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Working with PLM; a student’s journey

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Jonathan Cameron is a student at Huddersfield University here in the UK, currently in his second year on the Fashion Buying & Textile Management course. WhichPLM has reported on some of our previous visits to UoH over the last few years. Having read WhichPLM’s perspective on these visits, now, our readers are able to find out more from first-hand experience. Jonathan shares his perspective on the challenges around learning about new technologies, and his expectations on entering the industry.

As students it is expected that we will be introduced to new concepts and ideas throughout our education. And as a second year student at Huddersfield University, studying Fashion Buying and Textile Management, I am no different.

This year I have been introduced to PLM for the very first time.

PLM is a wide reaching concept – so wide, in fact, that trying to understand it in its entirety has proved very difficult. This being said, with the support of Huddersfield University and Mark Harrop, WhichPLM’s CEO, along with my peers I have been able to make those pivotal first steps into understanding one of the most significant developments facing the fashion industry.

Mark has been a guest lecturer at Huddersfield for some years, and has been generous enough to provide my class with some competitive insight into the numerous software providers out there; he has lectured us on the current state and potential developments of 3D working, and also aided us with our final PLM case studies by sharing his knowledge and experience for our primary research.

First-hand experience

One of the most valuable experiences granted to us this year was the opportunity to be able to work with a PLM system for ourselves. This was a joint project with the first year students on my course. The project involved coming up with a collection for a specific retailer that currently uses PLM; we were asked to input information into a PLM database for the collection (colour ways, fit measurements, fabric compositions ect.) and collate all of the information into a usable tech pack.

By taking part in this project, it is easy to see the vast benefits that PLM has to offer us, as future industry professionals. It has become clear that PLM software can help range planning, and the compiling of a tech pack can be much more efficient and collaborative. The collaborative benefits are boundless, as information is much more easily shared – once the data has been inputted, anyone able to access that data can see updated information in real time which, in theory, should help quicken and streamline the communication cycle between key players across the buying chain.

This, of course, is only one of the ways in which PLM can help to influence and improve practices within the fashion industry. PLM is much more far reaching, influencing how we tackle product design and CAD, compliance, sustainability and exciting developments within 3D and the Internet of Things.

Although my learning into PLM is only in its infancy, what I will take away from my first year in learning is that PLM isn’t just software to improve existing practises. PLM exists to help change our thinking and approaches within the industry; in turn this will enable the industry to become more collaborative, more innovative and more responsive to the changes that are happening as we speak.

Expectations of entering the industry

I believe, and I doubt I’m alone, that PLM is gaining a huge amount of buzz within the fashion industry. It isn’t a new concept by any means, but it seems the hype is relentless. During this year we have been introduced to a staggering number of brands that have started their journey implementing PLM …and this number is only rising. That in itself is a huge indication that if you, as a business, do not currently have PLM or any plans to introduce PLM then a discussion needs to be started. Now is the time.

During my second year of study I have been applying for placements and it is has been so interesting to see how a knowledge of PLM can give me an advantage over my competition when attempting to enter the industry. During our studies WhichPLM have been generous enough to afford my peers and myself the opportunity to complete our WhichPLM Academy bronze module, which places us at a distinct advantage.

I have had first-hand experience of how PLM can give me an advantage. Sitting in one particular placement interview, as my CV was placed in front of the interviewer, I stole a quick glance; I was thrilled to see that my experience with PLM had been enthusiastically highlighted.

Although it was highlighted, the interviewer seemed unwilling to press the subject further, perhaps struggling themselves to come to terms with the changes in thinking that PLM requires. This is exactly where I believe there lies an opportunity for the next generation of fashion industry professionals.

Misty Buildings

Because PLM does require a significant shift into how the buying, design, merchandising and other departments approach tasks, existing professionals may not be as well placed to exploit the full benefits of PLM as current and future students. Resistance to change, particularly on a scale such as this, is somewhat inevitable. While many more companies are happily beginning to see the potential of PLM, the expertise of a future generation, educated on PLM early in their careers, are going to be required in order to see full implementation of PLM and its full potential being reached.

This is where I feel that expectations in the industry are beginning to shift too. Companies may need the knowledge of Generation Y, or the ‘millenials’ as we’re now dubbed (the generation who has grown up surrounded by and unafraid of technology), in order to achieve full deployment of a PLM system that is certain to bring in valuable returns.

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.