Last week I attended the PI Apparel conference in London. It was the second time this event was organized and approximate 100 participants were there for two full days of presentations and arranged network meetings. Last year I was extremely excited about this event as the different audience, compare to classical PLM events, and was much more business focused.
Read my review from last year here: The weekend after PI Apparel 2013
This year I had the feeling that the audience was somewhat smaller, missing some of the US representatives and perhaps there was a slightly more, visible influence from the sponsoring vendors. Still an enjoyable event and hopefully next year when this event will be hosted in New York, it will be as active as last year.
Here are some of my observations.
Again the event had several tracks in parallel beside the keynotes, and I look forward in the upcoming month to see the sessions I could not attend. Obvious where possible I followed the PLM focused sessions.
First keynote came from Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Operations Officer of Gucci. She talked us through the areas she is supervising and gave some great insights. She talked about how Gucci addresses sustainability through risk and cost control. Which raw materials to use, how to ensure the brands reputation is not at risk, price volatility and the war on talent. As Gucci is a brand in the high-end price segment, image and reputation are critical, and they have the margins to assure it is managed. Micaela spoke about the short-term financial goals that a company as Gucci has related to their investors. Topics she mentioned (I did not write them down as I was tweeting when I heard them) were certainly worthwhile to consider and discuss in detail with a PLM consultant.
Micaela further described Gucci´s cooperate social responsibility program with a focus on taking care of the people, environment and culture. Good to learn that human working conditions and rights are a priority even for their supply chain. Although it might be noted that 75 % of Gucci´s supply chain is in Italy. One of the few brands that still has the “Made in Italy” label.
My conclusion was that Micaela did an excellent PR job for Gucci, which you would expect for a brand with such a reputation. Later during the conference we had a discussion would other brands with less exclusivity and more operating in the mass consumer domain be able to come even close to such programs?
The company is successful in manufacturing and selling licensed products from Pierre Cardin, Cacharel and US Polo Association mainly outside the US and Western Europe.
Their primary focus was to provide access to the most accurate and most updated information from one source. In parallel, standardization of codes and tech packs was a driver. Through standardization quality and (re)use could be improved, and people would better understand the details. Additional goals are typical PLM goals: following the product development stages during the timeline, notify relevant users about changes in the design, work on libraries and reuse and integrate with SAP.
Interesting Hakan mentioned that in their case SAP did not recommend to use their system for the PLM related part due to lack of knowledge of the apparel industry. A wise decision which would need followup for other industries.
In general the PLM implementation described by Göktug and Hakan was well phased and with a top-down push to secure there is no escape to making the change. As of all PLM implementations in apparel they went live in their first phase rather fast as the complex CAD integrations from classical PLM implementations were not needed here.
Next I attended the Infor session with the title: Work the Way you Live: PLM built for the User. A smooth marketing session with a function / feature demo demonstrating the flexibility and configuration capabilities of the interface. Ease of use is crucial in the apparel industry, where Excel is still the biggest competitor. Excel might satisfy the needs from the individual, it lacks the integration and collaboration aspect a PLM system can offer.
More interesting was the next session that I attended from Marcel Oosthuis, who was responsible as Process Re-Engineering Director (read PLM leader). Marcel described how they had implemented PLM at Tommy Hilfiger, and it was an excellent story (perhaps too good to be true).
I believe larger companies with the right focus and investment in PLM resources can achieve this kind of results. The target for Tommy Hilfiger´s PLM implementation was beyond 1000 users, therefore, a serious implementation.
Upfront the team defined first what the expected from the PLM system to select (excellent !!). As the fashion industry is fast, demanding and changing all the time, the PLM system needs to be Swift, Flexible and Prepared for Change. This was not a classical PLM requirement.
In addition, they were looking for a high-configurable system, providing best practices and a vendor with a roadmap they could influence. Here I got a little more worried as high-configurable and best practices not always match the prepared for change approach. A company might be tempted to automate the way they should work based on the past (best practices from the past)
It was good to hear that Marcel did not have to go into the classical ROI approach for the system. His statement, which I fully endorse that it is about the capability to implement new and better processes. They are often not comparable with the past (and nobody measured the past)
Marcel described how the PLM team (eight people + three external from the PLM vendor) made sure that the implementation was done with the involvement of the end users. End user adoption was crucial as also key user involvement when building and configuring the system.
It was one of the few PLM stories where I hear how all levels of the organization were connected and involved.
