What is Fashion PLM, and what's the future?


Another week and another great discussion with Mark Harrop! We both recounted some of the conversations we've been involved in over the last few months and discussed some of the confusion prospects for new or upgraded PLM solutions are experiencing.

Why the confusion? 

Prospects believe that Fashion PLM can directly support a broad scope of processes, and Requests for Proposals continue to be extremely large and onerous. As a result, prospects need help understanding what Fashion PLM can genuinely deliver and how to differentiate between PLM and supporting best-of-breed solutions.

What's the core purpose of Fashion PLM?

Technical Specifications. It's that 'simple'. Creating an accurate and validated Tech Pack for products is the core purpose of Fashion PLM. However, as we all know, getting to the final validated Tech Pack can be a journey across multiple supporting solutions with many twists and turns.

The data used to create a Tech Pack originates from not tens but hundreds of applications. PLM generates small amounts of data but captures most data from 3rd party solutions. This data was entered manually for the original PDM and PLM solutions, at best in libraries, to make manual re-selection of template data as easy as possible, at worst, manually entered every time. This made those original PLM implementations painful for the users and a challenge for user adoption.

Image: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Where does Fashion PLM sit in the fashion supply chain?

With the Tech Pack and a Central Data Model at the core, Fashion PLM is suited to seamless data connection, collation, and sharing to enable efficient collaboration. The Tech Pack is also the backbone that connects many solutions, processes, and user workflows that take the product from the initial intersection of budgets, merchandise financial planning, market trends, and design concepts through to 3D-DPC, technical definition, costing, sourcing, sampling & development, selection, ordering, quality control, shipping, and intake.

Seamless collaboration must be supported by seamless integration

Fashion PLM is central to the seamless collaboration and sharing of accurate, timely data across the supply chain to enable the agility to react to market trends, consumer behaviour, and supply chain challenges, plus the visibility essential to improve profitability, quality, and sustainability. Still, seamless collaboration is not achieved by the manual entry of data. Therefore, the applications of data origin must be seamlessly integrated into the Central Data Model and workflow of the Fashion PLM solution.

This is why it's essential to understand each related solution, process, data origin and ownership. Additionally, how the data can be transferred into the Central Data Model, and most importantly, the priority to the business of seamless data sharing workflow for each process. When evaluating a PLM system, you must provide the specific requirements for your business if you wish to have a clear and open dialogue with the PLM vendor on how their PLM solution can support your business.

Image: Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

What actions can you take?

  • Understand all the solutions and their processes that surround and support your Tech Pack's creation, definition, validation, and finalisation.
  • Understand your team's current workflow for each process and define the ideal streamlined workflow.
    • The objective is to prioritise the processes, data types, and workflows with the most significant impact on the business.
    • Investigate the most efficient workflow for your users; for example, a creative process may not be structured, but the data must be structured, or it isn't easy to reuse.
    • Where is the origin of the data? Which solution is the true owner of the data – email, excel, or specialised application? Research your ideal application to support data generation for the relevant process.
  • Define your PLM roadmap from prioritised processes.
    • There could be 50 to 100+ discrete processes across your supply chain that generate data to be transferred to PLM, and you can't implement them all at once.
    • Share your prioritised workflow roadmap with the PLM vendor for an open discussion regarding their roadmap but focus on a phased scope with the processes and workflows that generate the most significant benefit for your business.
    • Be specific about each application that generates origin data that must be connected to PLM – either your existing application or future new solution preference(s).


The only way that expectations are set correctly on both sides of any project is an open and honest conversation based on clear, prioritised, and realistic requirements that may be compared to the capabilities and future roadmap of the technology.

Fashion PLM can help businesses to overcome the latest wave of challenges. However, it still requires greater collaboration between the fashion supply chain solutions, data, value-chain partners, and PLM vendors. PLM vendors should increase the number of seamless and 'open' integrations with the many data-generating applications used across the fashion supply chain. Fashion businesses also need to produce a greater understanding and clear prioritisation of the applications, their processes, and data types that must be integrated, facilitating an open and honest conversation with PLM vendors and, ideally, across the fashion industry.

Author Chris Jones 

Chris has helped global brands, retailers & manufacturers for more than three decades to align people, process & technology, driving transformation projects to provide maximum impact for the business.

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