Production Order tracking

In the retail manufacturing industry, we see innovations cropping up everyday but very few of these are actually able to make their mark and change existing processes. Purchase Orders are one such innovation.

A  Purchase Order (PO) is a written sales contract between buyer and seller detailing the exact merchandise or services to be rendered from a single vendor. It specifies payment terms, delivery dates, item identification, quantities, shipping terms and all other obligations and conditions. Purchase orders are generally pre-printed, numbered documents generated by the retailer’s financial management system which shows that purchase details have been recorded and the payment will be made.

Example: Every time a retail store places an order with its vendors, the retailer submits a purchase order. This document allows the retailer to track outstanding orders and accounts payable.

Companies use purchase orders for several reasons. Some of these are:

  • Purchase orders allow buyers to clearly and explicitly communicate their intentions to sellers
  • Sellers are protected in case of a buyer’s refusal to pay for goods or services
  • Purchase orders help a purchasing agent to manage incoming orders and pending orders
  • Purchase orders provide economies in that they streamline the purchasing process to a standard procedure
  • Commercial lenders or financial institutions may provide financial assistance on the basis of purchase orders. There are various trade finance facilities that almost every financial institution allows to business people against purchase orders such as:
  1. Before Shipment credit facility
  2. Post Shipment credit facility
  3. Trade Finance facility
  4. Foreign Bill Purchase credit facility
  5. Bill retirement credit facility
  6. Order Confirmation
  7. Followup

Currently the industry practice involves using multiple excel documents and emails to track the WIP (Work In Progress). This varies across different product categories, brands and Individuals.

Unfortunately, this method is moving towards being outdated. This is because using this method results in:-

  • Following formats that are not standard across brands and business units
  • Lack of real time visibility to the Buyer
  • Files being shared on emails make sending large file sizes a painful task
  • Difficult to detect and identify delays and bottle necks and hence not very efficient
  • Lack of visibility to Production Sample approvals and Final inspection reports at any point.

As a solution, the business needs the following:-

  • A digital platform to capture Product Order commitment, unit volumes and delivery dates
  • A system to track which product has been assigned to which supplier
  • Robust workflow and calendar management tools, within the PLM solution, that enable work-in-progress (WIP) tracking and production tracking
  • A system which can hold all the final inspection reports and sample statuses and is accessible by everyone in the supply chain

A Production Order Tracking feature, integrated with a PLM system, caters to all these needs and combines with them the following advantages:

  • Web-based PLM ensures that a single version of the truth is available to all participants from start to finish
  • Greater and Better visibility provides a more consistent and consolidated view of the business to improve management and control, minimizing the risk of delayed Retail intros
  • A shared, collaborative platform with real-time access to data, enables better data accuracy, provides early notification of problems via alerts and provides a platform for business intelligence to help improve decision making.

ITC Infotech’s PO Tracking Solution:

ITC Infotech provides Product Order commitment management and a Production Order Tracking solution which help provide a comprehensive digital platform for negotiation of product order commitments, as well as unit volume, delivery dates and transportation methods. The Streamlined Purchasing Procedure maintenance utility is a robust and easy-to-use program that helps various business organizations to automate the entire purchase order entries, and efficiently create and tackle the multi-sales and purchase order process in real time. Automated archiving and capturing of discussion threads provides seamless visibility between retailer and brand, and the supply chain. Once a commitment decision has been made, PLM tracks which products have been awarded to which supplier. The ‘commitment’ created within the PLM system can automatically be sent to an ERP system to generate a purchase order.

Advantages Of The Solution:

1.Robust workflow and calendar management tools within the PLM Solution enable work-in-progress (WIP) tracking and production tracking.

2. WIP tracking is a combination of statuses from ERP and PLM, with PLM providing a single, central repository to integrate the two workflows.

3. Reports are easily generated for viewing the status of not only an individual product, but also all orders for that product.

4. Final inspection Reports will be entered in the system under season\product\sourcing\Final inspection

5. The supplier will submit pre-production samples and TOP samples based on the calendar dates. The buyer will review the samples and release comments under comments tab under season\product \specifications\comments.

6. The supplier will test the fabric for fabric performance test and these test reports will be saved under the respective material in the library. At any point the supplier or the buyer can go into the material and view the test reports.

7. The supplier will also perform the garment performance test based on the brand requirement, once the test report is ready, this will get saved under the documents under season\product\Approvals\Product testing.

