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Managing Your Materials via PLM to Lessen Impact

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

Fashion is all about choices. Not just the choices consumers face daily on what to buy or wear, but the overwhelming decisions brands must make to plan, design, develop and source their materials from countless suppliers around the globe. Add sustainability verification concerns into the mix and those decisions get incredibly complex.

Every material, trim and component has a unique impact, and trading one for another creates environmental and social ripple effects that regulators—and consumers—increasingly insist on knowing. Without trusted visibility into various material impacts, brands just don’t have the information accessibility they need to make smart choices.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) market leader Centric Software® has long helped brands, manufacturers and retailers gain visibility into their products along the supply chain, but they recently added a new layer to help brands get closer to their sustainability goals. Centric is now integrated with sustainability insights platform Higg, providing designers environmental impact data on materials from hundreds of suppliers around the world.

With this partnership, designers and product developers using Centric PLM™ can send material choices with the click of a button to Higg and receive data-driven impact scores for each—namely carbon footprint and water utilization, but also on product end-of-use options and impacts.

A product score is automatically generated once the Bill of Materials (BOM) is complete, and updated if and when it is adjusted. Brands, retailers and manufacturers of all sizes—regardless of where they are on their sustainability journey—can access Higg data through Centric PLM to lower their impact, and revise material selections and designs to reach more desired results.

”Through Centric’s integration with Higg, designers gain access to material-level environmental impacts, which enables them to make critical decisions to develop more sustainable products,” said Higg CEO Jason Kibbey. “Conscious consumers are demanding both high-quality and environmentally-responsible products, and with Higg data, businesses can deliver on these expectations.”

Working collaboratively

Silos between design, development and sourcing teams have long stifled industry collaboration and product visibility, but this has been changing. As more intra-departmental groups share digitized information living in cloud-based platforms, silos are dissolving. The beauty of digitized impact data is that it is easily accessed and shared among stakeholders who are empowered to put it to work. For example, instead of sourcing material to fit a specific design dictated by the design team, brands might flip the script and design around materials already pre-selected by a sourcing team for their sustainability and low impact.

“Sustainability starts at the design phase,” said Kathleen Buckingham, director of sustainability at tentree, an apparel company that plants 10 trees for every item sold and is also a Centric client. “You have to design for climate action, and everything needs to be driven by data.”

Volcom, another apparel client, agrees on how design and data go hand in hand. “With the Adobe Connect tool, designers can work in Adobe Illustrator while seamlessly updating their BOMs in PLM,” said Steve Chastain, global head of IT at Volcom. “That’s an absolute game-changer for us. And having third-party vendors in the system allows us to streamline communication and collaboration. They can really take ownership of their part of the process and it builds trust, which is extremely important.”

Choices for profitability

Making more sustainable material choices shouldn’t have to hurt growth or profitability, either. Even companies born out of sustainability can use the platform, not only to increase their sustainable choices but to boost efficiencies along the process. Many companies can thank the pandemic and virtual operations for opening their eyes to the ease and advantages of 3D, and those lessons are sticking around.

“Increased transparency and visibility enable teams to make decisions taking environmental impact into consideration while also ensuring target product margins are met, using reliable data that is accessible on a single platform,” said Ron Watson, VP of product at Centric Software. “When also coupled with other technologies such as 3D material libraries, avatars and prototypes, as well as optimized processes such as efficient supplier collaboration, not only can a product’s environmental impact be lessened but so can overall cost of goods sold.”

Brands have enough pressures balancing business and sustainability decisions, especially among complicated global supply chains. Materials choices shouldn’t have to add to them.

To learn more about Centric PLM and its Higg integration, click here.

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