An interview with Mark Burstein, NGC : PLM without boundaries

Jo Hughesapparel plm, enterprise solutions

NGC Mark Burstein

Mark BursteinApparel Thing caught up with Mark Burstein, President of Sales, Marketing and R&D at NGC to find out more about what “PLM Without Boundaries” means…

AT: Can you explain to us what “PLM Without Boundaries” means?

MB: PLM without boundaries goes far beyond the scope of traditional PLM, providing a central repository to orchestrate all information, processes, departments and geographies and serve as the hub of the global fashion enterprise. PLM without boundaries encompasses Supply Chain Management, fashion ERP and other enterprise systems, with all systems incorporated into a central “hub” that can greatly improve productivity, profitability and product quality.

AT: What issues does adopting a “PLM Without Boundaries” approach address?

MB: It helps tear down the silos in fashion enterprises. Fashion design and production is an extraordinarily complex, fast-paced, and information intensive business. Dozens of different departments and external trading partners need instant access to data, but in most organizations, information resides in silos that can’t easily be shared – leading to a proliferation of spreadsheets, emails, faxes and an inability to access timely, accurate data. For example, production planning and procurement may not have access to the latest sales data and fail to purchase enough raw materials for replenishing best-selling items. As another example, production volumes may not match in-store demand, resulting in either out-of-stocks or markdowns.

AT: What benefits can companies hope to achieve by adopting a “PLM Without Boundaries” solution?

MB: There are a number of significant benefits, such as improved efficiencies, fewer errors, higher sales and profitability, and improved product quality. For example, NGC’s customer Sport Obermeyer adopted a “PLM Without Boundaries” solution that included integrated PLM, SCM and ERP from NGC, as well as a warehouse management system. That integrated solution has delivered a Return on Investment in only 21 months, and the company has improved gross margins by 14 percent.

AT: Since the succession to PLM from PDM, the industry has always been talking about “joining the dots” of the supply chain. However due to factors such as vastly disparate systems, integration challenges, roll out issues across the supply chain, etc., this was always more idealistic than realistic. How does the concept of “PLM Without Boundaries” enable this synchronization to become a reality?

MB: Companies have to change their vision of what PLM should be and also have a willingness to integrate their enterprise systems with PLM. NGC’s approach to this is to offer solutions that encompass not only product design and development, but also SCM – including WIP tracking, vendor collaboration and management, materials management, quality and logistics. Fashion ERP is included as well. We offer fully integrated solutions and a common platform that joins all the dots in product development and supply chain.

AT: One of the key challenges of “joining the dots of the supply chain” is getting 3rd party organizations and suppliers onboard. For example, product testing may be done by an external company. How should “PLM Without Boundaries” be approached where 3rd parties will be required to input data into the end-to-end solution?

MB: It’s important to make these systems available to third parties, by granting them access to a secure central repository where information can easily be input, shared and updated. Once vendors, testing labs and other third parties have entered the information, it’s immediately made available to everyone that needs it. Workflow calendars and exception management dashboards can help ensure that testing deadlines are met, and provide accountability throughout the entire design/production process.

AT: What makes PLM the perfect candidate to act as the central repository for the end-to-end data?

MB: A web-based, end-to end solution that combines both PLM and SCM (which we call “Extended PLM”) is ideal, because it covers all the many different phases involved in product design and development, as well as sourcing, production and logistics. Having a web-based system is important, for easy access by all the various departments in an organization as well as overseas suppliers.

AT: To realise the benefits of “PLM Without Boundaries” do companies have to implement a fully integrated solution built around this concept or can they still work towards this philosophy if they have existing systems such as ERP and SCM?

MB: You don’t have to do it all at once, and that’s the beauty of this approach. You can start with PLM, then gradually build on that foundation with SCM, ERP and other systems; NGC takes a modular approach to all of our software, which means that our customers can start with what they need now, and then add other software components as needed, with the assurance that all the systems will fully integrate in order to provide a central repository for collaboration and information. All of our solutions – PLM, SCM and ERP –integrate with third-party software and existing systems, which gives companies the greatest possible flexibility in how the software is implemented.

AT: What are the most important factors for a company to consider when adopting a “PLM Without Boundaries” solution/approach?

MB: Cultural adoption is one of the most important factors. PLM adoption will force a company to re-examine its processes, and everyone involved – planning, merchandising, design, sourcing – will adjust their workflow to some extent, in order to streamline the business and realize all the benefits that PLM can bring. There has to be buy-in at every level, from the top executives on down; but the results are well worth it. Companies that take a “boundary-less approach” to PLM find that their productivity and efficiency improve exponentially, and as a result, their business can grow much more effectively.

AT: What pitfalls and challenges should companies look out for when implementing a “PLM Without Boundaries” solution? Will this end-to-end approach be more challenging to implement than a typical concept-to-adoption solution?

MB: With careful project planning and a deep commitment from everyone on the team (both customer and vendor), it doesn’t have to be more challenging. We’ve seen customers roll out fully integrated, end-to-end systems in as little as four months.

AT: When implementing a “PLM Without Boundaries” solution, how should this be approached? Which modules should be implemented first or simultaneously?

MB: It depends on each company’s specific needs. However, many of NGC’s customers start with PLM, focusing on the planning, development and sourcing areas of their business, and then move on to SCM to cover production and logistics. With supply chain management, a company will need to train factories and other third parties, so PLM is a logical place to start.

AT: How should a “PLM Without Boundaries” methodology affect the future roadmap for the PLM industry?

MB: You can’t realize the full benefits of PLM unless you take this approach. Apparel companies have focused primarily on PLM as the key to rapid style development and adoption, but it’s only part of the equation; supply chain execution is equally important, along with ERP and other enterprise systems. Our view is that PLM shouldn’t be siloed and used only for design and development only; you have to break down the boundaries between all of your core enterprise systems.

AT: In our experience, when trying to broaden the scope of their functional offering, PLM vendors can fall into the trap of offering a wide range of functionality but with limited depth. A jack of all trades, master of none so to speak. How can this be avoided?

MB: Companies should make sure they select vendors that offer best-of-breed functionality, as well as a deep understanding of the apparel business. Everyone on NGC’s executive team, as well as consultants, implementation specialists and technical staff, had extensive experience in the fashion industry before joining NGC, and we draw on that knowledge and experience everyday, making sure that we focus on best practices and the latest trends affecting our industry.

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Jo Hughes on sablinkedin
Jo Hughes
With a background in fashion design, Jo has worked with many international retail and apparel companies, implementing solutions to help them work more efficiently to develop products.

She has a detailed understanding of the apparel product development process and the supporting systems including PLM, PDM, CAD and 3D garment design.