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WhichPLM on Tour: Nottingham Trent

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WhichPLM’s Founder & CEO, Mark Harrop, was recently invited to hold a guest lecture at Nottingham Trent University – his second lecture in as many weeks. Mark shared his expertise with 150 students on the Fashion Management course.

At the close of last month, we reported on our CEO’s visit to the London College of Fashion, where he hosted a guest workshop on the development of PLM solutions, and the future that PLM and other technologies could bring to our industry.

In what will from now on be referred to as the (rather apt) ‘WhichPLM on Tour’ series, this piece reports on Mark’s recent visit to Nottingham Trent University, where he shared his industry knowledge with a bustling lecture hall of first and final year students on the Fashion Management course.

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Founded in 1992, Nottingham Trent’s roots date back over a century, to the mid 1800s, where it reigned as Nottingham School of Design – which still exists within the university today. It is one of the largest universities in the UK, with over 25,000 students split across three campuses.

What many readers likely will not know is that Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is one of the most sustainable in the world. Since 2003 NTU has invested £350 million across its campuses to create an “inspiring learning environment” and, since 2009, a topmost 100% of the university’s electricity has been generated by renewable sources. And the high percentages don’t stop there. A whopping 94% of graduates (and 95% of postgraduates) are employed or engage in further study just six months after leaving NTU.

The BA (Hons) Fashion Management course is just as impressive. The course focuses on the management of the entire fashion chain, from concept design, product development and sourcing, through the manufacture process, to sales, marketing and the experience for the end consumer – something that stood out to WhichPLM right from the outset when planning our presentation.

Anita Love, Senior Lecturer for NTU’s Fashion Management programme, reached out to WhichPLM a number of months ago to request our participation on the course. Having already presented to, and workshopped with, a number of students across the globe we were delighted to oblige and add NTU to our increasing roster.

No stranger to auditoriums filled with people, Mark Harrop, took the stage on the first day of this month to share his up-to-date global fashion technology experiences.  The hall was filled with students just starting out on their first year, as well as students just beginning their final (crunch time) year. Sitting front and not quite centre were Anita Love and Julia Kininmonth – both senior lecturers on the largest first year module: Textile and Fashion Product. Julia teaches across a number of modules on the programme, is a second year tutor, and supervises dissertations for both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Both lecturers have textile backgrounds, having worked first-hand in the industry; Julia has completed a two-decade long career in garment manufacturing, and Anita has a buying background, working for popular British retailer, Next that have developed a broad range of in-house solutions including PLM, for many years.

Learning from industry alumni is crucial for students – there’s only so much you can learn from books alone – and that’s why it’s great to know that NTU thrives on real-life industry experience. Not only do the lecturers have first-hand experience under their belts, but they also employ other world renowned industry experts, like Mark, to help them present a well-rounded view of the current industry best-practices when it comes to fashion technologies. Within the Fashion Management course, students also work on live briefs set by industry contacts (the likes of John Lewis, Wrangler, Next and Jaeger) and benefit from a wealth of visiting professionals like The Trend Boutique.

What’s more, this particular course – amongst many others – offers students an optional year-long placement to gain hands-on experience themselves. Students can also apply for international exchanges to places like FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, take in trips to other fashion capitals including Paris and Florence, and visit exhibitions and trade fairs throughout Europe to learn about industry practices.

In fact, many of the final students participating in Mark’s guest lecture had recently returned from their placement year. The Textile and Fashion Product module is designed to give students in their first year a thorough grounding in all things textile and product related – a vital foundation to build on over the course of their degree. The module accounts for 50% of credits for the entire year. Within this, the theme of PLM is introduced and developed, becoming fully embedded in the final year after industry placements.

And with first year students only a couple of months into their university life, and final year students armed with two years’ worth of lectures and workshops and one of industry placement in attendance, Mark designed his lecture as an introduction to PLM (targeted at first years) and a look into the ways of working with PLM now and what this methodology might look like in future years to come (targeted at final years).

As a fashion technology guru Mark was able to speak on the entire end-to-end process, cradle to grave, in keeping with the course. He shared a high level look at the key areas of any retailer, brand or manufacturer today, and the processes supported by PLM as well as by other technologies.

One of the crucial points Mark made – has made many times before, and will continue to make – was the importance of viewing PLM as much more than ‘a software solution’. He flipped PLM on its head, and ensured that students knew it as an ideology and methodology first and foremost, as opposed to a software solution.  He enforced this message by stating that in recent years vendors have built very broad solution platforms (containing 40-60 processes on average), and to try to define these and better understand them our industry has classified them as product lifecycle management solutions. But what retailers, brands, manufacturers and the general public should bear in mind is that PLM is a part of an ever-expanding universe – a universe encompassing people, products and processes. All tied up in this world are CAD solutions (creative design systems, 2D pattern systems, Adobe Suite, knitting and weaving, 3D etc.), which are beginning to connect bi-directionally via APIs (Application Protocol Interfaces).

The goal, Mark explained, is to continue to connect all of these solutions as part of the digital revolution we are currently experiencing. At this point, Mark moved from software to discuss the connections of machines to machines, and machines to humans, under the umbrella of the Internet of Things. He shared his predictions that within the next 3-5 years – by the time the first year students in the room would be graduating – our industry will have gone through fundamental change; a revolution rather than an evolution.

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Citing Professor Brian Cox, who states that the Milky Way will continue to expand, and come together with another universe, Mark shared his thoughts on how PLM, (the creative universe, in his words) and ERP (the transactional universe) as we know them will eventually merge together, with no expanse of space between them

Student Amy Morgan found the lecture “really motivational and thought provoking”, and Anna Baguley stated how much she enjoyed the presentation, “especially the section around CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as this is what [her] dissertation is based on.”

Mark invited all those present to follow in his footsteps, to become change agents. Anita has been invited to undergo WhichPLM Academy, and thanks to NTU the students have improved industry links to an impressive international network of fashion and textiles organisations, and will enter the industry better equipped with the relevant skills to launch their careers in our industry.

*If you’re a university, retailer, brand, manufacturer or technology provider interested in booking a visit from Mark Harrop or another WhichPLM Expert as part of our ‘WhichPLM on Tour’ series, then please get in touch with our Editor, Lydia Hanson

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.