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.

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 Bamboo Rose, and how you believe that definition has evolved over the last few years.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is at the core of our business. We provide retailers and brands with a single platform to design, develop and deliver the right product at the right time in the right place to achieve positive business outcomes. These include things like increasing revenue and market share, improving cost accuracy and accelerating speed to market to name a few.

Legacy PLM systems create friction, forcing product designers, developers, and retail partners to create and collaborate outside the system. This results in slower operations, lack of data, human errors, and miscommunications. Modern PLM, such as the solutions we offer, provides a design and development solution to transform products from conception to creation, centralizing product data to streamlining creative briefs, production schedules, supplier communication, and much more. For apparel and fashion brands, PLM acts as a collaborative environment for designers and product developers to integrate colors, size specs, and materials. Not to mention, sample management and automated tech pack development. These functions increase operational efficiency from design to delivery, reducing time and costs.

To maintain a competitive edge in our ever-changing and evolving industry, retailers need a collaborative digital ecosystem in which to connect and streamline design, development, sourcing, and supply chain operations. Providing designers, developers, and internal & external retail partners with one single solution to effectively communicate mitigates risks throughout the supply chain and provides greater visibility into operations & costs. Retailers can achieve shorter design cycles and faster speed to market with the right balance of quality, sustainability, and economic goals.

Historically, enterprise systems like PLM have been seen as more of an imposition on creatives than an enabler. How have both software and attitudes changed recently to emphasise the way that PLM can empower designers?

This ties in nicely with our Backbone PLM acquisition! Now part of the Bamboo Rose family, we provide a designer-centric product development platform. The digitization of historically manual parts of the design product cycle within the Backbone application leaves designers time to do what they do best: create, innovate, and develop great products. 20% of production time is lost looking for product information. Backbone’s cloud-based system of interconnected libraries help retailers get back that time lost – promoting designer empowerment. From what we have heard from our fashion and apparel customers, they are thrilled to have options to support a concept-to-launch journey that brings products to market faster and more efficiently.

There’s a significant role for PLM to play at brand HQ, but an equally large part of the go-to-market lifecycle of any product exists in the supply chain. This has always created a strong mandate for using PLM as the platform to connect brands and their value chain partners through live product data, but that mandate is stronger now than ever for cost, efficiency, and risk mitigation reasons. What should PLM be doing to support supply chain connectivity?

Retailers are focusing on supply chain resiliency due to the disruptions we have seen in recent years. And PLM is crucial to support supply chain connectivity focusing on attaching development decisions to customer expectations across markets, enabling collaborative development with internal & external teams and suppliers, and bringing visibility to the impact of design decisions on sourcing compliance, logistics dynamics, and margins. As retailers continue to face supply chain disruption, and emerging environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements – having full visibility across design and development teams, partners, and downstream processes has become business critical to support data-driven decision making resulting in better connectivity, agility, and resilience.

A similar question: what role can PLM play in enabling brands and retailers to both comply with ESG / CSR regulations and to back up their sustainability commitments with data?

PLM can certainly enable brands to comply with ESG / CSR regulations. Retailers are seeking visibility into their sustainability practices, including ethically sourced materials and compliant suppliers, due to the existing and emerging regulations and pressure f rom consumers. Our solution provides detailed supplier performance and auditing data with tightly managed follow ups on corrective actions to drive compliance. The materials and packaging libraries provide in-depth sustainability and usage attribution to capture the impact of different materials within products. And our sourcing and global trade solutions provide the visibility necessary to assess environmental and social impact of different product, sourcing, and logistics decisions.

As a central hub for product information, it’s important for PLM to be closely integrated to a spectrum of other solutions to help brands and retailers digitise their whole go-to-market process. What do you see as being the most important of those integrations? And, with the acquisition of Backbone PLM, what are the key benefits of bringing multiple parts of the technology ecosystem under one company umbrella?

There is an increased focus on transparency driven by both uncovering supply chain costs and by increased requirements for social and environmental impact analysis. In support of these needs, the most important integrations tend to be where data can be verified through triangulation (external networks or data consolidation services) or physical inspection.

Data accuracy is critical to a transparent supply chain as downstream processes can be negatively impacted by inaccurate data information or poor assumptions. That said, in practical terms the PLM is first linked to master data systems whether they be MDM, PIM, or ERP, to leverage and further enrich the core product information generated through the product development and sourcing processes, and to prepare the products for offering to the organisations various sales channels.

One of our key differentiators is third-party integrations, our ability to plug and play with many platforms (ERP, Warehousing, Planning, 3D etc.) and content providers to enrich data, increase visibility and enable faster decision- making. Our PLM product integrates with Adobe Illustrator Plugin, Pantone Library, and more to focus on removing obstacles from designers’ daily workflows and allowing them to spend more time creating quality, innovative products.

And, with the acquisition of Backbone PLM, what are the key benefits of bringing multiple parts of the technology ecosystem under one company umbrella?

The key benefit in bringing our two organizations together will be housing a complete end-to-end PLM where retailers can design, develop, and monitor business functions from a single system. Leveraging the unique strengths of both platforms will be crucial in providing a solution retailers will leverage to create efficient, resilient, and responsible supply chains. Combining the breadth of Bamboo Rose’s enterprise features that span global sourcing, order management, global trade, and more, with Backbone’s focus on design workflows and creative empowerment will result in a market-dominating platform that allows retailers to increase operational efficiency and deliver the right products to market.

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?

The fashion industry is competitive and continuously evolving. Trends come and go. Consumers seek interesting and quality products while wanting more ethical and sustainable options. This puts pressure on apparel and fashion brands to deliver products (with speed) at the right time. Retailers need a single platform to create, design, and deliver to meet their customers’ expectations with agility.

We’ve seen an ongoing shift in favor of fashion technologies like PLM over the past few years, and this trend will increase exponentially as time goes on. It will be crucial for retailers to not only accept – but embrace – PLM as a key part of their business strategy. Leveraging a PLM allows retailers to spend more time on product design and development, delivering the right products to the right consumers at the right time via the right channel. When that happens, brands drive brand loyalty and reduce returns.

The best thing PLM can do to support this ongoing digital transformation is to evolve in tandem with the industry. Creating integrations with other solutions (ERP, 3D, Adobe Creative Cloud, Pantone, etc.) will allow retailers to accelerate data-driven product and supply chain decisions, as well as increase operational efficiencies. Expanding and refining product offerings to modern challenges like sustainability, compliance, and global trade management will empower an efficient, resilient, and responsible supply chain, meeting consumer demand for quality and thoughtfully created products.