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Understanding PLM in apparel supply chain

Apparel supply chain is one of the most complicated and sophisticated supply chain in any business. It has risk and challenges in its all aspect. Designing to disposal the fashion retailers need to be cautious in each level to make sure proper decision in quickest possible time to gain the best from the design and also to face ecological and sustainability issues rightly to maintain the fame and brand. Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) is the modern tool that is being used by many of the big retailers to cope with the challenges. As an apparel and textile manufacturer our industry should be aware about PLM to work side by side the global retailers in the supply chain.

In industry, product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal.PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a set of product information for companies and their extended enterprises.

In this environment, delivering fashion-right collections on time and on budget is often becoming a logistical nightmare, prompting companies to seek technological solutions to bolster enterprise efficiencies and cut costs. 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.


A few analysts use “PLM” as an umbrella term that includes engineering CAD (for “information authoring”). But product information creation tools include word processors; spreadsheet and graphics programs; requirements analysis and market assessment tools; field trouble reports; and even emails or other correspondence. In a common view, a PLM tool focuses exclusively on managing data that covers the breadth of a product’s lifecycle, without regard to how that data is developed.

Working system:
PLM applications work through a web-based interface that allows all parties involved in a garment’s design and development to work on the same platform and communicate on a real-time basis. The software collects a product’s ‘spec’ or DNA in a file that can be accessed by all product development agents from designer to manufacturer. Because everyone works on the same page and calendar, the technology saves time and money compared to sequential processes which involve heavy paperwork and more time to execute.

The essential elements of PLM:

  • Manages design and process documents.
  • Constructs and controls bill of material (product structure) records.
  • Offers an electronic file repository.
  • Includes built-in and custom part and document metadata (“attributes”).
  • Identifies materials content for environmental compliance.
  • Permits item-focused task assignments.
  • Enables workflow and process management for approving changes.
  • Controls multi-user secured access, including “electronic signature”.
  • Exports data for downstream ERP systems.

These benefits can be categorized as:
1) Increase sales revenue.
2) Reduce product unit costs.
3) Reduce administrative and clerical overhead.

1) Increase revenue

It’s fairly intuitive that shorter design times and faster change cycles yield earlier product introductions and optimized products, resulting in earlier revenue and longer product life.

1. A) Reduce design time

PLM avoids wasted design effort through:

  • Immediate, managed access to all design data.
  • Concurrent reviews by affected data consumers without distracting designers.
  • Elimination of lost or damaged files.
  • Consistent, data-rich bills of materials with real-time cost roll-ups.
  • Reapplication of existing items in new designs.

Some PLM systems allow tasks to be attached directly to a document or part, keeping both designers and project managers in the loop. Companies have reported time-to-market reductions of up to 75%.

1. B) Accelerate release and change cycles

Perhaps the most remarkable impact of PLM is the substantial efficiency gained when processing product releases and changes. A non-automated process usually requires extensive document collection and copying efforts and relying on time-consuming interoffice mail or on an engineer or change analyst walking the package from office to office. Involving supply chain partners may require express parcels, insecure or lost mail, irrelevant or incorrect file attachments, and a host of other time-wasters.
By design, a PLM system contains all product information in a secure central location; allows multiple users simultaneous access to the data; provides templates for change types, including pre-defined review workflows. Changes can typically be pulled back, reworked, and resubmitted without leaving your desk to chase down a physical package.

2) Reduce product cost

2. A) Conduct more comprehensive, less intrusive collaboration

Real-time visibility into evolving designs encourages early and frequent design checks; these permit sourcing, production, quality and service specialists, as well as supply chain partners, to provide timely feedback. Include all aspects of the product plans, drawings and procedures for production, inspection, service, repair and disposal. This information is available in a single location, without having to distract designers with on-going requests for in-process data.

2. B) Purchase fewer parts in larger volumes

Part/ Accessories re-use is difficult in larger organizations with significant numbers of parts. Relying on designers’ memory or searching through the ERP system is a hit-or-miss affair, resulting in almost-identical parts being sourced. PLM encourages item exploration, which avoids sourcing new parts that are functionally similar to items already in inventory.

2. C) Increase production experience

Earlier product introductions ensure longer production runs; increased production experience results in more rapid, on-going cost reductions.

