That’s why many fashion apparel companies utilize a product lifecycle management (PLM) platform.
How Do Fashion & Apparel Companies Use PLM Systems?
With a PLM, fashion companies track goods through their entire lifecycle, maintaining a so-called “single source of truth” for communication on that product. This is where teams discuss:
- Ideation (prototyping)
- Development (design, sourcing, cost reduction)
- Launch (sales opportunities, partner programs)
- Support (waste-management, customer service issues)
- Retirement or obsolescence
What’s the Right PLM Platform for Fashion & Apparel?
Because PLMs meet the same needs and customer mindset as Creative Force—centralized communication and heightened monitoring of a product—we thought we’d compile a list of leading PLMs for the fashion industry. Before we get into it, two clarifications: the list is in alphabetical order, not as a ranking, and we want to disclose that we have a partnership with Centric, a provider on this list (they would’ve earned a spot here, regardless).
Now on to the list:
Not specific to the fashion industry, Aha! serves tech, media, and academic database clients with the promise to be “the world’s #1 roadmap software,” per its website. One cool feature of Aha! is its meritocracy of ideas—you can evaluate and score feedback within the platform so that your best ideas rise to the top.
Relevant customers: LinkedIn, Dell, AAA, Hootsuite
2. Aras PLM
Used by a broad range of industries, including fashion apparel, Aras PLM describes itself as being definitively not an out-of-the-box solution but instead a platform with a series of available upgrades for users of different industries, sizes, and locales.
“The Aras platform is designed to encourage business-specific requirements by offering a strategic approach to customizations without negatively affecting the ability to upgrade,” its website reads. “Investments made in customizations are never lost as part of the upgrade process.”
Relevant customers: Ecco Shoes, Fujifilm, Microsoft, Honda, Saab
3. Arena PLM
Here’s another PLM that’s not specific to fashion but is popular with large consumer goods companies in other industries. Arena PLM, per its website, “helps dispersed supply chains eliminate manufacturing mistakes and accelerate new product introduction (NPI).”
Relevant customers: Square, Peloton, First Alert, Vivint
4. Autodesk Vault PLM
This Silicon Valley-based company doesn’t publish a list of its customers, at least to our knowledge, so we can’t speak to its applicability for the fashion industry. What we can say, however, is that its PLM offers a bill of materials (BOM) management feature that makes it easy to track item numbers, quantities, parts, and lifecycle for each component of the products you create.
5. Backbone PLM
Focused on apparel, eyewear, footwear, and home goods, Backbone PLM is a platform that knows the fashion industry. Determined to “streamline your tech stack”—a premise you know we believe in—Backbone PLM provides dynamic reports, image annotation, color libraries, and so many other features that help you consolidate your software.
Relevant customers: Taylor Stitch, Parachute, Black Diamond, Criquet
6. CGS BlueCherry Next PLM
Looking for a PLM specific to the fashion industry and integrated to its own enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform? Consider BlueCherry Next, which is “designed to meet today’s consumer brands, retailers, and manufacturers’ needs,” according to its website.
It’s designed for the flexible, remote work models of today’s teams. “Work anywhere, on any device, in any browser,” its website reads. “There is no need to download software or apps. Suitable for SMEs and scalable for global enterprises, BlueCherry Next PLM is fast, fully-featured, and futureproof.”
Futureproof? Sounds exciting to us.
Relevant customers: Canada Goose, Frye, Joseph Abboud, Haggar
Our pals at Centric describe their PLM as the first out-of-the-box configured cloud PLM for fashion and consumer products. The allure of working with Centric is that you’ll get a highly customized solution—the team promises its platform can work with any business, no matter its needs, without the need for additional coding.
Relevant customers: Net-a-Porter, Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Arc’teryx
This PLM, while not specific to fashion, is trusted by some big-time consumer brands. We see why given it offers a clean UI, provides Kanban boards, Gantt charts, calendars, reminders, and spreadsheets; and integrates with Dropbox, Outlook, Google Drive, and more. It’s branded as “one app to replace them all,” but we assume their team meant to add “except for the life-changing apps offered by Creative Force.”
Relevant customers: Google, Squarespace, San Diego Padres, Booking.com
9. Exenta PLM Revo
Trusted by some apparel retailers you know and love, Exenta makes a fashion-focused PLM with “the power to turbocharge your product lifecycle,” per its website. That bold claim is matched by stats, as Exenta boasts of 20-50% increases in productivity and time-to-market among its users.
Relevant customers: Carhartt, Bonobos
10. Flex PLM
Another product lifecycle management platform with a focus on retail clients, Flex PLM was designed with remote teams and collaboration in mind. Is someone on your team doing 3D work? Flex PLM, on its website, says that "3D design tools allow designers to tap into full PLM functionality from their 3D workspace"
Relevant customers: L.L. Bean, Deckers Brands, Sweaty Betty
11. Lectra Kubix Link
Kubix Link, which we've discussed in the past, is a PIM, DAM, PLM, and more for fashion clients. This all-in-one solution makes accurate information available to everyone from designers to executives in real-time.
Relevant customers: Corneliani, Pomellato
12. Oracle Fusion Cloud PLM
Not fashion-specific but trusted by consumer brands, Oracle Fusion Cloud PLM is ideal for those of you who want a PLM attached to Oracle's extensive suite of supply chain management programs.
Relevant customers: Mazda, Sonoco, Bissell
Need a PLM that assigns unique credentials to your team members, enabling them to securely sign in from any device, including their mobile phones? Propel could be your platform. “Notifications allow teams to safely untether themselves from the office and interact with other team members or clients without worrying about missing important updates,” its website says.
Relevant customers: Shell, Vizio, Roku
14. PTC Windmill
While not, to our knowledge, working with apparel brands, PTC Windmill is the PLM chosen by several consumer goods customers. “Product diversity has been the enemy of operational efficiency, complicating processes, introducing the potential for errors, and adding development and quality-related costs,” explains the PTC Windmill website. That’s why the platform offers a product variant management tool that, in our view, large-scale apparel companies could effectively put to use.
Relevant customers: iRobot, Philips, Lifetime Brands
15. SAP PLM
Another PLM from a global leader in supply chain and finance software, SAP PLM is a cloud-based and on-premise solution used by large brands, including some in fashion apparel.
Relevant customers: Allbirds, Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team
16. Siemens Teamcenter
A PLM that counts apparel among its target industries, Siemens Teamcenter helps small- and mid-sized brands improve their cost management, product design, artwork, and product data. “It provides full product transparency, contributes detail data to stakeholders for reliable decision making, and facilitates reuse of intellectual property,” the Siemens website says.
Relevant customers: MET SpA, Lazer Helmets, Natural One
This PLM’s interface is laid out in a UI that recognizes the parallel tracks of suppliers and retailers, both of whom it serves, throughout the product lifecycle. (A supplier is showcasing while a retailer is sourcing; a supplier is sending quotes while a retailer is drawing up RFQs.) While Surefront doesn’t list particular customers, its website does speak to an interest in helping fashion brands.
As you likely discerned from our writeups on these PLM platforms, your choices are far more alike than they are distinct—most PLMs offer more or less the same features. So how do you pick the one that’s right for you? We recommend siding with the UI that fits your team’s personality—software design that facilitates creativity instead of stifling it, like what we strive to provide with our e-commerce content creation platform.
Congrats in advance on new tools that help your team promote ideas, organize notes, and create products.