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Reducing Time to Market: Five Common Obstacles You Can Overcome With PLM

Speeding up the product development process, reducing time to market and getting your products into consumers’ hands before your competitors ship theirs: in a world increasingly driven by fast fashion standards, quicker time to market is the holy grail for makers of clothes, footwear and fast-moving consumer goods.

That’s all very well, but how do you speed up time to market with the existing resources you have? Especially when you spend too much time firefighting the latest crisis and disentangling communication issues to even think about the bigger picture?

Below are five common obstacles that slow down time to market – and how a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution can help you to tackle every single one.

1. Information overload

Emails, spreadsheets, PDFs, phone calls, digital artwork files, paper forms...every day, people working in apparel businesses deal with a bewildering flood of information in different formats, stored in separate silos. Details get missed and crucial data is misplaced, inevitably leading to delays, rework and time spent hunting down lost information. Imagine having all of that information in one place, updated in real time and instantly accessible to anyone who needs it...that’s exactly what PLM does.

Don’t: Waste time wading through a mess of emails and files. That time adds up quickly!

Do: Immediately access the information that’s most relevant to you. Yes, instantly.

2. Poor communication

“Wait, the design team changed the sleeves? When did they send that email?” Breakdowns in communication with internal team members and suppliers is bound to cause delays and costly misunderstandings. PLM gives you a ‘single version of the truth’ approach to line planning, global sourcing, calendar management, materials management, quality management, collection management, technical design and retail execution. The information your designers are looking at is the same information seen by your product team, sourcing team, executive team and even vendors.

Don’t: Have a team meeting on Monday to review spreadsheets for your executive meeting on Thursday to make sure you’re pulling the right data for that line report.

Do: Run a PLM report 10 minutes before your executive meeting showing projections and line planning.

3. Data discrepancies and errors

Odds are your product team has one way of tracking data while your creative team has another. Did your product manager add that new item to spreadsheet version 5 or are you on version 6 now? Does your sourcing team have the right colorways for a style or are they pricing the wrong material? And now you have an email in your inbox from your executive asking for an analytics report…due yesterday.

When you’re trying to run a business using independent data silos, the room for human error is mansion-sized. A single source of truth helps eliminates the need to juggle these labor-intensive data sources, giving you access to real-time, accurate data.

Don’t: Delay your new line by weeks because you unknowingly used old data and ordered the wrong samples.

Do: Meet your deadlines because your BOM was correct…the first time.

4. Inability to make accurate and quick decisions

When businesses are developing products for four or five brands across multiple seasons and working with suppliers from across the globe, it can be difficult to have confidence in the accuracy of product data. This makes smart and timely decisions almost impossible.

With PLM, there’s a prioritization system and clear information which speeds everything up so you don’t have to start from scratch each time you develop new products. You can quickly see where all products are in the development process, allowing managers to make quick decisions with more visibility into operations.

Don’t: Lose sleep at night worrying about your inability to make smart decisions because of incomplete or outdated data sources.

Do: Sleep easy knowing that all information is accurately kept in one place so you can make the right decisions tomorrow.

5. Profit pressure

It’s unlikely that your headcount budget will grow at the same rate as your SKU count. Whether you’re an emerging company or a multi-million-dollar brand, you’re ultimately in the business of growth. More SKUs are added to your line with fewer people to manage it. You feel the squeeze of tighter margins and higher ROI expectations. Fortunately, PLM reduces the amount of time your teams spend on managing spreadsheets and non-value added tasks, freeing up their time to focus on their area of expertise and work more efficiently under pressure.

Don’t: Hire someone who spends their day copying and pasting updates to 10 or 100 spreadsheets.

Do: Hire someone who spends their day moving product forward and contributes to the bottom line.  

PLM can do all this – and a whole lot more

When it comes to reducing time to market, all of the common obstacles described above can be effectively tackled with a PLM solution. And that’s really just the beginning – as you embark on your discovery of PLM you’ll find more benefits, from less stress in the workplace to more opportunities for creative collaboration.

Using a central source of actionable product data to streamline operations, improve forecasting and compete in today’s fierce and innovative retail climate is no longer optional—it’s mandatory.

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