8. It helps to track entire purchase and sales transactions in a simplified way. PO (purchase order) program saves your valuable time from finding any invoice templates, PO forms, PO format sample or example, and purchase order online forms to create purchase order forms.

For any retailer to keep up with the fast evolving face of the industry, PO tracking is an invaluable tool, paving the way for the retailer to be part of the technological revolution that is changing the industry.

Go mobile with PLM

For business’ aspiring to be the Market Leader or striving to survive in the dynamically aggressive marketplace, ”Mobility” is the Buzzword .Mobile Devices are becoming all pervasive and both enterprises and consumers are turning to it for their information needs. With 75% of the world’s population today having access to a mobile device, mobility   has become a fundamental repository for managing product knowledge used in all aspects of the product lifecycle for business’ to have a competitive advantage in the dynamically evolving fashion industry. The proliferation of apps, devices, platforms, and capabilities is causing large and small fashion businesses to define a sustainable mobile strategy in quick time and ahead of competition. Absence of a mobile strategy leads to inefficiencies by duplicating point solutions and investments in mobile solutions resulting in lower ROI.

 The imperative needs for a Mobility Solution can be listed as:

 

  • Despite the advent of the Smartphone boom, most enterprise apps are not customized for the wide array of mobile devices available in the market
  • Inspite of people being glued to their phones and tablets for social-networking, there is an absence of enterprise mobile apps, which eventually leads to a missed market opportunity
  • Dissociation of employees from business activities and team while on the move due to lack of access to the system
  • Accessing PLM through a mobile browser is more time consuming and cumbersome .Hence, there is an increasing need for a more optimised mobile user interface, which provides access to critical features through easy navigation, which is currently not available in the market
  • Real-time sharing of images from events/fashion shows etc not possible as of now. With Mobile devices, designers can share images real-time in a convenient way using their Ipads

 

Hence surfaces the need for a Mobility application which seamlessly connects the mobile workforce to the product lifecycle management (PLM) environment – enabling users to make critical decisions and participate in PLM processes regardless of whether they are brainstorming moodboards in the office or travelling half-way around the world.

 

ITC Infotech’s  PLM Mobility Solution:

 ITC Infotech’s mobility solution for PLM systems is specifically customized for Smartphone’s and tablets that allow users to securely connect to PLM via their mobile devices. With the mobility solution feature in PLM, users can easily create, share, view and manage product development activities while on the move.

Our unique solution is developed exclusively for the fashion businesses where bringing right designs in the right season is crucial for the success of the brand. The focused and easy to use interface that our solution provides enables users to easily navigate through PLM using only the critical functionalities to accomplish their tasks. Executives who are on the move will have faster access to vital business information in an optimal manner, improving their productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, ITC Infotech’s solution also allows individual and mass reviews for the approval or rejection of various types of samples. It gives complete visibility into the product development status and related milestones through a comprehensive dashboard, which facilitates better decision making. With the new mobility feature, users can instantly capture high resolution images from their Smartphone’s and tablets and upload them directly to the PLM document library. Fashion companies can seamlessly manage their product portfolios and season development schedules, even when key executives are travelling or are off-desk.

As product development process continues to become more mobile, fashion companies need to leverage mobile technology. Mobilized teams enjoy better connectivity and responsiveness by decreasing the time needed to respond to open issues. PLM Mobility Solution will facilitate easier decision making when and where a decision needs to be made so that companies can make faster decisions that result in greater accessibility, visibility and eventually better products.

By blogsbyitcinfotech

3D interface with PLM Solutions

Market Scenario
The world is shrinking, and it is creating a buyer’s market. The customers are moving towards more discrete products. And due to fast changing world these products have increasingly shorter product life cycle. Manufacturers struggle to keep up with this dynamic consumer pattern, and it is putting tremendous pressure on them. Unable to keep up with the pace, manufacturers are spending more time, replicating others’ product, instead of innovating their own. This has diminished the time lag between an innovation and the challenger. Price drops are more rapid.

