As more and more manufacturers are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves and their products, many are turning to tools like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software to help reduce costs and the time to market new innovative products.

A recent report suggests that manufacturers faced with the challenges of volatile markets, shorter product lifecycles and high product variability are seeking software tools such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) to set them apart from the competition.

While not specific to apparel firms, the Technavio Insights report on the ‘Product Lifecycle Management Software Market - 2007-2010’ suggests the market for PLM software is forecasted to reach $27.7bn by 2010 from $21.7bn in 2007.

This growth of around 8.4% a year is being propelled by businesses’ geographical expansion and their increased need for collaboration – which is shifting their focus from traditional Product Data Management (PDM) solutions to end-to-end PLM solutions.

There is also a growing market among small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are using the software to manage complex products and improve their return on investment.

Product centric manufacturers, in particular are selecting PLM solutions that can be easily integrated with traditional software such as ERP, SCM, and CRM.

For many firms, the adoption of PLM solutions is also driven by regulatory compliance requiring companies to create and store detailed product information.

What is PLM?
PLM involves the creation, management, dissemination and use of product information from initial concept to its retirement, throughout a company and its supply chain.

PLM software includes components that capture, manage, disseminate, visualise, and collaborate on product-related information.

Product Lifecycle Management solutions have evolved into applications and software that help create, disseminate, and manage the use of product and plant information and processes throughout the entire life-cycle and across the extended enterprise.

Growth in the Americas is being driven by large-scale M&A activity in mature markets of the US and Canada as well as extensive outsourcing to low cost countries.

In the Asia-Pacific region, growth in the consumer goods/apparel segments in China and Vietnam is driving PLM sales, helped by the availability of low-cost solutions targeting SMEs.

Vertical segmentation
According to TechNavio, the manufacturing vertical was the biggest spender on PLM software, with 66.0% or $14,347.1m of the market in 2007.

The uptake of PLM systems here has been propelled by:
• Globalisation and expansion of businesses pressing the need for collaboration, standardising and sharing product definition information across the enterprise, with customers and suppliers; and
• Increase in manufacturing outsourcing and demand for highly customized products catering to specific customer needs; and
• Increased use of traditional software that demands effective capture and management of product definitions throughout the extended enterprise.