2. D) Reduce production rework and scrap

Changes are reviewed by all affected parties; on-line review and approval is faster and more comprehensive than paper-based change process; bills of materials are consistent and can include documentation on production and inspection processes.

3) Reduce overhead

3. A) Simplify regulatory and contractual compliance

If your development or production process is subject to audit by a third party, a PLM product can simplify review and acceptance. It’s far easier to document the process when it’s based on commercial-grade documentation and system configuration reports, particularly if the PLM vendor is sensitive to regulatory issues, and has experience designing compliant products.

3. B) Mitigate and report on a product’s environmental impact

Government regulations, eco label requirements both restrict the types of materials contained in products and specify more stringent environmental-impact reporting. REACH & CPSIA requirements are key regulatory requirements for European Union & USA respectively. EU-Flower, Blue Angel, Oeko-tex, Bluesign, GOTS etc are few of the eco labels which has details specific requirements. PLM system can contain the list and ask the corresponding controls or tests required. PLM also allows proper checking to assure a secured progress in the chain to avoid any kind default and reporting.

3. C) Reduce process administrative and clerical costs

Depending on industry, for every 8 to 12 engineers and designers a manual document control and change management process may require a change analyst, administrator, document checker, or clerk. Implementing a PLM system may allow to cut that ratio to 20:1 or better.
Few PLM and other Textile Software:

ApparelMagic : ApparelMagic is the industry leader in apparel management solutions, with more than 27 years of excellence. ApparelMagic offers a PLM system that is unmatched in the industry. No other PLM software combines the ease of use, power, technology and friendly service. ApparelMagic’s PLM software provides direct and immediate access to the latest status of any line. The system provides a visual feast of images, specs, revisions, instructions, sales history and other tools to easily determine all options and respond effectively. Web-enabled, PC & Mac compatible, ApparelMagic also offers ERP, PDM, CRM, EDI and Accounting in one integrated solution. ApparelMagic can be integrated to go for iPads and Notebooks. ApparelMagic also supports easy integration with UPS, FedEx and 3rd-party warehouse systems. Systems begin at under $5,000 with convenient lease options as low as $250 monthly.

Bluewater Software : DeSL’s PLM application is one of the ultimate tools in collaborative product design and development. Designed to be used by all parties in the development process, the solution delivers a true web-based, real time, collaborative network specifically aimed at reducing development time lines and increasing quality. The solution is based on Microsoft.NET technology. Apparel software modules are also available for ERP, CRM, WMS and local sourcing to meet the particular demands of the Fashion, Apparel, Clothing, Footwear and Accessories sectors.

Business Management Systems Inc. : Business Management Systems-VerTex PLM As one of the most experienced providers of PLM solutions for the apparel, textiles, footwear, and other sewn products industries, Business Management Systems (BMS) has developed VerTex to help you maximize your competitiveness and profitability. By extending the capabilities of product lifecycle management upstream to initial line planning and downstream to sourcing and delivery, VerTex simply delivers greater competitive advantage and measurably better returns than conventional PDM, PLM and supply chain management software.

Computer Generated Solutions – CGS: BlueCherry Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) provides the fashion industry with a state-of-the-art integrated system for the development and management of the product development process, manufacturing process, and distribution process. BlueCherry PLM will enable best-practice processes by providing more comprehensive, more detailed, more systematized, and real-time information to insure accurate and informed decision-making. Having all of the business information in one place with easy access will provide immediate benefits including ease of set-up, little or no duplication of effort, and standardization. Users will also leverage the extensive functionality present in other modules of the BlueCherry system to take advantage on this one-of-a-kind complete product lifecycle management offering.

