Last week I attended the Product Innovation Apparel conference in London organized by MarketKey.
Having participated in the previous more traditional PLM conferences, I was not sure what to expect from the audience and the perception of PLM in the apparel business.
Someone told me PLM in Apparel should be very mature as it exists for more than 10 years in that industry; others said it is still an immature market as there are more than 400 Apparel solutions available. No consolidation so far, which is a sign of an immature market.
My conclusion after attending the event:
The focus was on business. PLM consultants dealing with the traditional PLM implementations should go to such a conference to learn the business side from PLM, in particular the needs for mid-market companies. There was (almost) no talk about functions and features; the focus was on the value PLM brings to the business, instead of all the IT issues related to the implementation.
In that context, the word “cloud” was of course mentioned more often.
So what did I learn?
There are some stunning technological innovations upcoming. Daan Roosegaarde as keynote speaker gave us some insight in how technology can become our second skin and interact with the environment. Interactive materials making the person connected to his/her environment. Similar in that direction was the performance and appearance from CuteCircuit (Ryan Genz and Francesca Rosella) demonstrating the use of smart textiles and use of micro-electronics.
“Make sure your dress is loaded when going to a party”
In addition, the panel discussion around 3D printing brought some of the inspiring thoughts for the future. In particular, the enthusiasm of Nicholas O’Donnell Hoare was comparable to the energy you could see from Daan Roosegaarde and the CuteCircuit team.
When you see these people speaking and shining, explaining their ideas there is no place for a “Yes, but …..” These people give the inspiring moments each conference must have.
The above movie is a good impression of the inspiration. Look at Daan’s expression and his reaction to the “Yes but culture” at 7:28 and beyond
Selling PLM inside the company
PLM at the board level
Every PLM experts knows selling PLM to your management and implementing PLM as a significant business change is a challenge. I noticed some different approaches here that opened my eyes. Elle Thomson from Marc Jacobs talking about how to get rid of the silos in an organization. In an organization where 98 % of the products is new every season. She got the job of VP of PLM in the company. The first time I hear there is a PLM voice at the board level! Many other companies could learn from that.
Excellent implementation blueprint
Next Pasquale Coppolella who explained how he transferred the Chicco from local into an international brand, understanding that PLM is crucial. Next he had to fight against the classical board remark: “Why do you need PLM we have SAP”. But he fought his way through with a perfect combination of alignment between IT and Business, transparency, education and a little bit dictatorship: “Listen to the users but at the end tell them where to go”. Again a PLM blueprint that could be a model for many mid-market companies.
Know how to sell PLM internal
Pam Buckingham and Jamie Tantleff explained their PLM journey through an “edutainment” session, an excellent combination of educating the audience about their PLM journey at Deckers Outdoor Corp, but also entertaining the audience with humor and alternation in their presentation. Through this approach, the upcoming upgrade for 9 months did not come as a depression. In my review from PLM Innovation in Berlin, I mentioned that I was missing the dynamics and energy – see the quote below:
Well for certain, Pam and Jamie took up the challenge and brought the potential boring PLM story in a modern way. Again so many others in traditional PLM could learn from.
While many others shared their experience related to PLM selection and implementation, I gave an overview session sharing the lessons learned from traditional PLM implementations, with a focus on mid-market challenges. As part of this session, I had to develop some new graphics I want to share with you as they might be also the graphics for future PLM
On the left the traditional PLM that can be found everywhere. Although there is a centralized system for Product Lifecycle information, the departments are still working sequential in the process, and at the end it is not always clear that the field experience (After Sales / Service) reaches the marketing & new development teams.
The right image is how I understood the conceptual PLM environment for apparel (and probably for all industries). Here, the focus is on collaboration in real-time between all disciplines. Data sharing is essential for apparel due to their extreme short go-to-market time (3 to 4 seasons per years – hundreds of SKU to be handled per line/brand). The sequential/departmental approach would be killing their business. And as reacting on trends and consumer moods is so crucial, the social environment needs to be part of the process. Without social connectivity again the brand would probably lose their customers.
The right image introduces the need for platform thinking, instead of system thinking. What I mean by that is when you observe implementations in the traditional PLM industries, you see many different systems (PDM, ERP, SCM, CRM, … (any TLA will do) and they all have their own data storage and interfaces with other systems.
I believe the future is in platforms where data is shared instead of exchanged between systems. Combined with embedded search technology that combines information from other platforms and environments (the web, your legacy), the platform will provide each user with the information needed at that time, either structured and under control or context sensitive. Apps instead of systems will be the way to reach the users.
Following this thought process it is clear that PLM will disappear in the future as a separate system. The focus will be on business execution using data sharing and data connectivity. And this trend might be even faster in Apparel as in this industry IT does not have such a prominent role and IT departments are small.
Again something companies from other industries could learn from.
There is so much to learn from experiences in the apparel industry. The PLM market for apparel might be immature, the people implementing are not. They have picked up the modern way of PLM thinking in the context of business, instead of a focus on IT. Combined with the fact that it is less a male-only business, it opened my eyes, and other PLM consultants should do the same.