What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has been extensively studied and analyzed in recent years, with different authors highlighting the holistic meaning of such acronym. PLM is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. For example, according to Stark, it brings together products, services, structures, activities, processes, people, skills, application systems, data, information, knowledge, techniques, practices and standards. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a set of product information for companies and their extended enterprises. PLM is one of the most recent evolutions of the enterprise ICT applications, characterized by an increasing integration and interoperability into and between tools and supported processes, both in design and management activities. In this article I will discuss different software of product lifecycle management (PLM) and their function in fashion and apparel industry.
Supply chain is very complicated in apparel business. With the complexity of the apparel business and the need for fast turnaround time, companies have to improve the way they handle information at every phase of the business. There is continuous economic pressure on fashion companies coming from both ends of the supply chain, with consumers and retailers expecting fast fashion at lower prices while the cost of sourcing, manufacturing, and delivering tends to increase. The pressure further increases with the need to conduct business in a responsible manner with corporate responsibility guidelines such as ethical sourcing, concerns about conflict materials, sustainable PD and production, supply-chain transparency, and corporate governance. To comply with these needs, the company needs to manage information throughout the supply chain effectively. A good PLM application streamlines the task of keeping information to comply with these needs.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Systems:
Many companies historically used spreadsheets to manage their PD information. However, spreadsheets lack the functionality and data structure needed to collaborate and communicate to conduct this fast-moving consumer-driven industry. Therefore, PLM solutions are becoming essential to deal with these complex business dynamics.
The PLM applications are designed to concurrently support product design, development, technical design, merchandising, sourcing, sales, marketing, and other supply-chain partners with current information so that creative concepts can be turned into commercial products quickly. This will enable the company to respond to rapid changes in demand signals identified by powerful “analytics” applications today.
To get the maximum benefits, a PLM application must offer rich integration with other PD technologies. The information can then seamlessly flow through PD and manufacturing ERP (Enterprise resource planning) systems and other supply-chain partners. The reader is encouraged to read more on various PLM applications for the apparel industry provided by companies such as Gerber, Lectra, and Human Solutions (e.g., Gerber Yunique PLM, Lectra Fashion PLM, and Human Solutions GoLive PLM). These systems help retailers, brand owners, and manufacturers to manage the information associated with their products from conception to store shelf and help them communicate with their suppliers around the world more effectively.
Functions of Product Lifecycle Management Software:
PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD (Computer Aided Design), CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) and PDM (Product Data Management), but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and the processes through all stages of a product’s life. It is not just about software technology but is also a business strategy. It describes the engineering aspect of a product, from managing descriptions and properties of a product through its development and useful life.
PLM can be used in the line development stage in addition to real-time information sharing through integration of the body measurements to 2D and 3D CAD and Automarker applications. A budget plan for the new line can be developed based on previous years’ styles and sales information with the knowledge of development budget, manufacturing cost, margins, etc. This can be done using the cost suite for domestic and international production or sourcing considering currencies, importing costs, etc. Costing can be carried out for package sourcing (without detailed breakdown) or individual sourcing (with detailed breakdown). The PLM system can be configured to be either web-based or cloud-based.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software expands the functions of PDM software. The internet connections and rapidly increasing power has allowed PLM systems to expand. PLM begins with the design concept and follows the style through production to its sale data. It may integrate other CAD software that involves management and financial planning allowing everyone with a role to play to have access to information. Some information may be restricted to particular departments.
The task of PLM systems is to take a style through the design development and approval stages, and once accepted, the next aim is to take it through the production process to sale, on budget and on time.
The crucial steps are the following stages:
1. Range planning and budgeting: These initial stages often take up 40% of the time in a product’s lifecycle. Because complex amounts of sketch data and style information and costings are constantly changing, it is vital that all the people are kept informed.
2. Critical path taking: The setting up of stages in the production process with date requirements. This enables a company to track a garment’s progress and identify any problems that may delay its completion.
3. Planning capabilities: The ability to see where there is capacity to produce the garments. This is particularly important, the majority of companies are having their garments manufactured overseas and they need the ability to switch production if problems arise.
The demand for ranges in between the traditional two seasons means that decisions have to be made quickly. This can involve overseas suppliers and producers. ‘Real time’ information twenty-four hours a day is often required.
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Author of This Article:
Fashion Designer & Ex-Lecturer,
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.