Next Sue Butler, director from Kurt Salmon, described how to maximize ROI from your PLM investment. It is clear that many PLM consultants are aligned, and Sue brought up all the relevant points and angles you needed to look at for successful PLM implementation.
Main points: PLM is about changing the organization and processes, not about implementing a tool. She made a point that piloting the software is necessary as part of the learning and validation process. I agree on that under the condition that it is an agile pilot which does not take months to define and perform. In that case, you might be already locked in into the tool vision too much – focus on the new processes you want to achieve.
Moreover, because Sue was talking about maximize ROI from a PLM implementation, the topics focus on business areas that support evolving business processes and measure (make sure you have performance metrics) came up.
The next session Staying Ahead of the Curve through PLM Roadmap Reinvention conducted by Austin Mallis, VP Operations, Fashion Avenue Sweater Knits, beautifully completed previous sessions related to PLM.
Austin nicely talked about setting the right expectations for the future (There is no perfect solution / Success does not mean stop / Keeping the PLM vision / No True End). In addition, he described the human side of the implementation. How to on-board everyone (if possible) and admitting you cannot get everyone on-board for the new way of working.
Luckily the speakers before me that day already addressed many of the relevant topics, and I could focus on three main thoughts completing the story:
1. Who decides on PLM and Why?
I published the results from a small survey I did a month ago via my blog (A quick PLM survey). See the main results below.
It was interesting to observe that both the management and the users in the field are the majority demanding for PLM. Consultants have some influence and PLM vendors even less. The big challenge for a company is that the management and consultants often talk about PLM from a strategic point of view, where the PLM vendor and the users in the field are more focused on the tool(s).
From the expectations you can see the majority of PLM implementations is about improving collaboration, next time to market, increase quality and centralizing and managing all related information.
2. Sharing data instead of owning data
(You might have read about it several times in my blog) and the trend that we move to platforms with connected data instead of file repositories. This should have an impact on your future PLM decisions.
3. Choosing the right people
The third and final thought was about choosing the right people and understanding the blocker. I elaborated on that topic already before in my recent blog post: PLM and Blockers
My conclusions for the day were:
A successful PLM implementation requires a connection in communication and explanation between all these levels. These to get a company aligned and have an anchored vision before even starting to implement a system (with the best partner)
The day was closed by the final keynote of the day from Lauren Bowker heading T H E U N S E E N. She and her team are exploring the combinations of chemistry and materials to create new fashion artifacts. Clothes and materials that change color based on air vent, air pollution or brain patterns. New and inspiring directions for the fashion lovers.
Have a look here: http://seetheunseen.co.uk/
The morning started with Suzanne Lee, heading BioCouture who is working on various innovative methodologies to create materials for the apparel industry by using all kind of live micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and algae and using materials like cellulose, chitin and protein fibers, which all can provide new possibilities for sustainability, comfort, design, etc. Suzanne´s research is about exploring these directions perhaps shaping some new trends in the 5 – 10 years future ahead. Have a look into the future here:
Renate Eder took us into the journey of visualization within Adidas, with her session: Utilizing Virtualization to Create and Sell Products in a Sustainable Manner.
It was interesting to learn that ten years ago she started the process of having more 3D models in the sales catalogue. Where classical manufacturing companies nowadays start from a 3D design, here at Adidas at the end of the sales cycle 3D starts. Logical if you see the importance and value 3D can have for mass market products.
Adidas was able to get 16000 in their 3D catalogue thanks to the work from 60 of their key suppliers who were fully integrated in the catalogue process. The benefit from this 3D catalogue was that their customers, often the large stores, need lesser samples, and the savings are significant here (plus a digital process instead of transferring goods).
Interesting discussion during the Q&A part was that the virtual product might even look more perfect than the real product, demonstrating how lifelike virtual products can be.
And now Adidas is working further backwards from production patterns (using 3D) till at the end 3D design. Although a virtual 3D product cannot 100 % replace the fit and material feeling, Renate believes that also introducing 3D during design can reduce the work done during pilots.
Finally for those who stayed till the end there was something entirely different. Di Mainstone elaborating on her project: Merging Architecture & the Body in Transforming the Brooklyn Bridge into a Playable Harp. If you want something entirely different, watch here:
The apparel industry remains an exciting industry to follow. For some of the concepts – being data-centric, insane flexible, continuous change and rapid time to market are crucial here.
This might lead development of PLM vendors for the future, including using it based on cloud technology.
From the other side, the PLM markets in apparel is still very basic and learning, see this card that I picked up from one of the vendors. Focus on features and functions, not touching the value (yet)