I met Jérôme 8 years ago, when PLM solutions were not a usual piece in the fashion retail tech ecosystem. I was then in Accenture Strategy and Operations, working in a project to implement integrated planning processes for a fashion retailer. Since then, technology has changed retail for ever.
Jérôme Cabanès is 42 years old, French nationality with Spanish ancestors.
He has over 20 years of PLM background to cover industry needs and has an insatiable appetite for Art in all its shapes and sizes.
TFR: What are the main challenges fashion retailers face in relation to design, sourcing and planning?
JC: Right now, there are many challenges that fashion companies are facing. We have challenges from production planning, competition coming from new digital operators, pressure on prices (raw materials and logistics), the need to show eco-sustainable and responsible brands on the circular economy, and as usual the pressure on time to market.
TFR: What has changed in the business of fashion in the last 15 years? (e.g. supply chain challenges due to globalization; new materials; new designing processes; more collections/ fast fashion; sustainability; advanced analytics; new technology; customer shopping behavior; ecommerce)
JC: Leaving out the COVID factor, the last 15 years, some new global operators have appeared in the market such as Amazon, ASOS, About You… who do not have physical stores, but who place the end customer at the center of their operations, offering them at a reasonable price immediately, products from a global market and dedicated service as the main arguments.
Above these factors, all new technologies like smartphones (the first Iphone was born in 2007) has made it easier for everyone to make the relationship between retailers and end customers 24×7 connected through the ecommerce. Also, the rise of 3D prototyping to enable more individual productivity and improve cost of goods sold by reducing the number of interactions to validate a sample
TFR: What is a PLM and how it helps companies to solve current business challenges?
JC: Product Lifecycle Management is…
- PLM is critical to managing the product lifecycle and fostering collaboration among the entire organization through one comprehensive data source.
- PLM gives full visibility into material cost / product margins, speeds time to market, controls the flow of information sharing and mass automated tasks.
- PLM accelerates this complex process by enabling brands to introduce more products with better margins, less waste and a faster time to market – improving the top line and reducing costs
- PLM helps on Process efficiency, individual productivity and collaborative decision making.
TFR: What is the story of Centric PLM?
JC: After many years on the PLM industry, Chris, our CEO, decided to tackle a massive challenge: adapt PLM to Fast Moving Consumer Goods (as opposed to Automotive or Aerospace). The benchmark was Excel spreadsheets trying to keep the pace with “156 columns collection plans”. After the acquisition of different technology companies, our CENTRIC 8 web platform was born in 2006 and we began to market it on both sides of the Atlantic to get feedback from our customers, from Europe to Americas. As of today, Centric is the solution to capitalize on the market’s Best Practices and has become the most adopted PLM platform around the world. We even have customers in Botswana.
TFR: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of accelerating digital transformation. Today, we can find new tech roles leading retail companies (e.g. John Donahoe at Nike) in a sector where tech was largely misunderstood. Do you feel business people are getting closer to technology or there is still a lot of room for improvement?
JC: The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of collaborative tools such as ZOOM, TEAMS and PLM in the market. Technology has helped democratize access to information and collaboration in real time. Today, it is very common to use technology for remote buying sessions, our PLM CENTRIC 8 helps companies to collect customer intentions over product purchases and enable to develop collections whether in the office or at home.
TFR: Do you feel machine learning will replace fashion designers?
JC: We do not think that in the short-term machine learning will replace the creativity of designers, however it can help them. Our PLM uses Artificial Intelligence to help them collecting enormous amounts of digital and physical samples of materials, trims, colors, and styles that serve both as inspiration for the future and as a record of the past. Finding and using them is very time consuming, if not impossible, as terabytes of images accumulate, and it is often easier for designers and product developers to just order new samples or create new designs than to find what they need. Then AI is a new support for the creative “chaos”.
TFR: I see many retailers with low maturity levels of master data management and poor data quality. In this regard, many retailers are far from having the right data in the right place (inefficient enterprise architecture).
Do you recommend retailers to clean and structure their data before implementing efficient solutions like a PLM?
JC: I do not see it necessary. The fashion companies do not need to spend a lot of time thinking about what to implement or structure before having a PLM. We must be pragmatic and appreciate that our PLM is designed precisely for that point of change management. The experience accumulated over the last 15 years and the application of the best practices learned together with our clients on a day-to-day basis, means that a new company which is thinking to apply this change, has infinite ideas and new proposals that they could apply to themselves and evolve. It’s not about reinventing the wheel; it’s about using the best wheels you can! PLM is a platform for change.
TFR: Could you briefly explain a couple of business cases where Centric participated? What was the need of your client and how did you solve it?
JC: We replace many endless excels that complicate the collaboration between the different departments, the boring and time consuming ppt are also replaced, errors are avoided due to the difficulty of updating the metadata and that slow down the creative processes in fashion companies. When they start using our PLM, those companies improve their turnover, removing mistakes and increasing the company’s margin. They also gain visibility on their progress in setting up the collections.
TFR: How many users, designers, licenses does a company require to implement a PLM solution, or to make it a worthwhile investment? Or what are the factors that should determine a fashion company to implement such a solution? (Revenues, number of SKUs, number of suppliers, …)
JC: We have clients from 6 to 6000 users, either in Saas, Paas or on premise. The key factors are for companies to be motivated in improving turnover, increasing their margins, or reducing product risks (quality defects). Our customers typically want to:
Take decisions in a fully digitalized and visual experience. Our PLM Maximizes creativity and reduces time from idea to consumer. They can easily create ’what-if’ scenarios, sandbox ideas and make decisions in real-time.
Use real-time data from their existing product data management systems including ERP in our PLM and spreading this valid information to E-commerce or other enterprise platforms.
Adapt their constantly evolving processes thanks to a Modular approach of PLM. The way our customers run a collection changes from a season to another.
TFR: What are the key factors to decide what is the best PLM solution?
JC: The best solution for the fashion sector is the one that people use. For the past 10 years, Centric has been massively adopted by the market and this has naturally increased our experience dealing with their needs and including Best Practices in the core of the solution. This massive adoption is based on the configurability of the platform that can manage different specifications and processes (not the same thing to develop underwear, kidswear or leather goods, for example) in one place. The other mandatory factor to select your PLM partner is to make sure they are dedicated to your business. At Centric, we only do PLM for Fast Moving Consumer Goods. We do this with Centric 8 and have 550 people committed to having customers happy using our solution daily. We do this all day, all year long and have develop an unmatchable expertise on the topic.
TFR: How Centric is helping companies regarding sustainability?
JC: We help to design the right products, at the right time, for the right channels. Integrate sophisticated 3D design technology to reduce the carbon footprint, the waste & costs of physical sampling. Another topic is how avoid unwanted or unsold products and dramatically reduce costs associated with overstock storage. In parallel, we provide a transparent framework and visibility over every step of the production process. Now a days the consumers want the suppliers to meet their ethical and sustainable expectations