The industry 4.0 revolution introduced various technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, blockchain, artificial intelligence, etc. It’s no surprise that the Product Lifecycle Management software (PLM) is also rising. PLM is said to be the backbone of a company.  

The apparel, footwear, and accessories industry are competitive in nature. To compete in this industry, companies have to deal with various complexities. So, they are looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways to bring new products to market. Apparel PLM centralizes the entire product record, improves collaboration across dispersed teams, and boosts productivity. 

But, how did PLM get to this stage?  

Let’s explore the origin, present, and future of Apparel PLM software.  

How did it all start? 

Before the PLM software was introduced, apparel, footwear, & accessories companies used basic technologies to design products. Product Data Management (PDM) was introduced to manage product-related information. Additionally, the apparel, footwear, & accessories industries also used excel spreadsheets to manage all the product-related data. During those days, the companies also used Microsoft Access which is a database management system to store all the product information. In the 1980s, the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software was introduced. The apparel PLM software was used only for data management.  

Today’s Apparel PLM systems 

Today’s apparel PLM solution continues to extend the traditional boundaries of PLM. It resolves issues of emerging complexities due to reducing wasted information, resources, and materials. The PLM system eliminates silos, ensuring that every permission team member in a business can refer to a single source of truth.  

Today, PLM acts as a standalone application wherein it does not support the collaborative environment. It supports end-to-end product development. It offers seamless integrations with the supply chain but lacks in supporting integrated digital product creation. Provides better image visualization of integrated 2D images through adobe illustrator but does not support 3D. PLM offers transformation of people, processes, and technology for a particular business unit. The software includes separate tools for softlines and hardlines. PLM does not support the voice of customers.  

PLM is also used to build legacy applications for apparel companies. While apparel PLM offers cross-functional collaboration and enhances data security and accessibility, there are certain limitations associated with it. It has less impact on delivering effective integrations and re-use between design and manufacturing, quality or go-to-market.  

While today’s PLM has certain limitations, the future of PLM looks quite interesting.  

What does the future of Apparel PLM look like?  

In the future, digital transformation will help apparel, footwear, & accessories businesses to sustain in the competitive industry and reach their revenue goals. The future of apparel PLM will be more of a collaborative environment. A survey by Deloitte Insights found that a company’s revenue growth is directly proportional to the level of digital maturity.  

PLM will help companies drive digital transformation in various forms:  

  • Connected Systems: Integrating PLM systems with various software like the ERP, Digital Material libraries, product testing software, marketing & planning software, 3D CAD software, Voice of Customer, etc. will enable seamless data flow between the system. Real-time access for each team member, miscommunication, and wasted time will be things of the past. It will also be possible to integrate with suppliers and third-party applications.  
  • Improved data visualization: Apparel PLM software is integrating many technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, etc. to increase the quality of PLM data visualization. Better data visualization by integration with 3D digital assets. Better product data management will also be possible as PLM can be integrated with companywide PIM governance and solutions.  
  • Outspread PLM use: Currently, PLM is being used for effective product data management. But, in the future, PLM can be applicable to various business needs such as order management and quality management. PLM will become more flexible to fit in a variety of needs. It will also support end-to-end product development along with a connected supply chain and integrated digital product creation.  

Wrapping Up 

Earlier PLM was used as a set of separate software tools that helped apparel; footwear, & accessories businesses achieve their goals. Today, PLM acts as a single source of truth connecting various departments to work together. In the future, PLM will empower businesses to design their products and rework them to create more optimized products. PLM will be more flexible providing a comprehensive environment reducing costs, maintenance, increasing revenue, maximizing product portfolio value, and the value of the product for both customers and stakeholders.