“Today’s challenge is gaining speed to market while increasing margins and reducing inventory. You have to have a unique source of truth and eliminate isolated solutions instead of generating Excel sheets everywhere.”

This is how German Elizondo, who oversees Latin America for fashion-focused vendor Centric Software, describes how PLM can benefit large and small global apparel manufacturers, retailers or brands looking to boost their game.

Using its system, companies can track an entire product’s lifecycle through its web-based portal in which the production, marketing, buying, sourcing and other key teams can see progress on a real-time basis, saving precious time and gaining speed to market.

Without PLM, a company’s design team “normally invests up to 70% of its time to share a product’s information with other teams – and the sourcing process is chaotic because you are sending Excels everywhere with no control of who or what team asked for changes and where the process is,” Elizondo explains.

He adds: “You end up in eternal meetings and this is why so many companies are late to market. When you have a central repository of information [a unique truth source] and a calendar management tool with deadlines, everything works more smoothly.”

Both small and large apparel makers can benefit from PLM but those who source overseas, especially in places like Vietnam or other Asian markets with more opaque and unstructured supply chains, must acquire it to gain greater visibility into their product development, says Charles Benoualid, vice president of R&D at vendor Visual Next. “If you can get your product sourcing and design into a centralised system, it’s easy to share the information. PLM helps give your company and employees structure.”

In Centric Software’s case, PLM is “very easy to use” because it works similarly to Excel and comes embedded with the fashion industry’s best practices, Elizondo claims. The company is also flexible, selling its software through different modules that can be configured depending on a company’s needs.

Centric Software offers large enterprises a range of services including business planning modules that include product specifications, materials management, product sourcing, quality and collection management, according to Elizondo.

For SMEs, it usually provides design and quality-management software because such firms don’t normally require business planning, collection or quality management. “Normally SMEs only design product and send [the specs] to a manufacturer and they don’t have such big collections,” Elizondo concludes.