Understanding Product Lifecycle Management for the Fashion Industry

In every industry, businesses need to closely manage every aspect of product development, production, distribution, and sales. In the fashion industry, styles come and go, and in a single season fashion companies put out expansive collections. To operate a business with quick product turnover, you need the proper software to facilitate this process.

For example, product lifecycle management (PLM) software can help your company run smoothly and successfully because of the extent of its tools and features. Understanding how the software works and how your company can benefit from it is the first step to achieving more organized and efficient product management.

PLM Software Basics

It requires a lot of work and collaboration to take a product from a rough idea to a market-ready commodity. PLM software helps companies oversee and organize this entire process for each product it sells.

Every product goes through the following stages: product design, merchandising, sourcing, and finally, retail. The complete development and creation of any given project require communication between both internal and external teams, and PLM makes this collaboration easier.

At its core, PLM software is a centralized repository for all information related to a product’s lifecycle. More advanced PLM systems have built-in features that help project managers communicate with individual employees and teams, search and analyze data, cut costs, and make production more efficient.

Common PLM features include:

  • Bill of materials (BOM)
  • Workflow management
  • Team member management
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) management and sharing
  • Government regulation compliance tracking
  • Cloud-based storage
  • A virtual assistant
  • Prototyping software and storage
  • A mobile app
  • Various documentation tools
  • Component management

The Unique Needs of the Fashion Industry

When it comes to product development and merchandising, the fashion industry is unlike any other. A few factors that set the fashion industry apart include:

  • An intensely creative and visual design process
  • The rapid demand for new products
  • The fast pace of fashion trends
  • Seasonal changes
  • A wide range of size and color combinations (SKUs) for products
  • Complex sourcing strategies
  • Major shifts in social, geopolitical, financial, and environmental trends that impact consumers (for example, the recent popularity of sourcing transparency and sustainable clothing)

Due to the specialized needs of clothing companies, standardized PLM software may not have all the features that your company needs for efficient product lifecycle management. That’s why fashion-specific systems, such as PLM apparel software by Centric, were created.

PLM and the Fashion Industry

Clothing companies need digital solutions for the unique challenges discussed above. Fashion-focused PLM platforms aim to provide these services.

For example, PLM software for apparel producers may include the following features or enhancements:

  • Mobile app access for whenever inspiration strikes, even if you’re out of the office
  • An intensely visual and intuitive designer interface
  • 3D integration, such as 3D sample reviews
  • Digital libraries for fabrics and trims along with artificial intelligence and smart, image search capabilities
  • Real-time data and business updates to help developers keep up with quickly-changing fashion trends
  • Shared databases and communication tools that connect teams in charge of design, development, specs, sourcing, manufacturing, financial planning, quality control, and retail presentation
  • Tools that facilitate bulk orders and negotiation

Why Invest in PLM?

Many fashion companies have multiple brands, expansive clothing lines, seasonal changes, countless material suppliers, a large team of designers with unique ideas, intense competition, and standards for product quality. Together, these factors create a for a singular management platform with broad capabilities.

PLM software helps keep production organized, efficient, and within budget. Without it, miscommunication occurs between teams, materials get wasted, ideas get lost, and those in design and development lose sight of merchandising goas, and vice versa.

Robust PLM platforms help eliminate these issues and let apparel producers focus on what they love: designing and selling high-quality clothing that helps people express their own style.


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