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Why Next-Generation PLM Technology Really Matters

Fashion companies have been using product lifestyle management (PLM) software to digitize their processes for years, but traditional solutions have historically focused only on the product development process. Today’s fashion companies, reshaped by a digitally reliant post-Covid world, need comprehensive technology that addresses more complex consumer needs.

The entire design-to-sales process involves numerous stakeholders at design studios, corporate offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and retailers, with teams spanning across various cities, time zones and countries. Real-time visibility at all stages and heightened communication is non-negotiable.

And there is no truer proverb than this: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Technology solutions company Lectra has introduced a next-generation cloud-driven PLM solution called Kubix Link, which “empowers process stakeholders to collect, structure, consolidate, share and communicate all product-related data through a single funnel from their first sketch to online sales channel,” says Michael Clevestig, director of marketing, North America, Lectra. “Digitalization is a stepping-stone into the future.”

Optimizing ideation to design

Starting at the beginning of the fashion process, Kubix Link addresses timely challenges around ideation today, namely designing and collaborating from home. “It is getting increasingly difficult for designers to share sketches, mood boards and sources of inspiration with the rest of the value chain actors,” says Clevestig. “They also need to get feedback from sales and product development teams to see if their designs are feasible—in terms of fabric, cost constraints and saleability.”

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From a logistics angle, conflicting file formats plus disorganized or lost data can also throw a wrench into the supply chain.

Kubix Link Board is a visual tool that lets companies digitize traditional paper panels and other tools used to illustrate and manage collections at every step through a shared and collaborative application.

Product assortment planning has always been a fluid process requiring constant tweaking around sales data or fast-moving trends. But the pandemic’s sudden “casualization” underscored just how quickly things can shift, and businesses can’t afford to not keep up.

“Fashion companies are now monitoring monthly sales performance more closely, via their ERP systems and competitor analysis tools, to make better-informed decisions on which products to discontinue, and which to develop,” says Clevestig.

Kubix Link syncs with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP), content management system (CMS) platforms and warehouse management systems (WMS) to offer companies a 360-degree view of product data—all gathered, stored and updated on one place for easy access. Actionable data insights put such information to best use.

Standardizing product development

With today’s heightened reliance on (dressing-room free) e-commerce, retailers, brands and manufacturers selling direct-to-consumer must ensure that sizing and fit are accurate, lest they face an onslaught of product returns. And returns aren’t just costly in shipping fees and inventory management, they can also damage a brand’s reputation and lose future customers.

To prevent this, product development teams must standardize tech packs and make sure suppliers up the chain adhere to consistent sizing charts.

“Kubix Link enables companies to organize digital fitting sessions and collection reviews in real time to show prototypes and get feedback via social media-inspired chat logs,” says Clevestig, who notes they can then access digital materials libraries with cost information and fabric characteristics of each pattern. “This lets companies discuss and choose fabrics more wisely, make pattern adjustments to secure margins, and give themselves more time to make necessary pattern adjustments.”

Such digitization doesn’t just save on fabric costs, but it mitigates waste from physical samples and environmental impacts from shipping them around the globe.

Breaking down silos among process stakeholders is another must, as supply chains are more integrated today, with everyone wearing more hats. “Team members and external suppliers must ‘speak the same technical language’ when it comes to processes in order to work faster and better together,” Clevestig said.

Optimizing clicks and bricks

As e-commerce surges, fashion companies must bridge the gap between digital and physical in-store retail experiences, all while creating an engaging brand universe via storytelling, appealing and accurate product visuals, chatbots and support services.

In e-commerce, timing is everything, and it’s a delicate balancing act to get it right. “Hitting the market with not only the right product, but also the right information at the right time is important,” says Clevestig. “This can only be achieved by coordinating design, product development, marketing, e-commerce and social media teams to gather and publish the right information online.”

Kubix Link is an intuitive product information management system that easily collects a huge amount of diverse data from multiple sources, better aiding future bets. “This enables customer-facing teams to efficiently set their omnichannel approach worldwide in a collaborative way and quickly hit the market, to deliver the ultimate consumer experience and maximize sales,” says Clevestig.

To keep sales and marketing humming smoothly, the system also gives teams access to assets like imagery, pricing, size and style specs, material and sourcing information, sustainability compliance information and much more.

“The concept is to let teams focus on their value-added tasks, such as the marketing team improving their brand story telling or product content, instead of wasting time on searching for information,” says Clevestig.

The pandemic shifted the fashion consumer to want things exactly how they want it and when they want it, leaving companies with little room for error and a need to move faster and more efficiently. A system that streamlines operations, creates time and labor efficiencies, and optimizes accuracy by increasing internal communications is worth its weight in gold.

Learn more about Lectra’s Kubix Link’s process and what a non-traditional PLM solution looks like by downloading the product brochure here.