With diverse product categories, endlessly changing consumer preferences, fast-moving seasonal trends and constant innovation, companies that develop hard goods often struggle to launch winning products. Along with this complexity, companies must compete around price, quality and consumer experience. Product lifecycle management (PLM) can help support and transform product development for hard goods companies and multi-category retailers, helping with:
Faster development cycle and time to market
Enhanced collaboration with vendors, suppliers and customers
Improved product quality
Reduced product cost
Improved design productivity
Improved data access and accuracy
But for many hard goods companies in the early stages of exploring PLM, the time and effort required to implement is daunting, and more questions come to mind than answers. Companies often wonder:
“Where do I start my PLM journey?”
“How long will it take before I see results?”
“How have others done it?”
“How different are we from everyone else?”
“What about change impact on my people?”
“We work very closely with our vendors - how will that work in PLM?”
To answer these questions, and ultimately achieve faster time to value with PLM, retailers should reference leading practices around industry business processes and implementation approach.
Leading Industry Practices
PLM implementation timelines typically range from nine months to a few years. It’s a substantial investment of time to complete project planning, requirements gathering, process and application design workshops, testing, training and rollout to different business groups regionally and globally. However, leveraging leading industry processes can accelerate the PLM journey and reduce the time it takes to realize benefits in as little as four to five months.
Foundational PLM Capabilities
The first step is to quickly establish a solid PLM foundation. Companies need a robust platform that supports leading industry practices around business processes and master data management covering the foundational PLM capabilities:
The above set of PLM capabilities will result in immediate benefits, including improved data integrity, support for a single version of the truth, elimination of duplication of data, better role clarity, and higher visibility to track end to end product development. It is also very important in the hard goods industry to be able to support foundational PLM capabilities for both in-house development and vendor-driven development paths. Factory compliance and audit capabilities further support the very tight vendor collaboration and partnership needs in this industry.
The key to getting these foundational capabilities in place and achieving value quickly, is to avoid starting the PLM journey from scratch by leveraging business processes and functional requirements based on industry leading practices for product planning, design, development and sourcing processes.
For example, when planning a line assortment, the design or product development role should not be acting in a silo. The line plan should be a collaborative effort between the design, product development and merchant teams to define the product placeholders that will be built out for the season. The requirements – including aesthetic or trend direction, functional or performance characteristics, target retail prices and others – should be determined at the launch of the season. With cross-functional areas aligned, each role proceeds down the development path, reconciling their efforts at key milestones along the way to get to line finalization.
Leading Implementation Practices
One important point to consider is that PLM is not ERP when it comes to implementation and the corresponding business transformation. The differences between ERP and PLM are significant. Treating implementations the same way will slow the PLM journey, marginalize its potential and limit its ability to achieve the initial strategic objectives.
Companies need to understand leading implementation practices in three areas:
PLM Tool Knowledge: Consider using an experienced team who knows the PLM technology and has implemented the system across hard goods as well as other product categories. This will greatly reduce the time needed to invest in designing and configuring the solution. When implementing PLM for the first time, learn as much as possible from those that have previously implemented – whether similar or different product types. Take the best and leave the rest.
Business/User Engagement and Collaboration: Be sure that the project team is equipped to engage the business users, so that the business contribution is relevant and valuable and that their time is utilized efficiently. There are decisions to make around process and system design (even for light configurations) that can be anticipated and tested out in prototype form before decisions must be finalized. With good planning, tools and templates, the project team can help the business team understand the context, benefits and risks associated with each decision prior to determining their path.
Data Migration Experience: Use tried-and-true tools for data migration or conversion to reduce risk of error and increase data migration speed. These tools can take existing structured and unstructured data, and make the data meaningful in the new PLM system.
The hard goods industry is a rapidly changing, fiercely competitive market. PLM can be transformational for hard goods companies, and those that accelerate their PLM implementations typically see the following benefits:
Reduced implementation cost and risk
Faster time to deploy with “production-ready” software system, pre-defined security model
Minimized configuration effort
Pre-defined, reusable attributes and workflows
Pre-developed utilities to enhance user experience
Improved user adoption leveraging out-of-the-box and pre-configured capabilities
Faster realization of business objectives, benefits and ROI
Learn More about Accel for Hard Goods
Accel for Hard Goods is a pre-configured PLM solution, developed by Kalypso, designed for rapid implementation, enabling organizations to deploy foundational PLM capabilities as quickly as four months. The goal is to reduce the complexity, time and effort to roll out the PLM solution so that you realize the returns on your investment much faster than otherwise possible.
Vipin is a strategist, technologist, engineer, management consultant, industry solutions leader, and a thought-leader in business operations, technology and digital transformations. He has been leading large-scale transformational engagements involving technology, process and organizational change.
Traci has significant leadership experience with change management, training and PLM configuration and implementation. She has planned and delivered end to end business transformation efforts around people and organizations, process and activities as well as tools and technology. Traci has over 20 years of industry and consulting experience driving business results by optimizing organizational structure, strategy and tools, primarily within the functions of merchandising, product development, sourcing and planning.