PLM costs vary by vendor, the functions they offer, the number of people that will use the software, the type of company buying it and whether it wants to purchase or rent it, experts say.

Vendor Centric Software charges depending on the software’s complexity and user count, with prices ranging from $100,000 for a small business to $14m for an industry giant such as LVMH. The firm is currently marketing its most recent Centric 8 platform as “an easy to use, single version of the truth” for line planning, global sourcing, calendar, materials, quality and collections management as well as technical design and retail execution. It boasts the Web-based solution is an ideal tool for retail, apparel, footwear and consumer goods firms to manage product development from concept to customer.

The cendor also offers cloud-based and “extended PLM” services to enable managers to carry out product scouting, point of sale and maquila-manufacturer updates, all from their mobile devices, says German Elizondo, who oversees Latin America for Centric Software. The services are billed separately from the company’s on-site PLM product.

“We do a cost/benefit analysis of how much a company’s IT equipment and salaries cost and then put that into the balance” to calculate an attractive price, Elizondo says.

Centric Software continually upgrades its products to feature the fashion industry’s best practices, according to Elizondo. Its modules are configurable and adaptable, enabling its clients to update them to meet fashion’s breakneck delivery speeds. To keep up with the pace, Centric launches at least four product updates and two new half-releases annually.

Mexican fashion consultant Arturo Rodriguez says a vendor’s licensing costs are just the tip of the iceberg, noting that implementation and maintenance expenses can run much higher.

“It’s not just the cost of the software,” he explains. “In reality, that is the minor expense. The software can cost from $60,000 to $100,000 [based on recent projects in Mexico] but implementing it runs three to four times as much, depending on how organised the company is. If the company is disorganised, you are not just going to fit any shoe on any foot, there is going to be a lot of organising and planning involved.”

Travel and per diem expenses can also hike the bill. “People are going to have to come implement the software so travel and hosting expenses can also add up,” adds Rodriguez.

Contradicting some vendors, he says renting a PLM system can also be more expensive than a one-time purchase. “Why rent and pay every year when you can buy the software once and get all the updates, which PLM vendors offer as part of their maintenance plan?” he asks, adding that vendor policies also offer free troubleshooting.

Clothiers can also buy PLM based on functionality modules, starting small and then adding more as they grow, Rodriguez says, noting firms would be wise to pursue a tiered instead of an all-at-once implementation.

Cloud PLM seems more affordable, at least based on Polygon’s rates, which ask $250 monthly for the service versus $4,200 for an annual license. The entire system’s implementation can run from $10,000-$40,000 depending on the company’s size and user numbers.

The sector is exploding with a plethora of cloud suppliers looking to win hearts away from brick-and-mortar systems.

One of them is Arena PLM, which product marketing vice president Steve Chalgren boasts is much easier to use than [on-site] PLM which has a “reputation of unlimited complexity.”

PLM consultancy CIMdata gives Arena’s Cloud a thumbs up, saying it provides a full range of cPDM (collaborative Product Data Management) functionality, has demonstrated scalability, and can be distributed across multiple server networks.

“Arena is simply about PLM; easy to use, functional, connected to the supply chain...and it doesn’t cost a fortune,” it says.

The service is ideally tailored for small and midsize businesses because it has relatively limited analysis and simulation of visualisation tools, CIMdata says.

However, traditional PLM vendors are anxiously tracking the cloud’s development, with some acquiring rivals to stay competitive – as in the case of Dassault Systèmes’ recent acquisition of Outscale, a fast-growing company that sells cloud hosting infrastructure.

The move comes as Google, Microsoft, IBM and AWS are also quickly developing larger, cheaper and more secure cloud hosting infrastructure, threatening PLM-focused players that lack the cash to make big investments to deploy such costly infrastructure. As a result, consultants expect PLM companies will begin acquiring smaller hosting firms to ensure their cloud infrastructure is up to speed with manufacturing clients’ needs.

Some vendors say companies are better off renting the software because of the constant updates required, similar to an iPhone or other mobile device. They claim the fashion circuit is slowly transitioning to a rent-only system.

“PLM is a living software and must be reviewed, revisited and discussed on a monthly basis with all the teams involved,” says Charles Benoualid, vice president of R&D at vendor Visual Next. “If you think it’s like Microsoft Word forget it, you are going to waste your money.”