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:

  • In order to realise the collaborative benefits a PLM system has to offer, it should integrate to the external systems housing data for digital design, sustainability, inventory levels, procurement, quality assurance, supplier statistics and more.
  • PLM can help to support visibility and transparency across the supply chain.
  • Infor believes the future of PLM is to expand to include data from additional systems, such as digital design, sustainability, inventory levels, procurement, quality assurance, supplier statistics, etc.

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.

Traditionally, the focus was on PDM (Product Data Management). Later this evolved into PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), which added the capabilities of collaboration to product data management. At Infor, we have gone down the same path; our pedigree started with Freeboarders, Runtime/Quest and Style Manager.

Today our solution has evolved into a modern multi-tenant cloud PLM solution, taking the best of the history, and adding new technology capabilities. We believe the next steps in PLM will be to expand to include data from additional systems, to provide relevant information such as digital design, sustainability, inventory levels, procurement, quality assurance, supplier statistics and more. It makes no sense to add this information in PLM, instead it is more efficient to ensure the PLM solution can integrate to external systems that would be the natural source to provide this kind of data. An example is our standard integrations from PLM to Adobe, CLO, and recently Made2Flow (product impact measurement). To facilitate the integration to external systems, we offer Infor Operating Services (OS) technology platform as part of our PLM offering. This platform allows customers to manage integrations, workflow, unique user experience and extensibility as needed (e.g. to create apps for a specific purpose). Additionally, we believe in providing new PLM and technology capabilities regularly to ensure customers’ systems are up–to-date, and always current to enable them to quickly adopt to new market requirements.

Enterprise software has a difficult legacy of being heavyweight, complex and having a difficult onboarding process for new users. Moving platforms like PLM to the cloud has been a major step in making them lighter and more easily accessible, but the other big component is making powerful technology intuitive and easy to use. What is your philosophy here, and what do you believe the future of PLM and other enterprise technology looks like at the user level?

We have a clear strategy to ensure our solutions are intuitive to use and easy to deploy. We see a need to deploy solutions step by step, so we’re offering a modular (composable) solution approach. This can, for example, start with deploying our PLM solution, and as a next step, activate the procurement module from our ERP suite (or another procurement system) and then add data analytics to get insights on top of that. We believe in the approach of offering our customers easy integration to 3rd party solutions to, for example, provide data on the extended supply chain. As the Infor OS technology platform is included in our PLM offering, it is easy for customers to integrate, expand and innovate as required. In addition, we provide pre-configured content and templates to ensure faster deployment to simplify projects and shorten time to value.

The drive for brands, retailers, and their suppliers to build greater transparency into their supply chains is stronger than ever, with consumers, regulators, and environmental metrics all mandating that fashion makes some big leaps in sustainability. How does Infor support supply chain visibility and transparency, from cotton to production?

This is an area that we have paid a lot of attention to recently, as we truly understand and support the importance of visibility and transparency across the supply chain. This is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it will be a mandatory requirement to provide necessary data to e.g., comply with the French AGEC law. To improve visibility and transparency we have added a standard integration to the Made2Flow solution. This means that customers using our PLM solution can directly see what impact on the environment a new collection will have. For example, on changing a fabric in the BOM, the designer can immediately get feedback on what positive or negative impact this will have. With this partnership we can offer true transparency into the extended supply chain (from tier 1 down to tier 3, or even tier 4). Being able to prove that products and production supply chains are sustainable is a very important capability to help protect the brand—and it all starts with embedding sustainability metrics as early as possible in the design phase.

Can you tell us how that broader visibility translates into product-level impact measurement?

By offering a standard integration to Made2Flow, customers using our PLM solution can see product-level impact measurement “on the go” as they design and develop the new collection. To ensure brand protection, this information can be made visible on websites, or via product QR codes that the end consumer can scan to get more detailed information. The solution is also future proof since it follows and adjust accordingly to changing regulations, standards, and reporting needs.

As perhaps the major hub for product data, PLM sits at the heart of design, development – making it more important than ever for PLM solutions to support automation, to streamline workflows, and to be able to provide intelligence and insights across those disciplines. What work has Infor done in this area?

With the Infor OS technology platform as part of our PLM offering, we are able to support the following:

  • automation via workflow across solutions
  • embedded insights, Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) through Data Lake and analytics
  • highly configurable user experience via role-based homepages
  • tools for making extensions as needed, e.g. creating mobile App’s We offer a central repository of data in the cloud – for better insights.

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

We expect a wider adoption of digital product creation tools for 3D design and sampling. In addition, customer persona “made-to-fit” measurement tools could lead to better insights of product fit, resulting in less returns and waste. We also expect to see increased focus on sustainability and a focus on “design with disassembly in mind” (with detailed product composition data such as how to recycle or dispose the product). There is a trend towards greater use of AI/ML – to ensure the right type of collection is developed aligned to market needs. AI and ML could also be applied to avoid fabric waste during production, e.g., by identifying the best way to use up surplus fabric rolls and remnants sitting at suppliers. Finally, the increased focus on robotic process automation (RPA) intends to remove non-value adding activities to ensure skilled creative and technical designers can focus on value adding activities.