewster calls “unique experience”, and allowing them to, he says, take the lead in user adoption and comfort.
Away from PLM, another key component of the Yunique Solutions stable is CAD, and the panel was then asked about the development and unique selling points of both the AccuMark and VStitcher solutions.
Park took the lead in answering, explaining that he sees three trends having the biggest influence on the future of computer aided design: tightened integration to other software and solutions; building in intelligence, to get the perfect cut and sew; and 3D working – the hottest topic of them all.
Park was upfront about 3D’s nascent state, explaining that VStitcher is still at an early level of user adoption, but that Yunique Solutions expects to see that increase dramatically over the next five years. Key to this growth, Theo Ostendorf added, will be the concept of data integration and hardware / software synergies – tying new developments like three-dimensional working to the strong data repository and extended capabilities of PLM and other enterprise systems and tools.
Moving away from software but sticking with the concept of trends, Ostendorf was then asked about the financial progress of European market and some of the influences that are shaping its retail landscape. As he put it, Europe as a whole yet to overcome the financial crisis: consumers are still suffering from lower incomes and higher taxes, and this is having an unavoidable impact on spending. He believes that the investment that will be required to shape the future is there, though, and he is confident that Yunique Solutions and its products can provide people with the flexibility and efficiency that will help them to manage in the interim.
Talk of the financial kind led naturally to a discussion of Gerber Technology’s own financial performance and outlook. Following its acquisition by Vector Capital, Gerber is no longer a public company and is as such under no obligation to divulge figures. What Elia would say, though, is that the company is beginning to see significant results from the hard work that has occupied them in the intervening years; earnings are up 60% year-on-year, with overall growth of 4.5% since Vector Capital’s investment in August 2011.
This hasn’t been achieved by just cutting costs, Elia said. Gerber continues to invest in people and product, with that investment bearing fruit in the form of the new teams we see today, and new innovations that customers can expect to see more of in the coming years.
That degree of investment was the subject of the first question fielded by a member of the press, in fact, and Elia revealed that Gerber invests between 5% and 7% in research and development – a figure that was later clarified to be closer to 15% to 20% where PLM is concerned.
And PLM itself continued to be a popular topic of discussion – little wonder given the number of other vendors at the show who offer or claim to offer competitive solutions to Gerber’s own YuniquePLM. When asked, Elia explained that he believes it to be their comprehensive solution offering that sets Yunique Solutions apart from its close competitors – their ability to integrate from design files to cutting machines and back again, while other vendors, he says, continue to work in siloes.
This was expanded on by Brewster, who reiterated that fashion – its people and processes – is intertwined in YuniquePLM’s DNA, whereas there are many competitors for whom fashion is just an afterthought. Echoing that thought, too, was Steve Park, who reminded the crowd that Gerber Technology has been in the fashion business for more than forty years, with cutters around the world running for a combined total of 30,000 years. It would be difficult, he said, for any other company to simply step into the industry and offer comparable levels of hands-on experience.
Choosing a partner to work with you, Brewster said in closing, is no less vital a consideration than choosing a system that can work for you. And selecting one with the right experience, in the right regions, and with a strong roadmap for the future is a strategy we have long endorsed here at WhichPLM.