First published in The PLM Report 2022, this instalment in our series of exclusive interviews delves into CGS’ entire suite of applications and solutions for Fashion, including ERP, PLM, and shop floor control.

How do you define PLM, and how has that definition changed as the fashion industry has evolved?

Product lifecycle management has evolved greatly over the past couple of years. Today’s PLM is all about enhancing the connection between physical and virtual worlds. It’s a major collaborative tool, not just a product development tool.

When integrated with ERP and Shop Floor Control production management tools, PLM becomes the central hub where data flows in and out throughout the entire supply chain. A cloud-based PLM allows for internal and external collaboration in a digital space, which was essential when COVID-19 stopped people from traveling.

This improved collaboration tightens the processes between supply chain teams. From raw material to the finished product, you can ensure the commitment and deliverables of different players in your process.

The best PLM also provides more scorecarding and reporting to help you maintain relationships with valued suppliers and partners. In short, modern PLM offers you full functionality from design to delivery of your product. CGS’s BlueCherry Enterprise Suite allows fashion, apparel and footwear companies to control their processes from start to finish (planning, design and product development, sourcing, manufacturing, logistics and sales functions). Can you elaborate on how each of your solutions is interconnected in order to serve the entire end-to-end process, from planning to the consumer?

The BlueCherry® NextTM Planning Tool allows users to forecast expected demand. All the components from PLM, Shop Floor Control, ERP and warehouse management are now tightly coupled across the supply chain. Data is real- time and fully visible, which offers transparency across your department.

In short, our integrated solutions give brands full visibility from design to development to delivery, in a physical sense, not just virtual sense.

On-demand modelling, real-time data capture and transparency are topics certainly on the minds of most visionary board members operating within the fashion sector. Can you share how extensively your shop floor control system is able to work with your PLM, ERP and/or PO solution(s) to enable users to track and trace a product throughout its lifecycle?

We have full integration between the shop floor and PLM, as well as ERP. Shop floor workers can look up specs of an item on the floor directly from PLM to get detailed production information defined in PLM.

From shop floor to ERP, we have detailed integration to provide product information, quantity, order and customer information. Additionally, the integration with our B2B eCommerce platform enables sales teams to build new products on the fly, on demand and feed the product to PLM and the shop floor to prepare for production.

Shop Floor Control then feeds back into these components data on production status, such as where it is being produced and where exactly the product is in the cycle.

With full integrations across the enterprise suite, the product lifecycle encompasses the full production cycle— from design to delivery.

Are you able to connect images from your PLM solution directly into eCommerce engines? Can you provide some examples of how this works?

Our PLM solution can work with just about any image type you can think of, including video, 3D, Illustrator and Photoshop files, JPGs—the list goes on. And the enhanced collaboration means PLM users can access all digital assets through any third-party systems via an API layer.

For example, the system can populate any eCommerce sites with a finished product image, including videos, 3D mockups, etc. This level of access means you get full product information management (PIM) within the PLM.

Are your PLM and ERP solutions able to share common datasets to help streamline the process of design, development and sourcing, and can you provide examples (if possible)?

PLM and ERP are tightly coupled and in full sync at all times. And it’s a full circular functionality, not linear functionality as in the past. BlueCherry NextTM PLM sits on top of the processes and tools to feed datasets back and forth.

For example, we share common datasets when we propograte from PLM to ERP. ERP issues purchase orders, which feed back into PLM. Those P.O.s are approved in PLM process and move to production and prototyping. Then PLM releases the P.O. when they are ready to be delivered after the quality control is approved in PLM. After the P.O. release, the factory floor can release product.

The datasets are constantly moving back and forth across the whole process, and there’s always just one version of the truth.

How do you see PLM supporting fashion’s wider recovery and its ongoing digital transformation over the next 2-3 years?

I envision three big transformations continuing or coming along.

First, getting real-time data of consumer feedback and information. Designers will have access to consumer data, giving a more consumer-centric view of your product performance. For example, you find that 90% of one style came back due to hip stitching issues, or consumers did not like a particular color. This information reaches the designer and becomes vital to matching fashion requirements to the physical experience of previous deliveries.

Combined with PLM collaboration, there will be even more virtual design and approval before going to sampling. Brands can then reduce the footprint of samples designed that end up not being produced.

In order for this to happen, we need data, including a lot of retail performance information. PLM can help correlate and match it. Fashion and trends still drive what you should merchandise, but the statistics give you the overall picture of whether you go back to particular styles.

Second, companies will continue streamlining the supply chain to make it more reliable and accountable. Players will get more information on suppliers: which factories will produce specific garments. What is their on-time delivery rate? What type of labor do they have? How well-prepared are they for disruptions? All this adds up to a better, more in-depth understanding of your supply chain. Many designers already value relationships, and this will give data to back up and strengthen partnerships.

Third, vetting and selecting suppliers will occur more digitally. With today’s technology, brands are realizing they can do more with less travel. We will see more third parties acting as vetting agents to identify supplier information in other countries. Using virtual tours and available information, these agents can interact with PLM to provide supplier information. Then, the PLM sourcing team use this vetted data to choose better sources and suppliers.