Centric Software has unveiled its first artificial intelligence-based PLM module in a move that builds on its strategy to develop innovations that drive retail transformation for brands, retailers, and manufacturers.

The firm, which claims AI applications to boost product design and development are few and far between, began building AI-based tools a year ago in response to feedback from its customers.

The result is Centric AI Image Search, which saw Centric partner with executives from Triumph, one of the world's leading lingerie companies, to compile a searchable digital library of thousands of lace samples in PLM using the new Centric AI Image Search capability.

"Creative teams in fashion and retail collect enormous amounts of physical samples of materials, trims, colours and styles that serve both as inspiration for the future and as a record of the past," says Humberto Roa, vice president of innovation at Centric Software. "Some companies keep millions of dollars' worth of physical samples on hand but actually using these physical samples is time-consuming and storing them in an easy-to-access format is very difficult.

"You can scan everything, but in order to be searchable, these digital files need to be tagged with keywords and organised in a file structure or library. Companies can end up with hundreds of thousands of images in libraries. Often, it's easier for companies to just order new samples or create new designs than for people to find what they need."

The new Centric AI Image Search allows designers to take a picture of a new fabric or trim inspiration and instantly search PLM image archives to find the closest match. If a similar item has been approved or used before, a designer can find out immediately. If there isn't an existing match in archives, Centric AI Image Search can help find a supplier that provides a close match.

Centric AI Image Search will eventually replace physical sample libraries in multiple locations around the world, reducing the huge effort needed to keep physical and digital libraries up to date and allowing users to access the information they already have as a visual dataset to make more effective decisions, the firm says.