WhichPLM’s CEO, Mark Harrop, gives his take on the recent TXT webinar surrounding best practices, delivered by Chris Jones, PLM Solutions Director for TXT Retail.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to TXT’s webinar, “Top 5 best practices for creating your next collection”, moderated by Larry Negrich, Business Development Director, and delivered by Chris Jones, PLM Solutions Director at TXT. After attending the webinar, I thought it was worth spending a little time to write up the key points for our readers who maybe didn’t manage to join the session.
Before I get into the subject matter, for those readers who are not familiar with TXT I’ll share a little on the company. TXT are a publicly traded company with around 300 customers, supported by a team of 350 employees. Their headquarters are located in Italy with an16 additional offices scattered around the world. The company specialises in Merchandise Planning, Supply-Chain collaboration and, today, offers a second-generation PLM offering. It will come as no surprise that, with a HQ based in the capital of luxury goods, TXT works with many of the world’s leading luxury brands. Today, they boost around 130+ PLM customers that are using both first and second-generation solutions.
They also have more than 250 customers using the TXT Merchandise Planning solutions, which is one of the industries more mature planning solutions. It has deep use of algorithms that help clients to better predict the merchandise requirements of new seasons which, today, can help to support trend predictions and a creative design process that feeds directly into their PLM solution.
The business offers a broad footprint comprised of what they call ‘Collection Lifecycle Management’, which we could describe as PLM. They can offer: Sales and Buy Planning, Assortment & Purchasing, In-season Planning, Supply-Chain, and Mobile to name but a few areas. In terms of their technical platform, all modules listed share the same platform and common data set.
TXT’s Top 5 Best Practices For Creating Your Next Collection:
- Encourage adoption
- Reduce material cost, product lead times and effort
- Shorten design cycle
- Incorporate compliance and sustainability throughout your processes
- Establishing a culture of change
“Putting the right product in front of your customer”
Chris Jones kicked off his presentation by focusing on what TXT believe is the industry’s top challenges.
He stated that due to the ever-increasing diversity of the market, it’s difficult to predict and manage the complexity of design options and added SKU’s that are required today – the number of which is on a constant incline. Another challenge was linked to the broader product offerings, driven by increased options around personalisation and what some people call ‘Mass Customisation’.
This is something that the team here at WhichPLM agrees with and we expect to see this type of complexity increase further in 2016 and beyond. It is expected that the complexity will be driven by fast leading brands and retailers leveraging new options through specialist software – like 3D and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) – with PLM and supply-chain collaboration all helping to create more options for the consumer to win extra sales.
According to Chris, retailers and brands need to better understand their clients’ buying habits, by using “maths and scientific analysis” to support more accurate predictive buying patterns. He went on to say that improved collections that can offer the consumer a broader choice of related products (better supporting impulse purchasing) will deliver greater success.
And this is backed up by statistics; according to Cotton Inc., within the 25-34 age bracket 43% of purchases are impulse buys!
Chris discussed the growing list of business systems (currently at 100+) that can be found in a typical retailer or brand and the many issues brought about by disparate systems, multiple data types, similar data replication, duplicated data entry, and versioning. He separated the systems into six categories:
- Merchandise financial planning
- Assortment architecture
- Product development (PLM)
- Item planning
- Delivery planning
- Managing “push & pull”
His key message being that with TXT the six categories, and their many sub-processes, are all sharing the same common platform and data model in real-time, delivering “one version of the truth”.
I always say “one version of the facts” supports smarter and timely decision-making.
According to Chris – and I must agree – a critical component of any successful solution implementation is change management. This is yet another of the critical challenges facing retailers and brands. He went on to say that enterprise-wide solutions include a large number of stakeholders, not only internally but also across the extended supply-chain, and each of these stakeholders need to be educated on the project carefully to help deliver the desired buy-in. Change management should be given the highest level of importance if a project is going to be a success.
Any project deserves great care and attention when it comes to people, process and change; I think it’s a deep subject that deserves more airtime!
