First published in The PLM Report 2022, this instalment in our series of exclusive interviews explores a range of topics, from planning, and mass design & development, to analytics and automation.
How do you define PLM, and how has that definition changed as the industry has evolved?
It is still defined as product lifecycle management, however, increasing focus on sustainability and circularity is evolving it further to “managing the extended, sustainable, circular product lifecycle”. The product lifecycle today is moving more to a circular flow, where products are designed to live longer and new business models and service offerings are emerging such as resell, repair, refurbish or recycling (so the lifecycle is evolving into a different scope).
Can you share some details on how extensively your PLM solution is able to support the planning process? Is your new planning module able to drive product development and, if so, how?
Line planning is an important step to set guideline and targets for the product development teams. Designers can track against the line plan to continuously verify how close a new collection, for example, is to the defined targets. Thereby, line planning can assist in developing the right type of products to fit market needs, and help avoid over- production, markdowns, and waste. It also serves as a first high-level planning for different market channels, with quantity estimates that can be used for early production commitments to suppliers.
Today, efficiency is everything. How have you designed Infor PLM to be even more efficient and, in particular, what do you mean by ‘mass’ design and development?
The best way to describe the efficiency is that users don’t need any instruction on how to use the system – it is built in such an intuitive, modern way that most users can immediately use it. For example, by using icons, visual card views, drag and drop capabilities and more. Mass create and mass change capabilities allow the user to create new styles, add relevant data, and update styles much faster.
How far-reaching and capable are the analytics within your PLM solution, and what are the main benefits here to users?
Our PLM solution has reporting built in. Users can run flexible queries and get the relevant information they need. As the solution is built on Infor’s technology platform (Infor OS), our Data Lake and Birst analytics can be used for further and more advanced data analytics, insights and reporting.
Sustainability – as broad as the term can be – is still at the top of every board’s agenda. What have you developed in your PLM offering to help retailers, brands and their supply chain partners measure their impact as it relates to environmental challenges? Similarly, our industry – and in particular today’s consumers – are concerned about social injustices. What measures, if any, has Infor PLM taken to help retailers and brands manage their Bill of Labour?
Our PLM helps define material composition details down to the yarn and fibre level, with information about supplier, country of origin and test standards. It is also possible to manage not just the main supplier but also the sub-sub supplier relationships (the “tiered” supply chain). Supplier compliance is part of the solution as well as the ability to store certificates and factory test/inspection documents in the built-in document management solution. Recently, Infor announced a partnership with Made2Flow that will add additional capabilities around sustainability impact measurements. This data can be used while developing the collection, and later shared externally for transparency to consumers, stakeholders and for governmental reporting requirements. Finally, regarding Bill of labour, we see an overall movement into “BOx”: Bill or materials, Bill of labour, Bill of process. It’s about evolving the BOM and measure the impact not just of material choices but also the manufacturing processes. This is key to manage “real” sustainability. Our PLM supports both the BOM and the BOO (bill of operations) where data such as standard allowable minutes and more details around production operations can be defined. We can also easily collaborate with manufacturing partners in the extended value chain to get the detailed information needed.
Automation within PLM presents a huge opportunity. Is Infor PLM able to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to help automate the repetitive tasks used in product design, development and manufacturing?
Thanks to our Infor OS technology platform, we can offer Coleman artificial intelligence and machine learning based on data in Infor Data Lake, workflow automation capabilities and the flexibility to create Apps or other extensions to PLM, extensibility development tools can be added as needed. In addition, we offer mass-capabilities in core PLM that help users work more efficiently and minimize repetitive tasks.
How do you see PLM supporting fashion’s wider recovery and its ongoing digital transformation over the next 2-3 years?
It is clear that much of the fashion industry is moving towards non-seasonal, slow fashion, circular business models. For PLM this means it will be even more important to focus on material details down to composition level to make sure styles are designed to live longer, with ability to rent, repair, refurbish, resell, and recycle. Product passports will become common, where data for a product will be stored (from composition, via production to distribution with a focus on sustainability and environmental impact) and shared with consumers. This goes beyond traditional PLM software to cover the end-to- end sustainable lifecycle of a product, where PLM is a key part of the total solution. To minimize over-production, markdowns, and waste, we also see a need to produce more on demand according to exact body measurements. There are already apps on the market that can scan and share detailed body measurements to make sure styles are designed according to specific market or individual’s needs. Finally, with all the digital tools available, new collections planned can easily be tested early on using voice of the consumer testing and 3D tools to ensure they are designed to “meet the desires of the market”.