Infor Fashion PLM Offers Product Lifecycle Management for the Fashion Industry with a Fresh Approach

Infor recently announced the availability of Infor Fashion PLM, a brand new application, built from the ground up, that aims to link tricky and vital areas of “softlines” product development to the supply chain—from line planning, design, development and sourcing, to production, inventory management, customers, and distribution. Infor Fashion PLM was written with a fresh approach, developed using the latest technologies to help brands, manufacturers, and private brand retailers create styles, materials, and trims more quickly and efficiently, with more consistent quality, all while ensuring they stay on schedule.
This release means that Infor has become the very first enterprise resource planning (ERP) provider that can offer a product lifecycle solution (PLM) in all of the following realms: discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing, and fashion/apparel manufacturing and retailing.

The Long Catwalk to Infor Fashion PLM
Via inherited acquisitions, Infor has long had various pieces of fashion PLM and ERP capabilities. From former Lawson Software came Infor M3 ERP and Freeborders PLM, while former SSA Global had brought what are today Infor System21 ERP and Runtime PLM offerings. The issue with these combinations was that they were written as standalone and they also had different apparel industry focuses—Freeborders had more functionality for retailers and importers, whereas Runtime was more suited for overseas apparel manufacturers.
After Infor acquired Lawson, Infor  decided on these products’ go-forward strategy and the decision was made to select the best concepts from both PLM products, rewrite it on Microsoft .NET Framework, make it interoperable, and plan to add new functionality such as assortment planning (which leading fashion PLM vendors typically don't have). The currently available release is mostly about product data management (PDM) and includes critical path management, but external collaborative PLM will come later, likely not that far in the future. The offering is available to be deployed on-premises at this stage.
This brand new PLM solution is a key component of Infor Fashion, envisioned to be one of the most functionally rich application suites for today’s market. As can be seen in Figure 1, Infor Fashion PLM supports the design process, new collection development cycle, and will streamline the overall planning process. It is designed to serve as the platform and hub for a product development team, so that organizations can deliver better products to consumers faster, while eliminating unnecessary cost.

Figure 1 - Infor Fashion PLM planned process scope (click for larger images)

Fashion PLM’s Stylish “Look and Feel”
Infor Fashion PLM supports the parallel development and execution of new styles to speed up processes and shorten the time to consumer. Many common and time consuming repetitive tasks are automated and processed behind the scenes, enabling fashion designers to focus on being more creative and innovative. As Figures 2–3 illustrate, the new user experience aims to make this solution quick to learn, which increases user adoption and reduces training time during the implementation cycle. Each collection, style, and its components can be accessed through an intuitive user interface (UI).

Figure 2 - Fashion PLM's intuitive user interface (UI)

Infor Fashion PLM can interact with ERP systems, which should allow original design concepts to be communicated clearly and executed accurately through every phase of development, production, and distribution to the end customer. With the entire Infor Fashion suite, organizations should soon have all the tools to convert creative concepts to commercial products more rapidly and accurately, with reduced lead times, decreased costs, and ensured quality as results.

Figure 3 - Screenshots showing Fashion PLM's configurable functionality

How Will Infor Fashion PLM Unfold?
While competitors like Lectra, PTC, Dassault Systemes, Centric Software, NGC, SAP AFS (Apparel & Footwear Solution), TradeStone Software, and others should take note, it will be interesting to watch how the challenge by Infor affects the market..
It is also important that Infor seamlessly ties the new Infor Fashion PLM module to its Infor M3 and Infor System21 ERP products so that the product has a native style/color/size matrix embedded for use throughout the whole process, from ordering and purchasing to production and shipping. Infor has a number of legacy Fashion PLM customers that it is hoping to migrate to the new Infor Fashion PLM. On the other hand, standalone PDM/PLM users are vulnerable to being targeted by other fashion PLM competitors. Infor already has a broader PLM than many vendors and an extensive fashion industry specific enterprise suite to leverage with a focus on user experience. Over the coming months, we will see how things unfold.
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