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imageLast 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.


clip_image002First 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.

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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?


clip_image005Next Göktug and Hakan gave us their insights deploying their first PLM system at the AYDINLI group.

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.


clip_image007More 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.


imageNext 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.


imageThe 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.


imageNext in row was my presentation with potential the longest title: “How to transform your Business to ensure you Benefit from the Value PLM can deliver”.

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.

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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)


imageThe 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:


clip_image012Renate 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:

Conclusion

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)

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PLM_profI believe that PLM with its roots in automotive, aerospace and discrete manufacturing is accepted, as a vital technology / business strategy to make a company more competitive and guarantee its future. Writing this sentence feels like marketing, trying to generalize a lot of information in one sentence.

Some questions you might raise:

  • Is PLM a technology or business strategy?
  • Are companies actually implementing PLM or is it extended PDM?
  • Does PLM suit every company?

My opinion:

  • PLM is a combination of technology (you need the right IT-infrastructure / software to start from) and the implementation is a business approach (it should be a business transformation). PLM vendors will tell you that it is their software that makes it happen; implementers have their preferred software and methodology to differentiate themselves. It is not a single simple solution. Interesting enough Stephen Porter wrote about this topic this week in the Zero Wait-State blog:  Applying the Goldilocks Principle to PLM – finding balance. Crucial for me is that PLM is about sharing data (not only/just documents) with status and context. Sharing data is the only way to (information) silos in a company and provide to each person a more adequate understanding.
  • Most companies that claim to have implemented PLM have implemented just extended PDM, which means on top of the CAD software add other engineering data and processes. This was also mentioned by Prof Eigner in his speech during PLM Innovation early this year in Munich. PLM is still considered by the management as an engineering tool, and at the other side they have ERP. Again sharing all product IP with all its iterations and maturity (PLM) and pushing execution to ERP is still a unique approach for more traditional companies. See also a nice discussion from my blog buddy Oleg: BOM: Apple of Discord between PLM and ERP?
  • Not every business needs the full PLM capabilities that are available. Larger companies might focus more on standardized processes across the enterprise; smaller companies might focus more on sharing the data. There is to my opinion no system that suits all. One point they are all dreaming of: usability and as in small companies PLM decisions are more bottom-up the voice of the user is stronger here. Therefore I might stick to my old post PLM for the mid-market: mission impossible ?

However, the title of this blog post is: PLM for all industries. Therefore, I will not go deeper on the points above. Topics for the future perhaps.

PLM for all industries ?

This time I will share with you some observations and experiences based on interactions with companies that not necessary think about PLM. I have been working with these companies the past five years. Some with some success, some still in an awareness phase. I strongly believe these companies described below would benefit a lot from PLM technology and practices.

Apparel

imageIn July, I wrote about my observations during the Product Innovation Apparel event in London. I am not a fashion expert and here I discovered that, in a sense, PLM in Apparel is much closer to the modern vision of PLM than classic PLM. They depend on data sharing in a global model, disciplines and suppliers driven by their crazy short time to market and the vast amount of interactions in a short time; otherwise they would not be competitive anymore and disappear.

This figure represented modern PLM

PLM in Apparel is still in the early stages. The classic PLM vendors try to support Apparel with their traditional systems and are often too complicated or not user-friendly enough. The niche PLM vendors in Apparel have a more lightweight entry level, simple and easy, sometimes cloud-based. They miss the long-term experience of building all the required technology, scalability and security, in their products, assuring future upgradability. For sure this market will evolve, and we will see consolidation

Owner / Operators nuclear

nuclearFor s nuclear plants it is essential to have configuration management in place, which in short would mean that the plant operates (as-built) is the same as specified by its specifications (as-designed). In fact this is hardly the case. A lot of legacy data in paper or legacy document archives do not provide the actual state. They are stored and duplicated disconnected from each other. In parallel the MRO system (SAP PM / Maximo are major systems) runs in an isolated environment only dealing with actual data (that might be validated).

