In the highly competitive global fashion industry, speed has become a by-word for success, especially if brands can deliver high-quality garments to customers ahead of rivals.

By boosting efficiencies, PLM enables clothing makers to do this at high speeds – saving them time and money.

“It’s not so much about the money savings but the speed gains,” says Daniella Ambrogi, vice president of marketing at vendor Lectra. “The most valuable thing in this industry is to deliver the product fast, at the right price and at the right time for consumers. That is the real value of PLM.”

“If you source locally or in Asia there is a speed difference,” Ambrogi says. For example, “we have a customer in Italy (Imperial Fashion) that can deliver drops within seven days because they source everything in Italy. Normally, this process takes two weeks if you source outside your home country and it also depends on the style and how well you are organised.”

As makers continue to envy Spain’s Inditex and the hyperkinetic delivery speeds that have made its Zara banner a smashing success, hastening product sampling between brands, retailers and manufacturers is becoming increasingly key.

“You can have three to five to ten physical products going back and forth between designers, pattern makers” and other agents, Ambrogi says, adding that the process is time-consuming and costly as the samples have to be FedExed around the world.

To streamline the process, Lectra offers virtual sampling software called Modaris 3D, significantly automating and shortening an activity that can usually take two to three weeks, says Ambrogi.

Crucially, PLM helps shorten a product’s often complex development process.

“First you develop the fabric, then the styles and SKUs and then the patterns,” Ambrogi explains. “When you upload the fabric into PLM, everyone can then know the concept and sketches for the new collection and one step leads to the other in a seamless structure.”

Without the software, a garment’s development is done manually, leading to mistakes and delays.

Still, the fashion industry is a “late adopter” and many brands continue to do business in this way. “They need it but may not see the benefit or return on investment,” Ambrogi says, adding that these firms are usually smaller local brands that don’t source globally.