Trade Dynamics
To survive in today’s marketplace, retailers are under pressure to be better, faster, and cheaper than their competitors. This has driven manufacturers to the developing world in search of lower cost, labor and facilities. Owing to the emergence of internet, affordable global transport, business is now global and multilingual. As many suppliers design & develop products and actively manage inventories for brands, business systems must allow a free flow of data beyond organizational boundaries. Retailers and brand manufacturers are launching supplier portals, which provide a means of collaboration between retailers, vendors, factories and agents. It coordinates processes and provides transparency through the sourcing, production and shipment process – improving productivity. But, most of them, do not allow vendor level collaboration on design & development. In effect, brands heavily dependent on global outsourcing hence could face major inefficiencies in cost & time.

Global outsourcing, smaller product life cycles and an extended supply chain are the paradigms of a new market order.

PLM driving faster product innovation

To meet these critical challenges and maintain their competitive advantage, increasing brands and retailers are implementing business process transformation and product life cycle management (PLM) solution.

PLM software provides business a solution :

• To create, access, leverage and manage it’s enormous information bank and intellectual property across the globe.

• Ensures latest, accurate, comprehensive and timely information in standardized templates, enabling multidisciplinary collaboration beyond geographical and company boundaries.

• Manages product, process & people i.e. Product development, monitors and triggers processes & workflows, and manages availability and access of information to relevant people.

Developments in 3 dimension (3D) design, imaging and printing has opened up further possibilities and improved solutions for business. Increasingly, PLM companies and vendors are creating 3D interfaces or embedded solutions to create bigger value for the businesses.

PLM interfacing with 3D to provide enhanced business solutions in product development

Inspires imaginative collaboration

The ability of 3D to visualize products as 3 dimensional realistic images allows the product design team to better capture, review and collaborate the concepts in real time on a global scale. These digital images captured, through controlled workflows can be easily shared on the PLM platform, ensuring collaboration across global boundaries.


Enhances design & development Efficiency

Though it is possible to edit 2D images to some extent, a 3D image can be easily rotated to give different perspective. The virtual camera viewing position and viewing angle can be customized. This reduces design changes, improves product designs, lowers production cost and shortens time to get the product to market.

Enables Virtual Sampling

Sample is one of the largest cost contributors in the product development process. Today, 3D solutions offer high definition, detailed and realistic images of products. Designing a product in 3D lets one experience and analyzes the product virtually. Virtual dressing has enabled one to analyze the fitment of a garment, fall of the material. Through virtual imaging one can analyze the aesthetics and dimensions of a product, with color and hue intonations.

Raw materials like hardware, fabric, trims like buttons, labels, zippers etc. can be digitalized to enable the sampling process via images. This, to a large extent, can obviate physical samples, resulting in fewer deliveries and reduction in time to market.

Product Mock ups via 3D Printing

One cannot create product mock ups with 2D images, currently used in PLM. A 3D printer can do that with a 3D image within hours. This helps to catch design flaws and make the appropriate adjustments early. It’s an efficient, cost-effective way to create, improve and iterate products & designs by collaborating with product developers, merchants, factories & buyers. This enables delivery of an accurate product, eliminating multiple rounds of prototypes needed to find errors. 3D printing allows one to test form, fit and function. More than 50% of sample requirements between concept and pre-production can be eliminated through the introduction of 3D virtual samples and 3D printing. This can contribute significantly to reducing time to market & result in dollar savings for the business.

Speed and Cost critical factors

The foremost question that comes to mind while considering a solution is it’s cost. And considering the need for speed, and PLM being a speed vehicle, it is important to analyze how it operates within the given constraints. 3D requires a multitude of dimensions to be defined to visualize a product or item. This would be cumbersome and unpractical, simply from the effort standpoint, let alone cost and time. But, one can take physical objects and use 3D scanning equipment to capture these dimensions and transform them into 3D digital models. This data can be reused and modified to create new product models.

Laser scanning and digitizing are two most common methods of collecting 3D data. In laser scanning, a laser line, patch or sphere is passed over the surface of an object to record 3-dimensional information. The same is captured by a camera sensor, mounted in a laser scanner. Digitizing is done by touching a probe to various points on the surface of the object to capture 3D information. This method is more apt for geometric and free form shapes. The 3D rendering will depend upon the nature of the task, and the structure of the information to be displayed.

But, beyond the realms of the professional world today, a simple, raw 3D image can be made even at home, with a pair of red-blue 3D glasses, a digital camera, and some photo editing software. This image can portray optimum depth with accuracy for some products.

So, whether the benefits of 3D displays outweigh their costs depends upon the particular 3D rendering chosen, the nature of the task, and the structure of the information to be displayed.

