"I see PLM becoming the central nervous system of a company," enthuses Charles Benoualid, vice president of R&D at vendor Visual Next, adding that the software saw its genesis as an aeronautics industry solution and has since evolved to become a top enabler in the fast-moving global fashion industry.

"It's been a 'left versus right brain' transition," he says.

In essence, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) allows all parties in a garment's design and development cycle to work on a single, web-based platform and communicate on a real-time basis. It collects a product's 'spec' or DNA in a file that can be accessed by all agents from designer to manufacturer. Because everyone works on the same page and calendar (in vendor marketing parlance, ‘a single version of the truth’), they save time and money from otherwise error-prone manual processes.

Since 2008, fashion purveyors have increasingly embraced PLM with around 40% of the global market now using some version of it, experts say. The technology has also joined the digital revolution with a plethora of software licenses now running on a company’s server, the cloud and mobile devices.

PLM also increasingly runs on next-generation so-called Application Program Interfaces (APIs), and is able to more easily link with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or other enterprise software, eliminating often difficult implementation processes, vendors say.

PLM is also moving into the Internet of Things (IoT). The technology is in its infancy but offers huge potential for clothing makers to boost profits by linking the point of sale (POS) to manufacturing sites to improve line balancing, among other processes. Some see the technology accelerating the industry’s demand-driven trend with consumers.

Through new garment-tagging technology, brands can increasingly collect consumers’ fashion preferences – potentially transforming the fashion industry into a made-to-order versus serial production machine.