Supply chain tactics.

Technology and services company Aberdeen Group has released the findings of its most recent survey, which reviewed the most successful best practices of thriving fashion retailers. The findings show a need for improved speed to market, better margins and an overall improvement in product development practices.

“In the past decade the revolution of ‘fast-fashion’ has caused retailers to develop products at a frenetic pace. This movement is changing the face of the global apparel industry and placing more pressure on retailers, forcing them to deliver 10 fashion collections a year, versus the traditional four,” said Tracy Woo, author of the report and research analyst of product innovation, engineering and manufacturing at Aberdeen Group.

The survey polled more than 100 leading fashion and retail professionals who shared their insights on the top product lifecycle (PLM) trends, business insights, digital transformation challenges and market developments brands and retailers are encountering.

Differentiating from competitors in a highly saturated omnichannel landscape has instigated much of the ongoing evolution of the segment, the research found. “The major source of pressure driving fashion and retail companies to improve their product development process was the need to distinguish themselves from their competitors (27 percent). This driver is made more difficult when faced with demands for lower cost (23 percent), decreasing time-to-market (19 percent), and the most difficult to attain, improving profit margins (10 percent),” Woo said.

To analyze success, retailers were categorized into those who presently use PLM – retail PLM leaders – and nonusers – retail PLM nonusers. Unsurprisingly, the retailers that deployed a holistic PLM system were more successful. Eighty-one percent of retail PLM users met development budgets whereas 61 percent of nonusers met their requirements. What’s more, 82 percent of PLM users reached lifecycle cost targets compared to 61 percent of nonusers who were able to accomplish their goal. PLM users also decreased development time and product costs – 20 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

These improvements were caused by a variety of factors that PLM systems offer. That departments are able to work in tandem instills efficiency. “Effective PLM integration occurs with a solution that allows multiple developers to work concurrently on the same product,” said Woo. “Retail PLM users are twice as likely as non-PLM users to have multiple designers working concurrently on the same design (50 percent to 25 percent).

Time-wasting factors were also reduced due to upped transparency. “Use a PLM solution that streamlines and speeds up product development by facilitating communication and cross-functional collaboration throughout the organization. Forty-five percent of all respondents say that cross-departmental collaboration has the largest impact on their company’s products,” Woo said.

“For most apparel designers, planning, modifying, and estimating occurs manually, using spreadsheets, Word documents and Adobe Illustrator files. This method generates a huge folder full of disconnected documents associated with one garment. It’s also a practice that is unsustainable given the decreasing delivery cycles and changing market demands. For fashion and retail companies, the need for an integrated PLM solution has never been more necessary to survive,” she said.

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