3D’s interface with PLM is already transforming the product development process into a more efficient, faster, fluid orchestrated state.

Going green with PLM

For retailers sustainability requires an integrated effort of both operations as well as marketing. This will ensure the right balance between social, economic and environmental pursuits. This is evident from the fact that leading retailers such as Walmart with initiatives such as “Sustainability 360”, are trying to engage their associates, suppliers and communities to produce and deliver sustainable products.
A significant part of impetus towards sustainability is driven by customers. Products championing sustainable consumption are becoming extremely popular in the market. Additionally, consumers are paying attention to the information provided by the brands on product packaging regarding the environmental friendliness of their product.
In this scenario, sustainable products present enormous opportunities to the retailers. There are opportunities in having a competitive advantage over others and there are challenges in producing sustainable products at affordable prices.

The role of PLM

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) can play a vital role in driving the sustainability benchmarks in Request for Application (RFA) environments. By design, PLM provides an excellent platform to collaborate important information related to the materials used, packaging and compliance that can be integrated in product development. PLM can also be effectively used to monitor and improve the product development phase, especially those that directly impact our environment. The industry is looking at PLM to integrate green practices in the product development phase by making the information available for taking the greener decisions. PLM can help drive sustainability in the various stages of product development.

Merchandise planning- The planning module in PLM provides an ideal platform to map an assortment for the collection. The planners can specify the number of green styles and Stock-Keeping Units (SKUs) in the plan that will set a direction for the designers to create a collection accordingly. The marketing team can use the line plan to craft their marketing strategy, highlighting green products in the upcoming season. Management can then look at what percentage of the line is meeting the green targets and take corrective actions in time

Product design- PLM helps in transitioning away from the conventional model of designing products—which doesn’t understand the upstream and downstream implications—to a more integrated approach that draws together cross-functional teams to provide inputs in the product design and development. Sustainable design requires a more collaborative approach comprised of tasks and inputs distributed across the organization. PLM’s focus on People, Process and Product Data (3P) is ideal for encouraging a sustainability mindset in the organization. Since PLM covers the product lifecycle from concept to production, it provides a valid platform to figure out where in the lifecycle of the product sustainability issues have occurred. PLM also creates accountability mechanisms to ensure that identified people are accountable for the sustainability outcomes of the product

Material development and testing-Materials used in any product form the most important consideration: to realize the sustainability goals of the organization. PLM helps by defining the right composition of material to be used in the product; the environmental impact during the manufacturing process; and the impact of the product at the end of its lifecycle

Sustainable packaging- Packaging often has been called a “silent salesman.” Being the first level of interaction with a consumer, it plays an immense role in the majority of buying decisions. PLM can be an ideal tool to specify the right packaging specification in tandem with the specified compliances. A packaging sustainability scorecard—similar to the material and supplier sustainability scorecard—can be developed to determine which packaging has the lowest environmental impact

Supplier management-In a supply chain context, companies are not only held responsible for their own actions but also for the actions of their suppliers. The stakes are too high when it comes to non-ethical and non-compliance issues as they can ruin a company’s brand image and lead to huge financial losses. Specific PLM functionality can be used to design a system that captures and evaluates suppliers’ performance on the basis of certain key actions such as energy and water use, waste disposal or greenhouse gas emissions. Companies can create their own set of measures or use the existing measures and scorecards created in the industry to their advantage. The PLM reporting functionality can be effectively utilized to pull supplier performance data to create a scorecard and ranking, which will help companies improve transparency in working towards sustainability enhancement

Social Media Collaboration in Product Development and Lifecycle Management

Aided by the social media boom, collaboration has become the new buzzword in
product development and lifecycle management, and it is extending beyond
enterprise boundaries to include all the stakeholders in the product development
process. Organizations are increasingly using social computing techniques to build and
retain product development dialogue, and to create and leverage empowered
virtual teams. These teams interact in real time and use tools such as instant
messaging, alerts, status updates, subscription as well as other techniques to
contribute to the product development process. Manufacturers are increasingly
realizing the importance of a common community space wherein people can
contribute to the central idea pool, especially in the early phases of a project which
is categorized by frequent interactions and less formal results.
Collaboration can smoothen out product development process by contributing to
the following areas:

Requirement gathering : Social space can be an excellent environment to
find what your potential customers are looking for. It allows organizations to
establish a set of keywords that can be used to find prospects and customers.
Social connections (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) can also be used to
communicate new products with advanced features to the existing customer
Quality monitoring : Using their social network, businesses can see multiple
users communicate their experiences about a product they use. Proactive
monitoring of customer experiences can provide insights to the quality
department, helping them fix product problems in the early stages of usage.
Competitive analysis: The competition is a significant threat for most of the
manufacturers these days. Organizations can use the same social tools to
monitor competitor’s activity as used for monitoring customer sentiment.

