PTC Feeds the Need for Speed

FlexPLM 9.0 aims to reduce the cycle time for supply chains in the fashion industry.

Parametric Technology Corporation, which makes product lifecycle management solutions, is rolling out its FlexPLM 9.0 application for the retail, footwear and apparel industries.

Kathleen Mitford, vice president of vertical market strategy for PTC, said the latest version of FlexPLM, announced April 7, offers enhanced capabilities for planning, design and sourcing.

"In footwear and apparel, it's very important to be able to plan for your line, sourcing and material commitment," Mitford said. "We took it to the next level to cut costs and give the customers what they want, which is increased adoption rates."

Mitford said FlexPLM makes it easier to plan for the upcoming season based on the previous year's results, and then track the progress of line development. She said the product's planning framework supports activities such as line planning, design, material planning and sourcing planning.

In the area of design, Mitford said FlexPLM directly integrates with Adobe Illustrator, allowing designers to create illustrations in Adobe that can be saved to the FlexPLM product database.

"We want designers to be able to work totally within Illustrator and create products within Illustrator," she said. "The product then goes to the hierarchy in FlexPLM."

Mitford said designers can also pull design features such as colors, materials, trims and logos from FlexPLM libraries and apply them to Adobe Illustrator. "This helps reduce the cycle time of fast-moving fashion trends," she said.

In response to an increasing number of retailers entering the private label product space, Mitford said, PTC has expanded FlexPLM's sourcing capabilities to make supply chain collaboration easier and enhance performance of activities such as issuing RFQs (requests for quote) and managing material samples.

"The typical fashion life cycle is 30 days to six weeks," Mitford said. "We want to do anything we can do to help create products faster and navigate the system faster."

To that end, Mitford said PTC focused on adding ease-of-use features such as more graphical displays, user-driven images and lists of information, and pop-up images. A tool called Quick Spec allows users to pull together information such as measurements, materials and trends on one screen to create product specifications.

Hunter Harris and Bud Schulhafer, analysts with retail management consulting firm LakeWest Group, said specialty retailers face challenges in deploying PLM solutions.

"Unlike ERP [enterprise resource planning] or allocation, which have already been standardized on a piece of software, PLM is just starting to go down the path of standardization," Harris said.

As a result, he said, standardized PLM solutions can offer specialty retailers a significant hard-dollar cost justification and fast return on investment. However, he cautioned that integration of PLM processes and systems can be difficult.

"PLM is standardized on processes that need to be integrated into the tool," Harris said. "And then you need to integrate the PLM tool with the underlying ERP application. It's very good PTC can fill this need, but the solution still comes with its own unique data structure. Retailers face what degree of integration they want."

Schulhafer said FlexPLM's integrated sourcing and design capabilities can offer PTC a major competitive advantage in the PLM technology arena. "I don't see that type of connectivity in the marketplace at this time," he said.

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out's Retail Site.