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WhichPLM & LCF; Education is Paramount

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WhichPLM’s Founder & CEO, Mark Harrop, was recently invited to hold a guest workshop at London College of Fashion – a world-renowned university. The coverage of his visit is published here.

London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London is a world leader in the education of fashion design, media, and business. Established in 1877 as the ‘Leather Trade School’, LCF (as it will be referred from hereon in) has been a beacon of creative talent for well over a century. Having changed titles a handful of times during this period – including London College for the Garment Trades – the establishment settled on its current LCF name in the 1970s.

LCF offers courses on ‘all things fashion’ with more than 70 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and 165 short courses across various subjects. Beyond the usual design and merchandising courses found in today’s universities, the scope of expertise across the undergraduate programme offers specialized courses in: 3D Effects for Performance and Fashion; Bespoke Tailoring; Fashion Contour; Fashion Design Technology; Fashion Journalism; Fashion Journalism; Fashion Sportswear; The Psychology of Fashion – to name but a few.

Earlier this year, WhichPLM was pleased to received an exclusive invitation to guest lecture at this esteemed establishment. We were approached by Helen Beney MA DipM MCIM FHEA, who, as you can see from her title, is just as celebrated as her employer. Helen is the Programme Director for Fashion Business at the Fashion Business School of LCF. Running the final year undergraduate unit for BA (Hons) Buying and Merchandising students, Helen was keen to explore and understand the development of PLM systems and the future that PLM and other related methodologies and underlining technologies could bring to tomorrow’s industry.

And so, in October 2016, Mark Harrop travelled to LCF to meet with Helen and her students, and to deliver a presentation on PLM’s past, present and future.

The class was as diverse as expected from a distinguished international university, and every student was both knowledgeable and eager to learn. As final year students, on the cusp of beginning their professional lives, Mark was eager to impart as much knowledge and expertise as he could in a two hour pitch incorporating a Q&A. (In fact, it was a little like University Challenge.) As anyone who’s undertaken a degree will tell you – it all rests on your final year.  All of the hard work and determination so far teeters on those final months: a period that can only be described as the definition of perseverance – a glimpse into the working world.

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Knowing that LCF thrives on examining the past and challenging the present, this is exactly what Mark explored. In his workshop he began with the inception of PLM, sharing first-hand knowledge as someone right in the midst of it. The students have been exploring innovations, trends and scenarios, which will shape the future fashion business landscape, and, although not a new concept by any means, PLM is certainly an innovative technology – one that will, and already has, shaped our industry. Mark shared WhichPLM’s thoughts on PLM as it is today; how we work in a modern business, and explore the relationship between PLM, E-PLM and ERP. He covered, from a high level, an exemplar modern PLM system, and the various modules it has and business processes it covers.  He also discussed ‘advanced PLM’ and the inclusion of areas like the marketing & CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) departments today.

He also delved into how the industry might look in the future, exploring new processes, their challenges and benefits. Here, he began a discussion around technologies relating to the ideology of the Internet of Things.

Technological advancements are snowballing, and you can either jump out of the way, or jump right in. And these students are prepared to jump right in.

Mark emphasized the collaborative nature of PLM in comparison to the older, dysfunctional way of working with a silo mentality (where individuals and departments work in isolation from one another). The students learnt the difference between PDM and PLM; PDM in basic terms being the “information of a product” and PLM as the ideology joining together the dots of a business.

It’s important that students (and indeed, anyone else in the Fashion sector) understand the difference between these two systems. Students studying PDM are essentially studying an outdated product methodology; PLM is where we are today, and it’s constantly evolving. And this PDM versus PLM issue was exactly the topic of conversation between Mark and the Dean of the Fashion Business School, Andrew Hughes.

Andrew Hughes has over 3 decades’ experience in education, and holds an MA in International Business. Having grown up in the Cotton industry, Andrew graduated in 1979 and, after working in secondary education for a decade, took up a position at LCF, moving up as time went on. Since Andrew becoming Dean, the Fashion Business School has achieved the Small Business Charter Award in 2015, is accredited by the Chartered Management Institute as an HE partner and by the British Psychological Society, amongst countless other achievements.

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The Dean was eager to meet with Mark during his visit, and the two had an informal chat prior to Mark’s session. They discussed the importance of keeping up with technology in education; with the rapid pace of technological advancements, it’s so critical for universities to engage with people in the industry (both technical experts and businessmen and women). Course lecturers are fantastic and knowledgeable, however their industry experience often ends when their academic experience begins, meaning oftentimes PDM was the norm where they left off. Having travelled around the globe and been in the industry for more than 4 decades, Mark is able to use past and present experience to give an international overview of the entire supply chain, and a glimpse into where the industry is headed.

Helen Beney furthered this point by sharing her thoughts on our visit: “Mark delivered a great, interactive workshop session engaging students in a lively debate on how PLM and ERP are being used today, and will develop in the years to come. His knowledge and experience really inspired his audience to believe what will be possible during the course of their future careers.”

LCF is proud to produce the next generation of creative leaders and thinkers who work in analytical and ingenious ways. They teach a combination of heritage and radical thinking; craftsmanship and new technology. They begin with innovative ideas, leading to innovative practice. Every student is significant, and they are taught to challenge and define the future of fashion – through broadcast, print, digital, experiential, and experimental practices.

Regular visitors to WhichPLM will note that we’ve been making regular visits to universities from around the world for almost three years now; our CEO has spent time participating in guest lectures spanning a range of topics – topics linked to PLM for Fashion, 3D and, now, the ‘Internet of Things’. We are delighted to add London College of Fashion to our roster, and to continue educating the next generation coming to our industry. Both the hospitality of LCF and the knowledge of its students were top-rate.

There are so many great learning opportunities, like WhichPLM Academy, out there, that students have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

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WhichPLM has no doubt that the students on this new course will follow in the footsteps of those who have completed the Foundation degree in Buying & Merchandising (which has now been replaced by this course); students have gone on to gain employment in a variety of roles within John Lewis, Disney, Whistles, Marks & Spencer, Ralph Lauren, Harrods, Ted Baker, H&M, AllSaints, Reiss, Jeager, ASOS, Burberry and many more famous brands and retailers. Building on this, two graduates from that course have moved into the visual merchandising field through the transferable skills they acquired, and are working as visual merchandisers at Abercrombie and Fitch and Urban Outfitters.

The fact remains the same: education is paramount.

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*Images courtesy of London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.

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.