Benefits Social Media Offers to the Fashion Industry

With mounting pressures to lower development costs, generate new revenue
streams, and keep up with changing customer expectations, one industry which is
constantly facing the heat of globalization is the fashion (footwear, apparel,
accessories) industry. Industry leaders are setting the theme for others to follow by
adopting PLM solutions to counter forces that drastically impact planning,
creative, and supply processes. Integrating social media into their PLM solutions can present innumerable
opportunities to the fashion fraternity by offering them a platform to gather
valuable information on:

What trends or colors are in demand?
2. In which segment a particular style would be popular
3. What would be a suitable price for the customers?

And eventually, this information can help organizations in making a plan for the
season, in increasing the consumer base, and most importantly, in ensuring a
long term presence in the market.

Social Media – Redefining Product Development

Usually, companies invest a lot of time and money in developing a product, which
in many cases does not meet the requirements of its intended audience. With the
advent of social media, such cases can be reduced as companies can develop
successful products by using social media to understand the pulse of their
audience. Social media tools help in building relationships with prospects and
customers and also aid in product development and market research.
The social product development approach is quite different from traditional
approaches of product development. It involves:

People-centric approach: Somewhere along the way, PLM seems to have
overturned its priorities from “people, processes, business systems, and
information” to “information, business systems, processes, and people.” The
result is a data-cataloging system that forces people to conform to a rigid IT
infrastructure. Social media, on the other hand, puts people at the forefront. In
a social network, your profile is your greatest asset. Consequently, you put
considerable time and effort to develop it with contacts, photo albums, notes,
and links. This approach literally puts a face on collaboration.

Proactive sharing and feedback: The design culture of the past is defined by protectiveness—you don’t let anyone else see what you and your team are
working on. But the next wave of designers belong to a culture of
sharing—they’ll post online a detailed description of their concept, along with
a high-resolution JPEG, in return for constructive feedback from friends,
colleagues, and even anonymous commentators. To them, file sharing is
probably more important than file locking.

Collaboration to deliver results: Usually, companies use e-mail for
discussions. However, after the third or fourth “reply to all,” an e-mail chain
involving six participants or more invariably devolves into an
incomprehensible mess. By contrast, social networks like Facebook and
Friendster have found ways to organize and display multi-user discussion
threads in a digestible fashion.

Social Media- PLM Roadmap for Businesses

Using social media for product development involves various steps right from
conceptualizing and testing ideas to finally gathering feedback post product
launch. Social Media- PLM roadmap for businesses includes:

1. Creating broad ideas and concepts and monitoring those ideas through social
media tools. This helps you to form the scope and direction for the
development process
2. Identifying trends and audiences. This helps to identify the largest
demographics for your product
3. Monitoring scope and direction to understand how your audience is using and
responding to similar products. This helps in the planning process
4. Monitoring potential features and making a features list based on potential
customers responses and conversations

GlobalSourcing: Key to Gaining Competitive Advantage

Global sourcing strategy has been one of the most debated management topics for over a decade now. An effective global sourcing strategy helps companies to harness the true potential of different sourcing markets across the globe – be it in the form of skilled or low cost labor, advantage in proximity or cost of raw material, or other economic factors, like tax breaks and low trade tariffs. In today’s business scenario, global sourcing has become multifaceted. Organizations are investing huge chunks of business money in building long term relationship with their suppliers or growing their own capabilities. It is interesting to note that competition no longer exist so much among organizations, but among their supply chains. This is one of the prime reasons for sourcing strategies to have become defining criteria for obtaining a sustainable competitive advantage in this globalized world. In an environment full of uncertainty, it is imperative for an organization to have a clear sense of direction to pursue strategic changes. As the external environment of firms have become unstable and volatile, internal resources and capabilities are viewed as more secure sources for pursuing long term strategies. Organizations create superior value for their customers by managing their core processes better than their competitors. These include product development and supplier management. These activities if performed well can bring in operational efficiency by unlocking the hidden value in the supply chain.

