Released in the first-ever DPC Report 2022, this executive interview is one of a twenty-part series that sees The Interline quiz executives from major DPC companies on the evolution of 3D and digital product creation tools and workflows, and ask their opinions on what the future holds for the the extended possibilities of digital assets.

For more on digital product creation in fashion, download the full DPC Report 2022 completely free of charge and ungated.

Digital product creation in fashion seems to have reached critical mass, with more brands than ever kick-starting or scaling DPC strategies. Why now?

Brands have been interested in Digital Product Creation (DPC) strategies and solutions for quite some time. For most, the initial approach to DPC was simply to choose a 3D design tool and begin designing in 3D. Even that was a huge shift for the retail industry, which has traditionally relied on physical samples. It’s not just a shift in mindset— the technical landscape must also evolve to achieve the level of realism and omni-channel reach that is now expected.

Until now, many tools fell short of expectations. Today we have the perfect synergy of global business circumstances that shows 3D can help surmount critical challenges like sustainability, hybrid and remote working, as well as evolving customer expectations regarding product engagement and interactive experiences. This has accelerated the need for brands to expand DPC. In parallel, technology has evolved, offering product development teams amazing and ultra-realistic visuals with extended design capabilities that were not possible before. Such possibilities include 3D product configurators, virtual stores, magic mirrors, and other immersive digital experiences to reach customers in new ways.

By removing barriers-to-use and simultaneously making it practical for more cross functional teams to contribute to the creative and technical aspects of the go-to-market process, DPC delivers business benefits far beyond the traditional workflows.

There has always been a relationship between PLM and 3D, but now that the two solutions have become joint cornerstones of design and development, those connections are becoming even closer. How have you seen this need evolve over time? And how has Centric Software responded?

The evolution of each offering has been very exciting to watch! Product Lifecycle Management remains the foundation for managing product development. However, with the evolution of 3D Design, PLM must now manage product data differently. The data and files associated with digital products now include 3D-specific information (physics, textures, geometry, fit, etc.). This convergence of 3D design data with product development workflows provides unparalleled opportunity and flexibility to leverage these assets in a multitude of ways throughout the DPC ecosystem.

Centric PLM has responded by remaining 3D agnostic and tightly integrating with many different 3D solutions, giving our customers the flexibility to work within their 3D software of choice. We enable digital product creation with advanced workflows and automation, that brands, retailers, and manufacturers seek from an end-to-end digital ecosystem.

Beyond the core audience of 3D artists, there’s a growing need for new personas and new in-house audiences to be able to interact with and benefit from digital assets. Can you provide some examples of where extending access to DPC workflows and assets is transforming the way brands operate?

This consideration is dependent on the end product usage. 3D artists can create an NFT or another digital asset which is never meant to exist in the real world. A 3D artist doesn’t need to worry about the constraints of a tangible product that needs to fit a real human being and be bound to the laws of physics. They can create products that are only meant to exist in the metaverse or in Instagram feeds which avoids the traditional supply chain requirements.

For digital products that will have a real-world equivalent, extending 3D capabilities throughout the product development lifecycle and supply chain allows users who would traditionally be dependent on 3D designers, to now become autonomous.

By leveraging 3D web viewers and product configurators— merchants, product owners, or even store planners can visualize 3D products, create new color variations, or work through collection options themselves in real time.

An example of a user interacting with Centric Software's DPC capabilities.

With the introduction of automation pipelines, general system users can initiate on-demand rendering of high- resolution images from 3D models in varying camera angles or views for downstream systems or integrations. This automation workflow also helps to facilitate supplier- based design initiatives where brands can request suppliers to upload their own 3D design files into Centric PLM, and the 3D pipeline creates all the digital assets automatically based on the brand’s 3D standards.

PLM platforms have long been held out as being “sources of truth” and, as a consequence, engines for decision-making across creative and commercial stages of the product lifecycle. Have we now reached the stage where enough of those decisions can be made based on digital assets that the way we think about where that truth resides is changing? And what impact is that having on the way PLM platforms are evolving?

It depends on the decision that is being made, and what that decision can inform or even influence throughout the ecosystem. PLM links all teams to a collaborative platform where they can access a wealth of up-to-date information. The amount of data kept in PLM is typically tremendous. When this data is combined with 3D assets and properly incorporated into the infrastructure, it can provide unparalleled insight to make data-driven refinements regarding product strategy, planning, sourcing, pricing, and assorting, based on information gathered or decisions made throughout the supply chain and omni-channel sources.

It is important to note that PLM is evolving together with these digital ecosystems, since the definition of a “product” is changing due to enhanced 3D capabilities and requirements. PLM has the advantage in this evolution, as existing workflows provide a long-proven foundation for managing development processes. At Centric Software, we are augmenting these existing development workflows to incorporate 3D asset management, integrations, visualization, and interaction for all cross functional teams throughout the supply chain. To scale 3D asset creation, we are implementing 3D automation pipelines.

In order to provide insight to product assortments, pricing, and trend shifts, we are also incorporating Artificial Intelligence. From product strategy, merchandise planning, development, production, and through to customer interactions we are enabling a best-in-class, scalable, digital product creation ecosystem to support our customers’ evolution from 2D to 3D development.

Where do you see digital product creation—and digital assets—going from here? What does the near-future look like for the industry and for your business?

Digital product creation has the potential to completely change how consumers interact with products. Some might argue that this is already well underway. However, I think we are still just discovering the potential of these experiences, and what can be learned from them to drive business decisions to convert those engagements into customer growth. As technology evolves and digital assets become more realistic, multiple industries will be on the verge of revolutionary change, and that change will be a combination of many initiatives at once. From sustainability to on-demand production with personalized products, DPC has the potential to be a catalyst for many other initiatives gaining momentum.

Recently at Centric Software, we have made advancements that have moved beyond the near future and have created a long-term, scalable DPC solution for our customers. It has been tough for brands, as there are so many single point solutions which focus on just one area of the workflow or have some overlap with another technology they have already purchased. Putting all these technologies together in a way that can scale is a real challenge. Thankfully at Centric Software, we have been able to do this with our 3D partnerships to create a DPC pipeline where Centric PLM remains the hub for these digital assets and leverages our 3D technology partners to provide configurable, scalable, enterprise-automated DPC pipelines for the world’s top brands, allowing them to evolve as quickly as their customers’ habits.