As I touched on in a previous editorial, the same phenomenal growth that we’ve seen in PLM for our industry in the past decade has been mirrored in the increased size and diversity of the companies that rely on it. While PLM on the whole is better now than ever at supporting the heart of the retail, footwear and apparel industries, even the most comprehensive out-of-the-box solution or the best-tailored bespoke software has its limits.
Where those core product development processes and collaboration that we think of as constituting PLM have grown, so too has the market for software and solutions that cater to what might be referred to as the “limbs” of product development – those nevertheless critical parts of our industry that core PLM solutions don’t touch.
These include colour management, design libraries, time management, 3D visualisation suites, mobile applications and thread management, to name but a few. All are, or are becoming, critical parts of any profitable company’s IT investment strategy, and all, I believe, qualify as part of PLM by its very definition.
I recently sat down with Paul Timson, Managing Director of GSD (whose latest blog series can be found here and here) to discuss this trend, and to find out why he considers WhichPLM to be the premier venue for suppliers of expanded PLM to make themselves known.
Ben: Paul, we’re increasingly finding that, as companies implement a core PLM solution and realise the efficiency savings and process optimisation that they bring, they are turning to expanded PLM software – like GSD’s own Enterprise and QUEST – to achieve similar aims for the different arms of their broader product development processes. Your own Bill of Labour blog series looked at how software and solutions can support those different facets. Do you find that, in the case of your customers, those core solutions are fulfilling most of their needs?
Paul: Cost control is an absolute necessity in today’s competitive environment and wherever possible all aspects of internal cost should be analysed and controlled. The “PLM solution” should be end to end –a prerequisite to remaining profitable – and yet many of the core PLM solutions offer only limited support to expanded processes such as, in my own experience, Bill of Labour. Buyers and suppliers must in my opinion work more closely together to achieve a mutual goal of success.
Ben: With that being the case, could you tell me why you chose to join WhichPLM and raise our readers’ awareness of GSD?
Paul: I believe that anyone truly interested in embracing the PLM solution should also embrace the extended and holistic potential of the end to end process – and by definition that must include not only core PLM solutions but also expanded and directly related management techniques and processes. WhichPLM has proven itself to be the “information hub” to which anyone serious about applying a PLM solution turns – and I see it as the vehicle through which I can reach, educate and inform those in the industry with whom we want to connect and assist in their efforts to achieve competitive edge and profitability.
Ben: There may be suppliers and developers reading this and thinking “does my software qualify as expanded PLM?”. I personally believe that PLM is an increasingly broad umbrella that – in its expanded definition – takes in everything from CAD/CAM solutions to 3D store visualisation. I know we’ve discussed this in our previous conversations, but do you truly see GSD’s software and solutions as part of PLM?
Paul: I think we will see the increasing inclusion of products and services not so far thought of as belonging in the “PLM” arena. For instance, some may ask why GSD should be considered as part of the PLM family, but if you accept my point about buyers and suppliers working more closely together, then you surely must also accept that this whole process is both dynamic and organic. To achieve “best results” we must all think “out of the box”. PLM should be all encompassing, from design to point of sale – consider the very phrase itself “product life-cycle management” – to me that means “from start to finish” and that should include any and all solutions that prove relevant to the process. As far as GSD is concerned, Bill of Labour is such a crucial part of the product development process (affecting everything from initial costing at the design stage right through to manufacture) and we fall well within that definition. Only when products are accurately priced at an early stage in the cycle can their true value be realised. GSD facilitates that accuracy and offers data integrity, so in that way I see us as being very much an integral part of PLM. This will be true of other expanded solutions not traditionally seen as being part of the “PLM solution”.
Ben: How would you suggest that other suppliers of expanded PLM approach their marketing? I know you have customers on both sides of the manufacturer / retailer divide (which are unified by PLM), but you are also in the process of strengthening GSD’s relationship with many core solution suppliers. Would you suggest that customers approach those vendors or the end users first – or, for that matter, both at the same time?
Paul: The PLM umbrella is growing all the time and I see WhichPLM? as the vehicle through which we can achieve exceptional marketing exposure. GSD, via the Bill of Labour, has a great deal to offer anyone seriously trying to achieve end to end control of the product lifecycle. Generally speaking, the range of prospective customers for expanded PLM is larger than ever before, and this is a key element in GSD choosing to become part of WhichPLM – to showcase our unique solution to all those beneath the PLM umbrella.
Product lifecycle management is, by definition, a set of processes, a management methodology and, today, an extended suite of software that allows companies in a whole range of industries to manage the development of a given product or range of products – from their inception on the drawing board to their eventual arrival on store shelves.
Where design would previously have described a talented artist, a pencil and a lightbox, nowadays it encompasses everything from CAD systems to industrialised drawing libraries like Verve Sketch.
Where delivery to and display on store shelves would once have been a matter for road haulage firms and floor staff, today executives can design, visit and stock virtual shops with their flagship ranges. The time it takes to manufacture a given product prior to delivery can be analysed and virtualised in minute detail with solutions like GSD’s, and every single component from thread to trim can be tracked and traced to the far corners of the globe.
Despite coming from different perspective, Paul and I both believe in PLM, and we each believe that it has grown. This is why GSD opted to join WhichPLM, and why I now work first-hand with suppliers of every stripe – because PLM now encompasses more and farther-reaching solutions than ever before, and WhichPLM is the first to welcome them all.
If you’d like to join WhichPLM, please contact us.