Eroding Profit Margins in RFA Industry

The textile industry is a mature and cost-sensitive industry operating on low margins. Consumers’ demands for more variety and lower prices usually pressurize organizations to search for newer sources or bring efficiency in their existing supply chain activities.  We are operating in a highly volatile global market where supply side of markets is constantly on the move in terms of prices and availability. In the apparel industry, fabric constitutes up to 50-65% of the total cost of manufacturing. Hence, getting the lowest price from the best source is essential to keep the manufacturing cost under limits. However, the problems of garment manufacturing do not end up with the selection of right fabric and right vendor. Several times, sourcing offshore results in what can be classified as hidden costs. This is primarily because planning, sourcing and product development processes in an organization are not synchronized well enough. Though sourcing from various locations allows retailers to sell at competitive  , giving them attractive margins, but these margins are substantially eroded once the hidden costs are quantified. The chart below shows the hidden costs of apparel sourcing in their order of importance:-

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Route to Profitability via Material Aggregation

For apparel business, improving operational efficiency is the key to profitability. Therefore, PLM has become the first choice when product development investments are considered. As the fashion business is becoming more challenging, buyers are exploring ways and solutions to connect the entire value chain electronically, including sourcing of fabrics and accessories. The textile industry requires a material aggregation solution which can enhance efficiency and enable more transparency in the process of product development. Companies do not have a single platform where users can easily access the total material consumption in a particular season or even across the season. Material resource planning (MRP) is scattered in the system. Collating data requires a lot of effort and time, and that is why it is ignored most of the times. Organizations need a solution that seamlessly plugs in with the PLM or the ERP data and enables easy access to useful information on a dashboard.

ITC Infotech, has developed a solution – “Material aggregation on order commitment module”to address all the above stated problems and offer end to end process optimization. It is a technology enabled platform giving visibility across all the activities from initial material planning to line planning, design and development, and finally commitment to the supplier. The solution is aimed to unlock the hidden inefficiencies in material sourcing, providing benefits of scale by giving greater visibility and collaboration within the organization.

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Fashion Analytics Using Product Lifecycle Management Tool

What if we could Predict Fashion?
In today’s digital age, the ease of access to information and the convenience of communication have kept the fashion industry on its toes. Customers, today,are so well versed with emerging style trends that fashion brands no longer find it easy to keep customers loyal to their offerings. While trying to keep pace with today’s fast changing fashion trends, retail fashion gurus find the odds heavily stacked against them.
Product development teams in the fashion industry have been grappling with choosing from a multitude of inspirations available to satisfy customer expectations. The big challenge on this count is to accurately predict the theme for the next season in keeping with expected trends. As buyers are heavily influenced by the suggestions given by store personnel on market trends,and also new inspirations drawn by the designers, product line decisions become very critical in making or breaking the season.

To date, technologies like PLM Software Solutions have captured all information related to design attributes while monitoring the product development lifecycle. These technologies have helped retailers save on costs, cut down on development timelines as well as track multiple sampling iterations efficiently. But PLM technology, as a stand-alone tool, cannot generate sales trends for successful attributes. This becomes a hindrance for the system to reach its optimum effectiveness. In the absence of an integrated system, the process of capturing and mapping best-seller styles to their attributes has to be done manually. This manual extraction process has severe shortcomings — it is long and tedious and offers no dynamic visibility to buyers. So, buyers have to rely on their collective wisdom and ‘gut’ feeling in making line decisions with little or no guarantee of success. In such a scenario analytical tools such as ITC Infotech’s Style Performance Analytics come as a respite. This particular tool helps retailers gain insights into future designs that will strike a chord with customers. It consists of built-in data interfaces and a dashboard-based visual interface to enable designers to do a drill-down analysis and zero in on styles that would win over customers next season. The analysis would also enable retailers understand what did not work for them and help them gain better business insight.

The Concept
How do analytics solutions help retailers to predict fashion trends / analyze the performance of designs?