The next subject raised is a favourite of mine and I was pleased to hear Chris’ thoughts on User Interface & User Experience. It makes complete sense to me that if a solution looks out of date and rough around the edges then it’s unlikely that users are going to warm to it. On top of this, if it takes 20 clicks to achieve a task compared to 10 then it stands a great chance of failing. Let’s keep in mind that the majority of today’s users are likely to be in their mid-twenties to thirties and used to working with modern systems. Even my generation (50+) expect the latest UI. Perhaps more critical, is that we need it to work quickly in today’s pressurised world.
Chris continued by explaining that with a modern UI/UX you will gain greater adoption; each of the TXT modules has been specifically designed to meet the needs of each user types and task. For example: a simplified, graphical user interface with minimum administration for the right-brained designers and a more formal, structured data input (with an Excel-like approach) for those that work with lots of data. Chris also discussed the flexibility of each of the modules to support different tasks.
Chris provided an example of the many processes that need to work together and the difficulties that are commonly experienced without the use of an end-to-end platform. Also mentioned were the complexities brought about by the need for style variations by market and the need to organise additional product sources to satisfy all markets, with the need for real-time costing to support accurate decision-making. According to Chris, the TXT platform helps retailers and brands to obtain accurate costing across all channel variations (colours, labelling, packaging etc.) that will all affect the aggregated end price of the product destined for different markets. He stated that the way that this is achieved is through the ability to create multiple variations of the product specifications for each of the separate market places, simply and quickly.
It’s known that on average the material used in typical apparel garment will represent around 60% of the garment’s cost, so improvement in material consumption/utilisation is a critical factor to any company’s bottom line profitability. Chris pointed out to the listeners that many retailers or brands often don’t know where or from which mill the material will come from; often different divisions or brands will not be able to share the fact that they are also purchasing products which not only share the same materials, but in many cases also use the same colour, and hence they will have requested multiple lab-dips, adding extra time and cost to the process.
Another point that he raised was that the same companies would often purchase small quantities of the same materials at a much higher cost, instead of being able to aggregate the total bulk material type for a given season. This is due to the fact that, without an end-to-end solution that provides total visibility of the total requirements, it’s almost impossible to resolve this type of issue. It’s important to recognise that not only does this add extra cost but also adds a great deal of unnecessary time to a product’s lifecycle, endangering on time delivery targets. So, early identification of all material types across all brands and divisions, reducing extra work along the way, will allow for improved negotiations leading to better buying and improved bottom line margins.
Chris confirmed that this could be achieved by linking the following key processes:
- Planning (material)
- Design (colour)
- Product Development (BOM & utilisation)
- Negotiation (bulk purchasing)
- BOM (accuracy across all markets – a single version of the facts)
- Assortment (orders – open to buy)
- Supply-chain (real-time communication)
So, how might reduced cycle time be achieved? According to TXT you must design a UI/UX for each role type (as mentioned earlier) that can deliver maximum benefits for those concerned; planning and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) users will require easy entering data screens with logic that will reduce the number of keystrokes to improve efficiency. Added to this Chris stated that all users, regardless of role, will need to share a common set of data that will help to reduce the overall product cycle time.
Another interesting comment made by TXT during the webinar was the use of 3D to support reduced cycle time and after WhichPLM’s own special focus on 3D for our 5th Edition, I would strongly agree with the comments made around the use of 3D sampling and prototyping not only to support cycle time reduction but also to reduce cost and improve a company’s sustainability. Chris went on to quote the figure of a 60-80% reduction in samples quoted by retailers.
Staying with the subject of corporate compliance and sustainability throughout the supply-chain, TXT stated that they have been developing a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) module that incorporates, planning, design, product development, sourcing, bill of labour, ERP and supply-chain collaboration, using data shared between multiple functional areas of its platform. Without a doubt, CSR’s importance in ours and any industry is growing by the day across the globe, and it affects both internal and external operations. As TXT explain, it will impact investors, legal, media, and brand image in either a positive or negative manner. I would strongly recommend to all readers that this is a topic that deserves great attention.
All in all Chris delivered a great webinar, the key points of which I’ve shared here. TXT seem to be moving in the right direction in terms of their product offering.
TXT will be present at the upcoming NRF show, 17-20 January.