Home News WhichPLM Blog 16 Feb, 2009: PLM Standards, isn’t it about time?

WhichPLM Blog 16 Feb, 2009: PLM Standards, isn’t it about time?


Ever since the early development of PDM systems, the subject of developing a common set of standards has always been a key discussion topic.

Consider a supplier in Asia working on behalf of several major brands in the USA or Europe. It’s highly likely that the manufacturer may be asked to work with their customer’s PLM systems, which is fine until you consider that the supplier will most likely have to invest in maintaining several different PLM solutions for several different customers. Not only is this a major cost issue, but it’s also extremely difficult for them to integrate the PLM data into their own in-house solutions. Take the Li & Fung Group, for example, can you imagine how many PLM licenses they would need to manage links with all of their customers?!

So what can be done to improve the situation, well if the PLM industry really wants to help achieve a truly FASTER Supply Chain, then it’s about time that we came up with a set of common working standards and terminologies to enable bi-directional sharing of PDM data.

Today, there’s no technical reason why developers of PLM solutions cannot work together to come up with a set of agreed input & output standards to enable the PLM systems in the market place communicate with one another, for example:

– Standard product header information fields
– Standard fabric composition fields
– Standard trims fields
– Standard image types
– Standard POM & measurement points
– Standard Critical Path key fields
– Standard RFQ (Refer For Quote) fields.

The list goes on, but it’s certainly doable given the willingness of the PLM suppliers.

So, what’s required to make this work?

Well, let’s assume that we can get all PLM suppliers to define and agree upon a set of common processes and data types, the next step is to define a set of tools to create the integration. I am certainly no technical guru, but based on my knowledge, I would suggest using XML (Extensible Markup Language) as the standard file format for data exchange. This would allow for a core set of data fields with the ability for specific suppliers to add their own data tags to take into account new functionalities or customised customer specific content. XML, in combination with other standards, makes it possible to define the content of a PLM document separately from its formatting; making it easier to reuse than content in other PLM or ERP applications, whether they are in-house developed or bought.

The bottom line is, it’s definitely feasible and would generate new customers for suppliers, particularly in Asia where a lack of standards is certainly creating problems for suppliers.

Contact me

Please free to share your experience in assessing and selecting a PLM solution. Email me at mark@whichplm.com I look forward to your feedback.


Mark Harrop Product Development Partnership LtdMark Harrop is a leading Apparel PLM expert with more than 34 years experience in the industry. Mark co-founded the Product Development Partnership Ltd, the team of experts behind WhichPLM.



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.