Released in the definitive instalment in fashion’s longest-running dedicated PLM Report, this executive interview is one of a nine-part series that sees The Interline quiz executives from major companies on the evolution of product lifecycle management, and ask their opinions on what the future holds for what has long been sold as the core of the fashion technology ecosystem, and the heart of design, development, and supply chain processes.

For more on product lifecycle management in fashion, download the full PLM Report 2023 completely free of charge and ungated.

Key Takeaways:

  • The role of PLM in the fashion industry has evolved as companies require advanced tools to manage the development of their collections in response to retail transformation, sustainability regulations, and rapid digitalization.
  • Lectra’s approach to integration involves developing integrations between its SaaS solutions to maximize capacity.
  • PLM is becoming increasingly important in delivering combined efficiency and transparency to help fashion brands and manufacturers achieve supply chain transparency and measure their sustainability.
  • PLM is an important tool for manufacturers who need to work digitally with a growing customer base who are providing data in different formats, but who all need the same levels of service and transparency.
The places software begins and ends are constantly changing as market demands shift, new innovations emerge, and fresh capabilities and integrations are added. Can you tell us what PLM means to Lectra, and how you believe that definition has evolved over the last few years?

The traditional definition of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is no longer sufficient for the needs of fashion companies. These companies require advanced tools to manage the development of their collections, which have become increasingly complex due to factors such as fashion’s retail transformation, the increase in sustainability regulations, and the rapid digitalization of economic and social activity. As a result, the workload and responsibilities of fashion product design and development teams have increased dramatically.

The fashion game is no longer about just getting data. It is about getting high quality, curated data. Kubix Link stands out because its IT capabilities extend beyond PLM. They also include PIM, DAM and other data management systems. Kubix Link is an open and highly configurable cloud platform, enables product-centric organizations to work from one official data source, which is always updated and easily accessible to every fashion industry stakeholder in their supply chain. It gives fashion companies the power to organize and deal with an increasingly large amount of heterogeneous data from different IT systems by centralizing and filtering information, giving it meaning and relevance in the context of collection development. Companies can deliver better products to market faster with a seamless and efficient product data management and product development process.

Now more than ever, PLM is a central part of a much broader technology ecosystem, with the need to integrate with a wide spectrum of other SaaS solutions. What is Lectra’s approach to integration, and what value do you believe there is in having multiple components of that overall ecosystem under one umbrella?

In line with its strategy, Lectra continues to develop integrations between its SaaS solutions: From market analysis to online sales.

With Retviews, Lectra enables its customers to automate their benchmarking, to set the right prices, build winning product assortments, optimize discount strategies and enhance brand image with competitive intelligence data and product match.

With Kubix Board, our customers can digitalize concept and mood boards, take quick actions on collections, and create line lists before, during or after sales cycles.

Kubix Link PLM enables fashion companies to oversee their entire product lifecycle, allowing process stakeholders to share and communicate via a single source of product data.

Connected PIM brings together the product information organizing, enriching and publishing capabilities of PIM with native digital sales channel connectivity in a single solution.

Neteven helps fashion companies organize their digital retail activities on the world’s major marketplaces and accelerate direct-to- consumer activities to increase sales.

Lectra is continuously working towards maximizing the capacity of its users by combining the right solutions. Kubix Link users can indeed benefit f rom Retviews fashion analytics. Similarly, outside of the US, Neteven users can benefit from Kubix Link product data. With the same logic, relevant Lectra CAD solutions can connect to relevant digital management solutions. Lectra is continuously analyzing with its customers the correct integration.

Having a full suite from the same vendor such as Lectra is advantageous, as all solutions are specifically designed for fashion companies to manage the entire value chain. What makes this product offering so powerful and unique is that these solutions complement each other. When you integrate these solutions, you can go from sketch to sales with a single source of information. As it is powered by the cloud, you can scale as you need, and have the fastest go-live process ever. If you choose not to adopt the entire suite, the software can integrate with other external systems, such as ERP, CMS and WMS, as they are all open platforms.

