In this post, we look at how a combination of Product Data Management (PDM) and Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) solutions could be just the right fit for the apparel industry.
Faced with seemingly unending market changes, not to mention ever-changing consumer trends and a volatile economic climate, the apparel industry really is up against it when it comes to keeping pace with consumer demand while still turning a healthy profit. If the industry has any hope of meeting demand, particularly in this era of fast fashion, businesses need to lay the foundations upon which to build a slick, agile and responsive businesses, with technology often the key to achieving this.
While there has appeared to be a wide variety of solutions for apparel businesses to choose from, with a veritable alphabet soup of solutions including PLM, ERP, SCM, to name but three, on the whole, these have been better suited to larger organizations. For smaller businesses in the sector, such solutions have either been cost-prohibitive, simply too large or unable to provide the various levels of functionality within a single solution. In particular, where PLM solutions might have been well received by larger apparel businesses, for smaller businesses, they just weren’t the right fit.
This is where Product Development Management solutions come into play. Designed specifically for businesses that need to maintain, store and use large amounts of product related data across the entire business, for the apparel industry in particular, PDM solutions provide the means to effectively record and share the minute details of a particular garment, company-wide. The traditional paper-based methods of recording and sharing such data are both time consuming and error prone, two factors, which, in our fast fashion world, can have a major detrimental effect on the whole product development process. Not only are these manual methods not efficient, but they’re not cost effective either, a real concern when you consider how tightly apparel margins are already squeezed.
An integrated PDM solution can manage images, colors, materials, POMs and sketches, handling raw materials and costings too. And, once the style, cost and pricing are approved, businesses can generate SKU information directly from the PDM system. In short, a quality PDM solution provides full visibility of the product from initial design through to production, providing a real time view of key product information at any given point in the product development process.
However, to derive optimum value from even the most extensive PDM solution, using it in combination with a comprehensive ERP solution is what the most forward-thinking of apparel businesses are focusing on. The right ERP solution provides an integrated view of the entire business, in real time, capable of tracking all business resources (such as cash and raw materials) while keeping record of business commitments (such as orders, POs and payroll). Albeit one single system, it’s made up of different applications from across the business enabling the various business functions to automatically share vital business data. Thus, having ERP and PDM solutions which work together simplifies a potentially complex area of the business, with the data from both systems being of mutual benefit to not only each other, but the business as a whole.
A standard ERP solution enables the organization to record and share product development information, but not to the extent of a robust PDM solution, which includes more specs and more in-depth detail relating to garment specification, fabric particulars and bills of materials, for example. This information is then shared between merchandising, sourcing, product development, costing, knitting, weaving, printing and designing departments, promoting the synthesis and smooth exchange of data among the very departments who need access to it. And, with other ERP modules, such as purchasing, inventory and sales, feeding information back into the PDM system, there’s no chance of any data falling through the gaps.
With fully integrated ERP and PDM solutions in place, real time collaboration between designers, merchandisers, warehousing, production managers, to name but a few, is a reality. Although each department might be allocated different tasks or be involved with different functions, a combination of ERP and PDM functionality allows all users to update product information relevant to their particular function within the apparel business, at any point in time, ensuring any input adds real value to not only the product development process but the production process too. This sharing of information enables apparel businesses to comprehensively manage product development, while optimizing resources, minimizing waste, maximizing product quality and ultimately increasing production efficiency and speeding up that all-important time to market.
What to look for in a solution for your fashion business: