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Impressions from Centric Software’s UK PLM Seminar

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This October saw Centric Software, Inc., (vendors of the Centric 8 PLM solution) host a series of events.  Staged in London, Paris and New York, the seminars were intended to analyse the increasingly critical role that PLM plays at every stage of modern product development—from product concept to purchase—for fast moving consumer goods industries like retail, footwear and apparel.

At the London event (held on 18th October at the Apex hotel) our own Managing Director, Mark Harrop, opened the proceedings, delivering an impassioned presentation that examined the strategic importance of PLM.  Mark also looked at the crucial difference between PLM as a software strategy, and PLM as an enterprise-wide ideology—arguing that the former is only effective when the latter is in place.  His presentation is now available to download (PDF).

I attended the London event on the personal invitation of Centric’s European Marketing Manager, Erica Vialardi.  The event placed a particular focus on Centric’s advertised position as the only PLM vendor focused solely on the fast moving consumer goods industries including retail, footwear and apparel.  The audience included representatives from prominent retailers and brands. Centric’s team were able to demonstrate clear and relevant feedback from several well-known brands in the sportswear and apparel sector throughout Europe and the United States.

Following Mark’s presentation, Stefano Lena (Vice President of Global Sales and General Manager for Europe for Centric) took to the stage.  Stefano offered an introduction and set out to profile Centric Software as a company.  His presentation focused again on the company’s apparel industry expertise, financial stability, and highlighted some of what he considers to be the marquee features of Centric 8.

I spoke to Stefano after the London event, and he had the following to say about the purpose of the broader series of seminars:

“These events have been key to reaching out to local audiences across Europe and the US. In the modern globalised business environment, Centric’s mission is to support apparel, luxury goods and consumer goods makers as they manage the design, sourcing, quality and compliance, merchandising and sales of their products. We are extending the reach of PLM beyond its traditional boundaries within the organisation, and through the use of mobile technologies and apps.”

Of note in Stefano’s talk (and prominently emblazoned on the banners and attendee packs at the event) was Centric’s patent-pending iPad app.  The company has a close relationship with Apple, and while I have seen a number of PLM solutions running on tablet operating systems (primarily through a web-browser), this is to my knowledge the first time a bespoke application has been created to leverage a particular part of PLM and create a unique mobile experience.  It is obvious that mobile applications are a cornerstone of Centric’s strategy.

Rather than replicate the entire frontend of their solution (which can often prove to be unwieldy on a touchscreen device), Centric have instead created what they term a Collection Book for Fashion.

Fully integrated with the Centric 8 PLM suite, the app polls all relevant product and availability details contained within Centric 8 to dynamically populate its attractive collection display. The app is primarily intended for sales staff who are required to present products and catalogues to customers, who require that information to be as up-to-date as possible, and who may or may not have a data connection available.

For that purpose it appears to work well, and we were shown a demonstration of how the Collection Book seamlessly updates its contents with the latest details added to Centric’s PLM solution and allows sales staff to capture orders.

The bulk of the morning (and a substantial portion of the afternoon session) was comprised of a live demonstration of Centric 8 conducted by Dave Goodman, UK Technical Director for the company.

Dave gave a thorough overview of Centric 8’s user interface and high-level capabilities.  Following a product development lifecycle through design, planning, development and sourcing, Dave demonstrated a series of typical tasks, all the while fielding questions from attendees who were keen to see how the features of Centric 8 could be brought to bear on their own product development processes.

Chief among the features Dave drew attention to was the fact that, in Centric 8, data can be altered, commented on and analysed at virtually any stage, without users having to visit its source.

This core ethos was demonstrated in the way that changes made to a designer’s native Illustrator files were quickly reflected in Centric 8, and how trend-capturing (also part of Centric’s mobile strategy) allows the rapid sharing of images, comments and inspiration.

Dave is an engaging speaker; his demonstration covered a great deal of ground, and it appeared that attendees understood how the solution’s capabilities might relate to their own ways of working.

Finally, Laurent Dubuisson, Technical Director for Europe, outlined a series of case studies that examined how the company is reportedly able to achieve a smooth PLM implementation in as little as four months—having done so for companies like Le Coq Sportif, INTERSPORT France and Balenciaga.

Overall, I found the event to be an interesting mix of demonstration and education (perhaps slightly heavily weighted towards the former), and I am keen to see how Centric Software choose to expand on their new presence here in the UK.

The London event was the first of a series of seminars that followed a similar format, each featuring local industry luminaries. The Paris event—held the next day—included an analysis of the strategic role of PLM within Le Coq Sportif, delivered by its Vice President of Operations, Nicolas Mennrath.

A New York event, held Oct. 26th and featuring Paula Levy, Vice President and practice leader of CRM and PLM strategies at New York-based IT consultancy firm Sophelle, looked at best practices for collection management, with a particular focus on customer-facing applications and technologies. Centric’s Sr. Director of Marketing and Business Development James Horne opened the event with an interactive view on the strategic impact of PLM to a company, and the benefits it can bring to all the roles needed to bring a product from concept to purchase.

To find out more about Centric Software, visit the company’s supplier listing.

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.