Sustainability is at or near the top of every organisation’s agenda, but there’s a difference between hearing consumer demand and having the ability to act on it. As a result, a lot of companies are now looking to technology, especially PLM, to serve double duty – streamlining the product lifecycle at the same time as providing them with the data and the process structure they need to adopt more sustainable business practices and comply with tightening regulations. How do you see PLM and the solutions it integrates with delivering on that demand for combined efficiency and transparency?

At Lectra, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has always been important, and it is now a core pillar of the company’s strategy. In addition, eco-conscious consumers and environmental laws are driving fashion and apparel companies to launch new sustainability initiatives, share more information and set new goals. These new regulations are putting greater pressure on fashion and apparel companies to gain visibility over their end-to- end product lifecycle processes. Digital technology is the cornerstone to helping fashion brands and manufacturers achieve supply chain transparency and measure their sustainability.

By integrating the data required to meet regulatory challenges, Kubix Link makes it possible to calculate the environmental impact of textile products. However, to serve certain markets, fashion companies will need solutions that go beyond the capabilities of PLM. That’s why in 2023, with the acquisition of TextileGenesis, Lectra extended its software offer to include material traceability.

TextileGenesis enables fashion brands and sustainable textile manufacturers to ensure a reliable, secure and complete digital mapping of their textiles – from the fibre to the consumer – to guarantee authenticity and origins. The next step will be to integrate this platform into Lectra’s other SaaS solutions.

PLM is often looked at as a tool for brands, but Lectra in particular has a very strong presence in the supply chain through its heritage in manufacturing technology, and now seems like the right time to spotlight that and extend that footprint with software. How important do you see modern PLM being as a tool for manufacturers who need to work digitally with a growing customer base who are providing data in different formats, but who all need the same levels of service and transparency?

Indeed, we know well the challenges of the manufacturers we have been accompanying for 50 years. We invest to remain at the forefront of innovation, as exemplified by our digital cutting room offer. Our aim is to guarantee the operational excellence of our customers by facilitating their digital transformation and integration of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Our fashion-specific solutions draw on a rich history of digital innovation, helping over 21,000 retailers, manufacturers and brands worldwide provide the quality, fit and speed their customers demand. Lectra data management systems, like Kubix Link unify data and teams onto a single, centralized platform, making it easy to syndicate data and provide a consistent data set that gives transparency to the supply-chain to track the development and production cycle at any time.

Using our solutions, manufacturing companies can now manage Tech-packs from multiple customers with a heterogeneous data set. This enables them to simplify the management of its prototyping requests, RFQs, order processing, quality review, and delivery.

Implicit in those last two questions is a vital role for PLM as the engine for supply chain connectivity and visibility. What does that look like, practically speaking, in 2023, and how can readers who haven’t yet extended their PLM implementation into their extended value chain take action to work more collaboratively with their vendors, minimise risk, improve time to market, and all the other benefits it can bring?

Traditional PLM must constantly push its limits to integrate and facilitate collaboration with a growing number of supply chain actors. Not all traditional solutions allow such flexibility.

Lectra’s ecosystem of SaaS solutions is adaptable to customers’ constraints and challenges. The design of Kubix Link includes scalable technology. It adapts completely to the needs of customers. In fact, Kubix Link’s is an all-in-one solution with embedded fashion PIM, PLM, DAM and more.

How do you see PLM’s role in the fashion technology ecosystem evolving in the near future? How can it best support fashion’s ongoing digital transformation?

While traditional PLMs have historically only satisfied the product development process, today’s fashion landscape calls for more. Companies need technology that covers the entire design-to-sales process to meet complex consumer demands and environmental regulations.

Building a seamless fashion value chain is now paramount at Lectra. This is why we will continue to build synergies between our solutions.

For 2023-2025, the Group’s aim is to develop further its current SaaS offers by providing a more consistent customer value proposition, bringing together existing products to create a unified system that helps our customer meet their business needs, serve their sustainability journey and have a positive impact on the society.