For almost every fashion business or apparel manufacturer, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) was an afterthought. In the white heat of design and the frantic scurry of selling garments or accessories, filing and data management got pushed into the background, often the preserve of a junior employee who designed processes that worked for them, without ever thinking about whether those processes worked for anybody else, or ever would.
As a fashion business grows, the failure to master PLM can contribute to increasingly complicated challenges. Fashion business gurus and investors may urge the organisation to invest in a PLM system, but for those who feel the pulse of their fashion concern like their own heartbeat, bringing in an outside PLM expert and ‘imposing’ a PLM system on their fledging dream can seem like a cold and frightening idea. Suppose they don’t get on with it? Suppose it kills their creativity? Suppose partners and suppliers don’t like it?
One way to move from doubt to certainty is to define the stages necessary to improving PLM – we believe there are six key stages to getting ready for PLM, each of which is an active and positive stage that helps improve your business and grow your fashion brand.
1.Identifying business challenges
Knowing what you want to achieve with PLM can make it an exciting prospect, not a chore. Be clear about your own needs and consult the rest of your team and your partners and suppliers about their needs. This ‘wish list’ will help you find the right PLM supplier for your business.
2.Recognising the shape of the future
Your new PLM needs to be flexible. Whilst it has to be scalable, so you can start slowly and build when you’re ready, it also has to have the scope to progress your business and deliver on your ambitions. Be sure your PLM will integrate with existing processes and works with future solutions. Cloud based systems are specifically designed for maximum congruence with everything from CAD to online retailing.
3. Discarding the past
Whilst you want to be able to retrain your people easily, so that the pain of change management is minimised, it’s important not to choose a PLM system just because it looks like what you’re currently using. This can be a temptation and where you give in staff will very quickly lead you to adopt a system that builds limitations into your ability to implement a PLM system that really moves your fashion business to the next level.
4. Building in stakeholders
As any PLM solution will impact your workforce, your suppliers, and your customers and clients, it needs to be something that those stakeholders feel engaged with, this means keeping those end users engaged from the beginning and giving them evidence of progress so that they know they are going to benefit from PLM. You might think that your customers don’t care about your new PLM but they do – momentum is what every fashion company desires, and the tendency of one success to feed another means that a growing company needs to have specific practices that allow it to recognise and repeat successful actions. That’s PLM in a nutshell.
5. Finding the ideal external PLM expert to help you
It takes time to identify how your business operates and build in improved processes, and it takes experience to know how best to train people and adopt these improvements. Trying to do this without expertise in reality means stalling your business and then cold-starting it again with unfamiliar processes … not a recipe for success. An external PLM expert with strong skills in effective implementation in the fashion world can ensure that your business continues to run smoothly as you up-skill each individual and/or department in the right order to ensure improved productivity.
6. Styling transparency and fueling success
Fashion is one of the most investigated industries and being able to be clear about sourcing, supply chain and corporate governance will help any fashion business transcend the difficulties that can bedevil organisations that grew too quickly to be on top of their decision making. Clearly structured PLM helps to avoid the potential pitfalls of choosing the swiftest / easiest / cheapest option without understanding its full implications for your brand.
Overall, we’d say that getting ready for PLM is a spur to fashion business improvement in and of itself. Properly handled and carefully implemented, the right fashion PLM system will move your people and your business forward faster than almost anything else!