Dassault Systemes : Since it was created in 1981, Dassault Systemes has helped its industrial customers maximize product design and development. First used to design complex shapes, 3D now makes it possible to design and manufacture products creating digital mockups. Today, Dassault Systemes anticipates the industrial processes of tomorrow, with solutions that provide a 3D view of a product’s lifecycle, from creation to maintenance, including manufacturing and recycling

Enovia (MatrixOne): The challenges for the Apparel Industry include increased global competition, the need to target new markets and create new revenue streams, customer demands for more innovative products, and pressures to reduce new product development costs.  The MatrixOne Apparel Accelerator for Design & Development is a commercially available, off-the-shelf, Product Lifecycle Management solution for apparel design companies. This solution enables companies to rapidly deploy a state of the art, scalable enterprise solution for apparel design and development to take products from trend to design to sourcing to manufacturing to the customer.  MatrixOne Apparel Accelerator for Design & Development enables a rapid implementation, allowing the organization to be up and running within weeks. Pre-configured business processes, project templates, reports and workflows enable your company to rapidly implement an enterprise PLM solution to accelerate the return on investment.

Fashionshare: is a product life cycle software solution that combines the rich tradition of ‘apparel industry best practices’ with the power to ‘collaborate and share’ over the Internet. Fashionware Technologies Corp. is addressing today’s business challenges by aligning fashion industry best practices with the latest hosted Internet technologies. Their industry tailored technology solution Fashionshare is an on-demand user friendly system for sharing and exchanging product development information across your business, brands and global supply chain. Product information can be accessed instantaneously anywhere, anytime by simply clicking on your Fashionshare web link and logging in with a personal and secure user id and password. Forward-thinking firms understand the benefits of incorporating innovative product information management and strategic technologies.

Just OnePlace Pty Ltd : Web-based collaborative PLM software solution for managing product data, product development process, and supplier relationships featuring dynamic Workflow tool for creating critical path templates, including task, alerts, triggers, and escalation notifications, applied against the development calendar. OnePlace PLM provides visibility throughout the product lifecycle process, from design to delivery. Industry-specific templates are provided for apparel, footwear, and other fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries. Their software helps with Speed Time-to-Market, Decrease Product Development Cost, Increase revenues and sell-through, Enhance visibility throughout product life-cycle, Automate ERP integration with style/size/color matrix.

Gerber Technology:announced that it is marketing a new Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution designed to meet the specific needs of the fashion market. Fashion Lifecycle Management (FLM) combines Gerber’s WebPDM product development management software with a proven apparel PLM workflow solution.

Lawson Software : Lawson for Fashion enables companies with complex, global supply chains, to synchronize supply and demand in real time. They deliver industry-specific solutions for companies that source, distribute, retail or manufacture apparel, footwear, home textiles, textiles and fashion accessories. Lawson provides enterprise software and service solutions in the manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, and service industries. Over 4,500 customers use their software throughout the world. They provide rich ERP solutions including finance, manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, and supply chain – complemented by solutions for human capital management, customer relationship management, business intelligence and corporate social responsibility. Many of these applications are tailored to specific industries. Their 1,700 professional consultants can help to get the most value from your Lawson software.

Lectra : Lectra Fashion PLM, specifically designed for fashion companies, integrates process optimization with collections lifecycle management and includes modules for line planning, creative collection development, product data management, product engineering, and workflow management. Lectra Kaledo Collection, which shares a common database platform within PLM, encourages artistic creativity while structuring the collection creation process and facilitating the exchange of information internal and external to the design environment. Lectra Kaledo Textile is a suite of software for the textile designing processes of Print, Knit and Weave that further facilitates the exchange of information internal and external to the design environment. Lectra serves over 20,000 customers in more than 100 countries.

New Generation Computing : NGC provides PLM, global sourcing and ERP solutions to brands, retailers and importers of consumer products. NGC customers increase gross margins, reduce the cost of goods sold, improve speed to market and product quality and manage CPSIA compliance with NGC software. NGC offers a comprehensive suite of integrated, end-to-end solutions for PLM, Global Sourcing, ERP, Shop Floor Control, Factory Labeling & Packing, CPSIA & Business Intelligence Tools.

Plural Technology Private Limited : Plural’s ‘Apparel Innovator’ (based on ARAS platform) is the best PLM choice for Apparel Manufacturing and Retailing organizations looking at integrating their Product Development process into other Business Processes like Manufacturing and Sales effectively to surpass various Business and Industry challenges prevalent in the business environment today.

Porini USA : Porini USA has developed the Microsoft Dynamics Industry Solution for fashion and footwear. This industry leading solution combines the flexibility of Microsoft Dynamics AX with proven coverage of apparel sourcing and distribution functional requirements.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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