It's one thing to invest in a product lifecycle management (PLM) system - but another altogether to get the most value out of the solution.

Indeed, according to industry experts speaking in London last week, PLM projects should be driven from a business perspective if they are to deliver real gains in terms of revenue, margin improvement and inventory efficiency - with users on board from the beginning.

With potential benefits that include the ability to streamline processes and cut time to consumer, increase agility, data flow and accuracy, and give greater control over costs and collaboration, it's no wonder that PLM is seen as a solution to tackle many of the challenges currently facing the apparel industry.

But Sue Butler, the director who heads up the PLM implementation projects at consultancy Kurt Salmon, warns it isn't a quick fix.

"It's only really as good as the information that goes into the system, and the process that's behind it," she told delegates at the PI Apparel (Product Innovation Apparel) event in London last week.

"It doesn't automatically deliver those benefits for you. It doesn't keep everyone on time, it can't force people to do their job, or keep everyone on process, or provide decision discipline. These all need to be trained in and developed and coached into the organisation".

Likewise, she adds: "It doesn't replace the need to collaborate with business partners, but helps you share the information much better".

The first piece of advice on how to unlock the benfits of PLM is not to treat it as a technology or IT implementation but to instead look at it from a business process driven perspective.

Indeed, projects that move beyond using PLM as a product information database to a tool that supports a well-defined and stable process, are the ones that see the most value.

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