10 questions with... Jatin Paul of WFX
26 August 2010 | Features & Interviews | Source: just-style
PLM Hub Q1: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) remains a much-talked about strategic advantage. What do you see as the key benefits for the apparel industry - both in the short- and long-term?
Jatin: Short-term benefits of PLM implementation are a reduction in cost of product development and an increase in efficiency of operations. PLM provides businesses with a tool to manage the complete product development life cycle across the supply chain. In today’s environment, product development teams and product information is spread over different locations. Using disconnected spreadsheets, images, e-mail to share information creates longer lead times and is prone to error. PLM connects everyone on one platform where they can share, communicate and collaborate on the same information. This enhances efficiency in the process and reduces costs of developing products.
Long-term benefits include a reduction product turnaround lead times. Identifying areas of consistent delays, better transparency, vendor benchmarking, historical delivery analysis all enable for more accurate planning in future seasons as well as help shed days off lead times.
PLM Hub Q2: How can PLM improve an organisation's competitive advantage?
Jatin: High quality, timely delivery and price are some key elements that drive competitive advantage. In fashion each product is developed through an iterative process with different teams working together to ensure that these elements are met. PLM enables tighter integration between internal development, quality, sourcing teams and manufacturing partners. This empowers businesses to respond to changes faster than the competition enhancing speed to market and higher quality of product. It also enables better visibility of product costs and comparative vendor pricing so that businesses also have the information needed to improve margins and beat the competition on price points.
PLM Hub Q3: How can PLM help unify product development teams to deliver trend-right, high quality products to market on time?
Jatin: Developing new products requires inputs from various internal departments and external teams all providing information at different stages of a product’s life cycle. From designing, costing, sourcing, sampling, approvals, and quality. Traditionally information is passed back and forth through a combination of spreadsheets, attachments, docs and e-mail. These are the tools used to exchange information, identify changes and manage the whole process. The problem arises when multiple versions of each are created and everyone updates different information at different times creating countless e-mails. Multiply this over hundreds of styles, vendors and you get a sense of the complexity and room for error. To be on-trend, businesses need be able to design as late as possible in the cycle, which means lead times are tighter and room for error is less.
WFX Web PLM provides a simple web-platform that internal and external teams can access to create, share and manage all product information. Everyone is brought together on the same page and shares the same up-to-date information in real-time knowing for sure that any changes are communicated effectively and in a timely manner. This unification of teams means people can be more responsive and attention can be directed to areas that need it most. This enables companies to deliver trend-right, quality products on time.
PLM Hub Q4: How can PLM support a company's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy?
Jatin: Companies have different approaches to addressing Corporate Social Responsibility CSR. In the apparel, fashion, footwear and accessories industries the most common practise for CSR is through ethical sourcing. Retailers/brands maintain certain guidelines for sourcing products from 3rd party vendors/suppliers. These guidelines dictate a set of compliance criteria that manufacturers need to maintain in order to do business. Criteria can include; worker health & safety conditions, working hours & wages, no use of child labour etc. Web PLM solutions like WFXonDemand.com allow business to build in compliance guidelines which are used by compliance officers while visiting factories for audit. Being able to log into a web PLM, run compliance audits and schedule follow-ups are key in assuring that CSR is adhered to. In this manner PLM will support a company’s CSR by providing it with tools to create, manage and track areas of compliance.
PLM Hub Q5: What are the stand-out features and benefits of your PLM system compared with others on the market?
Jatin: WFX Web PLM is the only company to provide a true on-demand web-based PLM solution for the apparel, footwear and accessories industry. Dead simple to use, WFX provides both a feature rich and cost effective solution such that it meets the needs of small and medium size businesses.
WFX stand out features and benefits include:
- True on-demand easy-to-use PLM
- Low cost subscription based pricing (No investment in hardware, software or maintenance fees required).
- Rapid 30-day implementation cycle.
