The cardinal rule in ERP selection is to choose a system that’s been crafted for your specific industry, with all its quirks, argot and “best practices”. And since one of the distinguishing characteristics of the fashion/apparel industry today is the speed at which the marketplace demands new, new, new, that ERP system needs to have an apparel-specific Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) erp module to bridge the gap between the competing business and creative processes that are essential to success.
Moving at the speed of fashion:
Add PLM to your Apparel ERP (Part 1 of 6)
Choosing the right PLM solution is as important as choosing the right ERP system, however. Few industries are subject to the intangible whims of customer tastes as the apparel industry. And few industries have the challenges of reducing costs, improving quality, managing complex, extended supply chains and staying in synch with the vagaries of customer wishes as the apparel industry. With the right PLM, apparel companies can fundamentally change how they design, plan, produce, manufacture, and sell their products. And the right PLM solution is one that has been created specifically for the unique characteristics of the industry. That means not simply accelerating or removing inefficiencies from business and creative processes, but fundamentally changing how all apparel lifecycle participants actually work and collaborate, helping apparel companies deliver fresh, innovative products while strengthening their brands and profitability at the same time.
Consumers want it all. Whether it is apparel, footwear, or accessories, consumers expect a fresh selection of innovative styles with good quality and attractive prices—every four to six weeks. Shareholders want it all too. As financial goals push unit costs lower for improving margins and profitability, quality and innovation suffer.
To meet these incompatible demands, apparel brands and retailers collaborate with designers, manufacturers, and suppliers located around the world, which introduces complicated logistics, complex communication and unpredictable costs into an already difficult business scenario. To cope, many apparel companies now deliver up to ten collections a year, in limited quantities, to stay as close as possible to seasonal trends while minimizing the effect of sourcing cost fluctuations and avoiding markdowns, close-outs, and out-of stock situations. They also are beginning to seek consumer feedback, trying to discern new tastes and trends even earlier. Yet simply cutting costs or speeding up processes only worsen the existing stress on traditional apparel design, planning, marketing, product development, sourcing and manufacturing processes. The processes themselves must be changed to meet today’s critical business needs.
Apparel businesses must be able to integrate business and financial planning processes with collaborative design and development processes—across all product families, across parallel development cycles. And across cultural and geographic boundaries which cannot be overcome simply by making things faster.
This is why PLM is becoming a fact of life for successful apparel companies. However, while PLM promises to deliver substantial improvements, only PLM solutions built on actual apparel industry best practices and process knowledge can really deliver. In the pieces that follow, we will explore what to look for in a apparel-based PLM implementation.
Continued in Part 2