Home News WhichPLM Blog 20 May, 2009: PLM Training and Education

WhichPLM Blog 20 May, 2009: PLM Training and Education


PLM Training & Education

I recently arrived home from a seven week trip to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Norway, France, Holland and finally Germany (for the IMB trade show), in between which I managed a few days at home to check-in with the family in Manchester to make sure that they hadn’t forgotten what I looked like! It was a real marathon, but I must admit that I really enjoyed the trip – meeting some great companies and really nice people along the way that share the same passion for PLM and the need for quality education around the subject. 

The entire trip was primarily focussed on educating Retailers, Brands and Manufacturing companies on the benefits of PLM and how they might incorporate PLM into their company’s future technology strategies. During the time, I also managed to meet several university lecturers from educational establishments who are looking to learn more about today’s PLM solutions and to discuss ways in which the industry could help to fill the PLM knowledge gap for lecturers and students alike. From our discussions, I’m certain that the universities would welcome contact from the PLM vendors! 

It’s clear that we need to introduce more up to date training programs (specific to apparel/retail) that include ‘NEW PLM’ technologies that encompass quality training and certification programs that cover the entire product development lifecycle process, including Design, Fabric Technology, Trims, Colour, Pattern development, Costing, QA, Merchandising, Buying and Manufacturing techniques that are linked to the commercial world of PLM.

Training Future Talent

Although I believe that students need to be immersed and educated in the core skills that are traditionally offered, they must also have supporting know-how when it comes to the entire product development lifecycle and the technologies that are used across the entire supply-chain. No longer should we be ‘releasing’ students into the industry without a good grasp of the technologies that support the product development process and I don’t just mean training on design solutions or a few days on grading & marker making systems, but also planning and buying systems. Otherwise, students find it very difficult to become effective in the companies that are starting to use modern PLM technologies that run product development from ‘Concept to Shelf’. It’s time we trained students, and people that are already in the industry, on commercial PLM systems under a recognised certification program.

I meet many young students that want to be the next famous designer or want to become a great buyer for one of the top companies and I love their passion and enthusiasm, but they also need to understand what drives product development if they are to become one of tomorrow’s leaders in the fast fashion world! I would welcome feedback from the universities out there to see what can be done to help fill the gap?

Li & Fung’s Business Skills & Work Program

Also, it’s not only educational establishments that need to be educated on PLM. On my travels, I got to meet with Li & Fung and discuss the general skills gap across the Retail & Manufacturing sector and I learnt that they are in fact finding it increasingly difficult to recruit skilled people, to the point where they have actually developed their own in-house education and certification program supported partially by educational institutes like New York FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), amongst others. The program, called ‘Business Skills & Work Program’, again shows clearly that the industry is lacking the skills needed. I’m hoping to learn more about this program in the coming weeks ahead, so I will keep you posted!

PLM Certification

I’m currently talking to a couple of universities here in the UK about putting together a recognised PLM Certification program that will provide a comprehensive education platform based on PLM. The program will be designed to run alongside the traditional core programs to ensure that the individuals participating will gain a clear understanding of what PLM is all about within the Retail, Apparel and Footwear sector. Not every company can afford to set up it’s own internal training programs, so there’s a clear need to help educate today’s users as well as middle and top management on what PLM is and how it can be used within business to help drive efficiency.

Final note…

Since 1985, I’ve been in senior management roles including manufacturing and technology and this allowed me to support students in education in that it allowed me to employ at least one or two students per year on placement. I’m extremely proud to be able to say that out of about sixty students that have been on placement with me over the years, many have gone on to climb the ranks of the industry to become some of today’s leaders, joining companies like Marks & Spencer, The Limited, Next PLC, Burberry’s and Sainsbury’s. Others have gone on to run their own businesses like TrendStop and Ptex Solutions. In keeping with this tradition, I’m just about to take on a student this summer for a year long placement with PDP and would ask that, if you are in a position to offer a placement within your company, then think about giving a student a chance to experience the business.

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.

Mark Harrop Mark Harrop is the founder and Managing Director of WhichPLM. During a career that has spanned more than four decades, Mark has worked tirelessly to further the cause of PLM – providing the unbiased, expert advice that has enabled some of the world’s best known retailers, brands and manufacturers achieve efficiency savings across their entire supply chain through informed technology investments.