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What Is Fashion PLM Software, and Do I Need It?

Jan 20

Image: Unsplash

by SupplyCompass in Technology

What Is Fashion PLM Software, and Do I Need It?

The fashion industry is incredibly complex. Clothing production is the third biggest manufacturing industry after the automotive and technology industry.

A single fashion team consists of dozens of members, including market and colour researchers, brand managers, stylists, buyers, pattern-makers, copywriters, and graphic designers. These teams have to work with administrative staff and corporate leaders ranging from bookkeepers to marketing directors and CEOs

PLM software can be used from start to finish
PLM software can be used from start to finish

In addition to these complexities, companies face extreme pressure to lower production costs. At the same time, they need to reduce environmental waste and maintain supply chain transparency throughout their production and sales cycles.

It’s no wonder that fashion houses turn to fashion PLM software to manage their supply chains and collaborate with their teams.

What is PLM Software?

Fashion Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software is the foundation technology or single source of truth that links all people associated with making products. This may include product development, design, merchandising, product quality control, sourcing, retail presentation, and more.

Your PLM software stores information about styles from concept and design through manufacturing to disposal.

The History of PLM

PLM fashion software was first used in the 1980s in the automotive industry. By keeping documentation and designs completed by draughtsmen in a single database depository, engineers could access correct documentation with greater ease. This enabled them to resolve design errors quickly without version control issues.

The technology quickly caught on and is now used to represent the integrated set of tools used to design, review, and manufacture products from conception to the end of life.

How PLM is Used in the Fashion Industry

Buying behaviour has changed. Customers expect more seasons per year, more variety, and fast online delivery. Against a backdrop of intense competition and pressure to remain sustainable, these expectations present a significant challenge for the fashion industry.

PLM is used to improve communication and collaboration, minimize errors and delays, shorten product development timelines, and reduce the time to market. Many forward-thinking fashion houses also use PLM to make their products more sustainable.

How has PLM Evolved?

Fashion PLMs have been around for years, but many haven’t moved with the times. Some PLMs have different feature sets than others. Some purely allow for tech pack creation, and others can manage the entire product lifecycle from ideation to Purchase Orders. Many companies end up using a combination of basic PLM software, project management tools (like Asana), and Google Docs to keep track of their projects and bridge the gaps in their PLM software.

Traditional PLMs were premise-based and required extensive customization and a complete IT staff component to maintain servers, set up the software, and execute yearly upgrades at a high cost.

Fashion houses need productivity and process management software designed for digital natives, uniquely tailored to the fashion industry. Creating a workflow from scratch isn’t easy, especially in fashion companies that work across multiple geographies, time zones, and remote locations. While these tools are designed for collaboration, they can quickly become barriers.

PLMs should drive your growth, agility, and innovation. It should serve as the foundation for your product designs and development from concept to retail, streamlining all your operations.

The Hallmarks of Effective PLM

A sound PLM software system is intuitive, configurable, easy to use, cloud-based and fast to deploy. It should provide companies with a single and actionable source of truth that can be used for planning, design, development, and more. Data should be accurate, transparent, and automated for ease of use.

Designers can log their entire process using PLM software
Designers can log their entire process using PLM software

Speed Up Time to Market

While many classic clothing styles never go out of style, trendier seasonal pieces need to hit the shelves as quickly as possible. Designers and merchandisers are under pressure to deliver to rapid timelines.

PLM software can provide the entire team with complete visibility throughout the process across multiple geographies, which allows them to make targeted cuts and decisions to improve efficiency.

Retaining Ideas

Designers will use numerous ideas, sketches, trends, and mood boards when searching for ideas. They can catalog their entire process for future reference as the product evolves.

Achieving Scale

PLM supports growth as the supply chain grows more complex. There is no need to hire additional staff to manage these projects. The software can be used to manage all SKUs, supplies, lines, and acquisitions.

Transparency

Many retailers insist on transparency from fashion suppliers. PLM can track the manufacturing process from start to finish to incorporate necessary carbon offsets or reduce waste.

Compliance

PLM can be used to keep supplier certifications up to date and track compliance across geographies. A comprehensive, accessible library of certificates, expiry reminders, and other SKUs will ensure that companies are up to date.

Version Control

A single source of truth is essential when working in a complex environment where data and designs pass through multiple hands. PLM ensures that everyone uses the same, most up-to-date information when making designs or decisions.

Complex, multi-national brands can integrate their data across product lines, brands, categories, and territories as required.

Risk Management

PLM software allows companies to plan and address issues as they occur. Everyone has complete visibility into schedules, dependencies, calendars, and workflows in real-time. They can manage expectations more effectively.

Sustainability

The control of the entire production process can be placed in the hands of brands on a single platform. Efficiencies, greater visibility, and waste reduction can be achieved through better collaboration and sourcing practices.

Design

Designers can create drag-and-drop moodboards, component libraries, clone existing styles and cards, share files for embroidery and prints, and more, making the creation process faster than ever before. Teams will always work in the most up-to-date file, and all changes are documented.

After the creative phase, the business KPIs can be tracked with ease, including material sourcing, costs, countries of origin, quotas, and timelines.

Summary

According to McKinsey’s 2020 State of Fashion report, the fashion companies that will endure the challenges they’re facing in the era of connected commerce “will be the ones that make moves early, focus on boosting earnings over revenue growth, and work out how to improve productivity while ensuring operational and financial flexibility.”

PLM software may be the silver bullet solution they need. If you are looking for a robust PLM software solution, intuitive to use, focused on sustainability, and able to support your operations from concept to end-of-life, speak to SupplyCompass.

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SupplyCompass is a Collaborative Production Platform for Fashion that brand builders, production teams and their manufacturers use to collaborate on product from moodboard to delivery.

SupplyCompass is a Collaborative Production Platform for Fashion that brand builders, production teams and their manufacturers use to collaborate on product from moodboard to delivery.

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