When is it time for your fashion business to consider PLM?

When a fashion business should consider a Product Lifecycle Management system (PLM)

Heading up a fashion business is demanding – maintaining a consistent vision whilst keeping track of Return On Investment (ROI), producing multiple collections a year whilst ensuring consistency in production – the idea of taking time out from managing process to look at strategy can seem impossible. But there’s another way of looking at things. If any of these challenges are confronting your fashion brand, PLM could be your solution.

It’s time to consider PLM when …

Key stakeholders are urging PLM on you

From financial backers to suppliers, partners who are used to PLM are likely to start telling you that your fashion enterprise needs to be run as a successful business, not a successful vision.

As fashion brands grow, the demands on them become greater – more collections, more trade shows, more buyers demanding more product, more editorial leading to more enquiries … and without PLM it’s difficult to upscale your activity and be flexible enough to cope with opportunities.

Internal support is not delivering on the design and production process

When your own team start telling you that your design and production processes are falling down, through information errors and they can’t get enough internal support to keep pace with data. One of the key features of PLM is its flexibility.

Unlike spreadsheet based systems PLM is data-responsive, meaning you can integrate new information into your decision-making, giving you real time market sensitivity so you can benefit from opportunities and adjust delivery, supplier information and production to ensure maximum success.

You can no longer quantify results

Return on Investment is an essential part of running any sustainable business, but in a world as fast moving as fashion, ROI can be hard to focus on. The identification of key metrics isn’t so difficult, but staying on top of them in real time is tough.

This is where PLM really kicks in – tracking business performance is inbuilt into sophisticated PLM systems so that the design and production phases of a fashion business provide their own metrics, as do all other aspects of the enterprise. Without the ability to focus on ROI, many organisations simply run out of steam because they put too much energy into low return or high risk areas, whilst neglecting those lines or areas that were generating the best ROI.

You’re succeeding and becoming exhausted

There’s no way of knowing how many viable fashion brands failed through founder exhaustion, but everybody knows that industry burn-out is commonplace. Recognising how much of your vision needs to remain in your hands is one thing – being able to rely on responsive PLM to handle aspects of the business that aren’t reliant on your personal creativity is quite another.

WFX PLM for Fashion Industry, Cloud Technology

WFX has provided PLM for Fashion Industry, using Cloud Technology, for over 10 years. With over 15000 fashion users they are a good solution to check out.

Many fashion visionaries build small enthusiastic teams who are completely committed to the brand, but as the business grows, it extends beyond their capacities. Integrating PLM can bring confidence back to your team and free you to focus on what nobody but you can do – deliver the vision of your brand.

If any of these elements are starting to feature in your business life, it’s time to start exploring how PLM can help you stay on top of your burgeoning fashion business.

PLM implementations can be time-consuming and resource intensive. True Cloud PLM systems negate this as they have central updates that improve the system for all clients simultaneously. Check out the true Cloud providers first so you get a good idea of pricing and can head towards a swift implementation.

Getting ready for PLM

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!