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.
- 3D and digital product creation (DPC) is one of the fastest-growing enterprise software segments. PTC has established partnerships to provide a seamless end-to-end digital product creation workflow, allowing designers to tap into full PLM functionality directly from their 3D workspace.
- PLM should help companies predict or identify market demand and react to it, marrying very short product development cycles with flexible and nimble supply chains. FlexPLM has embedded AI and Flex Insights to empower every user to extract data, deliver insights, and act on them in their own unique way.
- PTC’s collaboration with Worldly and integration with Made2Flow will help customers to measure the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes and close data gaps in the supply chain.
- PLM is both the stable bedrock for fashion and retail’s future to be built on and an engine for the next levels of enterprise growth, DPC, integration, and intelligence. The right PLM solution can deliver additional value by integrating with other enterprise solutions and cutting-edge technologies like AI, DPC, and impact measurement.
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 PTC, and how you believe that definition has evolved over the last few years?
The disruptions of the last few years have changed the way retail organizations and their partners think about technology in general, but I think these global market shifts have also reaffirmed the fact that PLM is so vital to providing a foundational platform for end-to-end product development, as well as innovation, and the stability that fashion and retail companies need in a digital era.
We saw that being demonstrated during the pandemic, when many companies implemented FlexPLM to get ahead of what they saw as a permanent alteration in the nature of the way they design, develop, and ultimately bring products to market. They used the platform to build resilience and agility, unlock remote collaboration, and to futureproof their ways of working.
And last year was an outstanding year for PTC Retail. We’ve seen our customers, the world’s most successful and well-known brands and retailers, from high fashion to sporting goods, outdoor, footwear, home décor and DIY leverage FlexPLM to reach new heights and accelerate their business growth, making even deeper commitments to their PLM strategies, such as bringing on board hundreds, in some cases thousands, of new users, or taking advantage of our new advancements in UX, digital product creation, visual planning, and sustainability management, which have been accepted and hugely appreciated by our customers.
It’s no secret that fashion and retail companies are very conscious of how trends are changing across several markets and geos, but if you look to the market leaders you can see that what they want from PLM is innovation, sure, but also certainty and stability. It’s more important than ever for organizations to have a trusted source of truth, a reliable system for collaboration, and a proven secure platform that can help connect all the different tools they use across their design, development, and production processes to ensure that their new products align well to the latest trends and styles each season. It’s what we call giving companies the “Power to Create”.
So PLM, to us, means being a true enterprise partner. We’ve done that for the biggest brands in the world for close to 20 years, making sure that FlexPLM is ready to scale to meet any challenge or any opportunity. And we’re doing it today for an even wider variety of companies, extending the same benefits to everyone through new deployments, new capabilities such as Flex Insights, and even smoother onramps to the core capabilities that are so essential right now.
Possibly the most prominent area of digital transformation at the moment is in 3D and digital product creation, or DPC. We’ve already talked about the disruption that gave rise to a lot of brands looking to digitize their design and development processes quickly, but this also coincided with a new level of maturity, fidelity, and value potential in digital workflows and assets. How do you believe PLM factors into that?
We’re also seeing a huge leap in DPC capabilities and interest at the moment. I believe you identified in your DPC Report last year that this was one of the fastest-growing enterprise software segments, and that’s reflected in the massive scaling-up of DPC strategies that has taken place in the last 12-18 months.
But we have to remember that 3D workflows are not new, and that scaling them effectively requires organizations to have the right foundational system in place (e.g. PLM) to let them extract value from digital assets everywhere, from in-house development processes to downstream eCommerce.
Those core capabilities we’ve been investing in building ourselves, and we’ve established the right partnerships to unlock. We pioneered the market’s first native integration between PLM and leading 3D design and simulation tools to provide a seamless end-to-end digital product creation workflow, allowing designers to tap into full PLM functionality directly from their 3D workspace. And our leading DPC collaboration, visualization, and optimization capabilities enable companies to effortlessly scale their use of 3D assets across the value chain.
We realize there is a lot also happening in the pure digital space, but we see the biggest benefits of DPC – and retailers’ biggest demand – being in these established workflows, where digital tools, assets, and processes help to drive smarter business decisions, and more agile, and more profitable routes to market for physical products.
If we extend out the idea that PLM should be the central hub for critical product data, it stands to reason that a PLM platform is also where users will want to go for product-level intelligence, as well as much broader insights, so tell us how that manifests itself when we think about business intelligence.
Think back to the climate retail is operating in today, and it’s obvious how important it’s going to be for organizations to have the capability to surface and act on new real-time and near-time insights.
Fashion and retail are complex industries, with lots of moving parts and competing priorities. Right now, though, the world is also moving around those industries, which is having a profound effect on retailers’ ability to forecast, to accurately cost and plan, to achieve margin targets, to align well with the latest trends, and much more.
Success in retail today is increasingly being defined by how well an organization can predict or identify market demand, and then react to it, marrying very short product development cycles with flexible and nimble supply chains. Most fashion businesses, though, are not set up to act that way. Go-to-market timelines are long, data is siloed, and design, development, and product calendars are static.
FlexPLM is designed to be the most effective way to close that gap, to digitize the product development process, making it very easy to collaborate with existing suppliers or to onboard new ones, to get products to market just in time. As well as our visual line planning tool, which provides an intuitive, visual way for teams to work together and make smarter decisions, FlexPLM is also the first PLM platform with embedded AI. And just a few weeks ago, at LiveWorx, we launched Flex Insights to empower every user to extract data, deliver insights, and act on them in their own unique way.
The biggest challenge facing every industry today is sustainability, but it’s an especially big-ticket issue in fashion and retail because the industry’s footprint is so large. With tightening regulations and changing consumer expectations, how can PLM help brands and retailers to not just comply with the legislation but differentiate themselves based on their sustainability commitments?
FlexPLM has the largest global supply chain userbase of any PLM platform, and that gives us an unmatched ability to help our customers to gather, analyze, and start to disclose the kind of sustainability data that consumers and governments are demanding.
From a pure value chain transparency perspective, that level of visibility is massively valuable; if your suppliers already use FlexPLM, the odds of you being able to track the provenance of your products, their materials, and the processes that go into making them are increased in a major way.
In addition to our collaboration with Worldly, we also just launched a brand-new collaboration and integration between FlexPLM and Made2Flow, which will help our customers to move away from generalized averages and guesswork and towards scientific measurement of the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes – helping to close even more data gaps in the supply chain.
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?
We see PLM as both the stable bedrock for fashion and retail’s future to be built on, and as an engine for the next levels of enterprise growth, DPC, integration and intelligence. The disruption that has shaped the last few years is not likely to end any time soon, so the future of digital transformation is being constantly written and rewritten.
When nobody knows what’s around the corner, the most important roles PLM can fill are the ones that enable our customers to prepare themselves for any risk and any opportunity, and to build a competitive advantage.
FlexPLM is full featured, with a full suite of core capabilities that the most successful brands and retailers trust. From scalability, performance, and enterprise security to multi-category management and an easy to use, modern and intuitive user experience, our PLM platform is truly ready for the future.
Finally, I believe the additional value that the right PLM solution can deliver will come from how easily and effectively it can integrate with other enterprise solutions and cutting-edge technologies like AI, DPC, and impact measurement. And because we are committed to keeping as many FlexPLM customers as possible on a seamless upgrade path and the latest version of the software, that core reliability and those milestone innovations are now available to more users than ever before.