- Fanatical 24/7 support
- Multiple levels of vendor collaboration available based on degree of business with vendor.
WFX PLM solution is offered for a single subscription fee that includes hosting, 24/7 support, upgrades and updates. A low cost and highly effective solution ensuring customers the quickest ROI in the market today.
WFX is implemented by companies with a turnover of $5m – $500m. Customers include brands like Lee Cooper, Vila (Bestseller group), Biflex (kellwood group) and numerous small-mid sized companies across 12 countries.
PLM Hub Q6: How compatible is your PLM system with others in the marketplace?
Jatin: Compatibility of WFX PLM is achieved through integration. WFX PLM can be integrated to other PLM solutions if required. WFX has vast experience in integrations with both standard and in-house developed ERP solutions. 3rd party solutions can integrate with WFX via web services for seamless integration. Furthermore, WFX also supports data export via XML.
PLM Hub Q7: What are the basic rules for a PLM project in the apparel industry compared to others?
Jatin: WFX is a specialized provider of PLM applications for Apparel exclusively so we have no benchmark to compare implementations in apparel vs. other industries. However, as a result, we have fine-tuned our implementation processes to ensure the highest rate of success for the apparel industry.
PLM Hub Q8: What would you say to companies who are thinking about deferring a PLM investment because of the current economic crisis?
Jatin: If companies are deferring PLM investments because of budgetary purposes, today there are options available that make it possible for businesses to implement PLM at a low cost. Companies should look at true on-demand PLM providers like WFX. The WFX on-demand or Software-as-a-Service model allows apparel businesses at low risk and low investment; to implement PLM without breaking the bank. Businesses, for a nominal subscription fee, can quickly implement PLM without investing in hardware, software, or other IT costs.
Times of recession and crisis are an opportunity for companies to re-think and re-evaluate their processes. Companies should take a step back and re think of the way they manage product development and work towards improving it to be more competitive and lean. In times of high growth, companies expand quickly and often scale with processes whose inefficiency is masked by growth. However, in recession those inefficient processes affect the bottom-line immediately. This is the time companies should look towards PLM and setup a competitive product development initiative, which help them remain competitive and scale up effectively as the market starts to cycle back.
PLM Hub Q9: What are the best PLM practices learned from the apparel segment?
In our view, the first step in success starts during the product evaluation period by demonstrating value to everyone involved and getting a buy-in from all parties.
The first step in implementation is to create simple, definable milestones before you start the implementation process. Getting all the stakeholders to buy into the value proposition of those milestones so success and value is derived even during implementation and not just at the end of it.
Maintaining very strong level of user support by going back to users and consistently reassessing user progress. This is a key element in ensuring success. WFX even conducts on-line review sessions periodically even post implementation, which ensures continuity of usage and benefits for the users.
PLM Hub Q10: Where next for PLM?
There are a lot of directions PLM could move in next. PLM could even further connect product development to and fro brands and manufacturers. Through our customer base, we can notice a trend that brands/retailers are increasing their ties with some key manufacturers to move beyond “contract manufacturing” to actually play a key role in design aspects too. Manufacturers are thus adding design staff and adding creative inputs to brand’s collection. PLM can offer further seamless integration of internal and external vendor product development teams. Also, connecting mills into the PLM process with manufacturers and finally up to the product developers is another layer of collaboration. This could fuel innovation in new fabric development early on in the cycle and enhance product innovation further.
There are a lot of directions PLM could move in next.
PLM could even further connect product development to and fro brands and manufacturers. Through our customer base, we can notice a trend that brands/retailers are increasing their ties with some key manufacturers to move beyond “contract manufacturing” to actually play a key role in design aspects too. Manufacturers are thus adding design staff and adding creative inputs to brand’s collection. PLM can offer further seamless integration of internal and external vendor product development teams. Also, connecting mills into the PLM process with manufacturers and finally up to the product developers is another layer of collaboration. This could fuel innovation in new fabric development early on in the cycle and enhance product innovation further.