In the past 5 years I have been working and talking with owners/operators from nuclear plants to discuss and improve support for their configuration management. frog

The main obstacles encountered are:

  • The boiling frog syndrome –it is not that bad
    (and even if it is bad we won´t tell you)
  • An IT-department that believes configuration management is about document management – they set the standards for the tools (Documentum / SharePoint – no business focus)
  • An aging generation, very knowledgeable in their current work, but averse for new ways of information management and highly demanding to keep the status quo till they retire
  • And the “If it works, do not touch it” – approach somehow related to the boiling frog syndrome.

Meanwhile business values for a change using a PLM infrastructure have been identified. With a PLM environment completing the operational environment, an owner/operator can introduce coordinated changes to the plant, reduce downtime and improve quality of information for the future. One week less down-time could provide a benefit of million Euros.

No_roiHowever with the current, lowering electricity costs in Europe, the profits for owner/operators are under pressure and they are not motivated to invest at this time in a long term project. First satisfy the shareholders Sad smile

 

 

Owner / Operators other process oriented plants

almIn the nuclear industry safety is priority one and required by the authorities. Therefore, there is a high pressure for data quality and configuration management. For other industries the principles remain the same. Here, depending on the plant lifetime, criticality of downtime and risk for catastrophes, the interest for a PLM based plant information management platform varies. The main obstacles here are similar to the nuclear ones:frog

  • Even a bigger boiling frog as we have SAP PM – so what else do we need
  • IT standardizes on a document management solution
  • The aging workforce and higher labor costs are not identified yet as threats for the future looking towards competing against cheaper and modern plants in the upcoming markets – the boiling frog again.

The benefits for a PLM based infrastructure are less direct visible, still ROI estimates predict that after two years a break-even can be reached. Too long for share holder driven companies L although in 10 years time the plant might need to close due to inefficiencies.

 

EPC companies

epcEPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) and EPCIC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning) companies exist in many industries: nuclear new build, oil & gas, Chemical, Civil construction, Building Construction.

They all work commissioned for owner / operators and internally they are looking for ways to improve their business performance. To increase their margin they need to work more efficient, faster and often global, to make use of the best (cheaper) resources around the world. A way to improve quality and margin is through more reuse and modularization. This is a mind-shift as most EPC companies have a single project / single customer per project in mind, as every owner/operator also pushes their own standards and formats.

knowledgeIn addition, when you start to work on reuse and knowledge capturing, you need to have a way to control and capture your IP. And EPCs want to protect their IP and not expose too much to their customers to maintain a dependency on their solution.

The last paragraph should sound familiar to the challenges automotive and aerospace supply chains had to face 15 years ago and were the reasons why PLM was introduced. Why do EPC companies not jump on PLM?

  • They have their home-grown systems – hard to replace as everyone likes their own babies (even when they reach adolescence or retirement symptoms)
  • Integrated process thinking needs to be developed instead of departmental thinking
  • As they are project-centric, an innovation strategy can only be budgeted inside a huge project, where they can write-off the investment to their customer project. However this makes them less competitive in their bid – so let´s not do it
  • Lack of data and exchange standards. Where in the automotive and aerospace industry CATIA was the driving 3D standard, such a standard and 3D is not available yet for other industries. ISO 15926 for the process industry is reasonable mature, BIM for the construction industry is still in many countries in its discovery phase.
  • Extreme lose supplier relations compared to automotive and aerospace, which combined with the lack of data exchanges standards contributes to low investments in information infrastructure.

Conclusion

In the past 5 years I have been focusing on explaining the significance of PLM infrastructure and concepts to the industries mentioned before. The value lies on sharing data, instead of working in silos. If needed do not call it PLM, call it online collaboration, controlled Excel on the cloud.
Modern web technologies and infrastructure make this all achievable; however it is a business change to start sharing. Beside Excel the boiling frog syndrome dominates everywhere.

  • What do you think?
  • Do you have examples of companies that took advantage of modern PLM capabilities to change their business?

I am looking forward to learn more.

Below some links that are relevant for this post as a reference:

clip_image002Last 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:

clip_image004The 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?

Inspiration

clip_image008There 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”

clip_image006In 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

imageEvery 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

SNAGHTML141114d0Next 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

imagePam 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:

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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.

Lessons learned

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

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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.

imageI 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.

Conclusions

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.

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