So far, predicting consumer demand for fashion has been the domain of relatively unsophisticated models based on limited data available and self-instinct. Collecting and then analyzing actual preferences from potential customers is expensive and difficult.Even if companies with advanced reporting capabilities have been able to cross the real time data analysis barrier, it has been particularly challenging to predict the cause & effect relationships in contemporary business environment and provide the right answer to the big question – why was one design preferred over the other?
Advanced, cutting-edge analytics solutions such as SPA — a solution that converts information into insights — have made their mark on the retail fashion industry over the last couple of years.
Style Performance Analytics, in particular, helps designers get a comprehensive understanding of how customer preferences have evolved to its present state. Armed with this insight, designers can choose the right mix of color, fabric, fit, trims, and embellishments to create designs capable of capturing the customers’imagination. By leveraging Style Analytics, companies can also segment consumers more precisely, and target high value opportunities. Retailers can tap into the solution to take informed and smarter decisions as well as test the performance of their existing designs from time to time.

How do analytics solutions work?
Advanced analytics solutions analyze historical data by mapping data acquired internally from Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)with sales data obtained from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to give insights into emerging trends. The solution provides designers, merchandisers, buyers and planners access to the standardized data in the form of intuitive visual dashboards which can be collated to understand the performances of design attributes of the top/bottom moving styles and get new inspirations about likely trends. The new design collection that comes to the market, after deploying attribute level analytics to the design process, is essentially a mix and match of the best performing attributes embedded into the designs for the new season.
Another big plus is that that advanced analytics solutions provide product development teams with real time reporting, thus reducing the effort and hours spent in the retrieval of accurate information.Simply put, the design choices become fact-based, backed by proven sales data, thus backing up designer instinct while at the same time not taking the creative element away.

As we move ahead into the future, the use of analytics will become a norm rather than an exception. Supported by new technologies such as Big Data, Analytics will make forecasting future fashion trends a lot more accurate and effortless.

PLM, the next generation of intelligent systems

Popular science fiction franchises have often portrayed artificial intelligence as a dystopian prediction of our future. Reality on the other hand, is in contrast with these notions, and artificial intelligence has already arrived without any dramatics. We have come a long way from the moving assembly line of Ford that first revolutionized the production line back in 1921.  Today, we start building our cars even before they go on the assembly line. The involvement of technology in the conceptualization phase is a monumental leap for the PLM systems. Modern PLM systems have started including even the consumer feedback and big data into the equation to come up with a seamless and responsive PLM system. With the unprecedented growth of PLM industry in past few decades, the natural question that experts from the industry are trying to answer is what is next for PLM?

On closer inspection of trends in PLM, it becomes clear that growth of PLM by itself is channelized by other factors. Technological advancements in other fields for one have played a significant part in making PLM what it is today. Social media and big data analytics have fuelled growth of PLM into an all encompassing technological tool that synchronizes business processes. Another factor that must be taken into consideration is the changed consumer behavior. Modern day consumers have become increasingly difficult to please, which in turn has lead to rising competition in retail and manufacturing. As a result of this, retailers are facing the need to innovate their distribution models consistently. Amazon’s attempt to provide same day delivery with their drones could be seen as a reaction to changing market conditions and consumer oriented market dynamics. In a way, advances in PLM and supply chain are a reflection of the challenges faced by the industry. In case of retail and fashion for example, the industry is facing several challenges related to supply chain, product lifecycle management, and global operations. The toughest challenges include unavailability of product development data, collaboration between geographically dispersed teams, and lack of coordination between designers, manufacturers, and buyers.

As a result of these limitations, fashion retails face high costs and duplication of effort, and end up spending more time on follow ups rather than on innovation. A PLM system that could integrate brand and product strategies could resolve these issues for the fashion retailers. For example, fashion companies could use PLM to streamline all the phases from design and inspiration to sample approval. Streamlines inputs on sampling and material development could reduce the time spent in adjusting the designs as per sampling. To take it a step further, changes in design could seamlessly change parameters in materials, and associated production costs. Since fashion is a consumer driven industry that depends on changing trends, ideally a PLM system should also incorporate a feedback and trend estimation module such as ITC Infotech’s Style Performance Analytics (SPA). SPA allows designers to concentrate on innovation by accurately predicting future trends based on big data analytics. As fashion becomes more consumer driven, product lifecycles could become more and more challenging, and PLM systems would need to evolve further. To take a leaf out of famous science fiction predictions, we could even see a supercomputer that can accurately tell you what individual customers would prefer to wear in the days to come based on their social media cloud. This data could then be leveraged by the customized loyalty program and offers could be sent highlighting their preferences. When PLM evolves to this extent, we may even need to rephrase the term PLM, and call it a Brand Lifecycle Management or BLM system.