Leading integrated computer hardware and software provider Gerber Technology announced last week the launch of a new e-business solution. The company has invested $20m in WebPDM spec and WebPDM B2B, which are based on the existing WebPDM v3.8, and will continue to provide a further $5m a year, said Marc Jaspers, managing director Europe at Gerber Technology's Information System Division. The new products have been designed to manage the time-consuming and costly product development process for the apparel industry.Gerber said that 27 companies, which were based in Europe, the USA, and Asia, and were split equally between the manufacturing and retail sectors, were quizzed on their product development needs. The companies' responses dictated the development of the final versions of the WebPDM products.Product development, a process that has been managed in the electronic, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries for some years, is still not managed by the apparel industry, Jaspers claimed. Speaking at a press conference held in Germany last week, he added that it was time the apparel sector caught up with other businesses: "Product development is still considered an art, but - although creativity is important - this is a business procedure like all the others in the company."At the moment, anywhere from four to eight departments get involved in product development: collection designers, marketing, the costing estimation department, quality, buyers, raw materials, sample makers, sales staff, the e-commerce division and all the offshore manufacturers that produce the garments. Although all those departments are necessary to develop the style, often nobody in the whole organisation is managing the process."