People may imagine that a typical day as a fashion designer consists of working with fabric, creating designs, and playing dress-up. The reality is that a majority of the time is spent on a computer writing emails, sourcing trends, and for me working in a program named WFX. WFX and I did not get along. I found it a very tedious program that called for entering every detail of my design process. However, after researching and learning more, I discovered how important this program is and its huge impact on the fashion industry.

So what exactly is WFX? WFX is a type of PLM software. What is PLM software? I asked myself that countless times after spending hours entering data into it. So let us delve deeper and see!

Quick Background

PLM is a type of software program that is used in a variety of industries to organize and streamline their product data during the different stages of the supply chain. In this case, we will focus on its impact on the fashion industry. The majority of fashion companies use PLM or PDM software to help solve supply chain issues. Now you might be thinking what is a supply chain and why do we need software to enhance the efficiency of it?

Fashion Supply Chain

Above is a very basic outline of a fashion supply chain. Each part, for example, design, has many steps within it in order to proceed to the factory stage, but that is another blog post. Let’s stay on track! As you can see there are a lot of moving parts that go into creating a single product, this is where PDM and PLM software come to play.

PDM

PDM stands for product data management. It is a type of version control, which just means PDM makes sure there is a single source of truth(single version of that file) for that one product and it tracks all of the file’s changes. This lets multiple users access and edit the data at once while keeping track of it all. PDM software helps the design team in organizing the product design files and keep consistency during the hectic time of development and pre-production stages.

PLM

PLM stands for product lifecycle management. This software is in charge of managing the WHOLE lifecycle of a product from the initial design concept all the way through to the consumer. That sounds like a lot!

But Don’t worry it sounds more complicated than it is! PDM is a subset of PLM. PLM software takes the PDM product data and makes it available to other departments thus covering more stages in the supply chain. This is a benefit because it gives all departments access to the product data from the very initial idea until the end. This helps solve the issue of having information get lost between cross-functional teams or being able to troubleshoot problems before they even happen.

For example, imagine if the technical designer forgot to notify the production team of extending a zipper length on a dress so the customer can get into it. Production would freak out if they found this after all 600 pcs of that dress order was complete and ready to ship to the vendor! This is where PLM systems come to the rescue. PLM would give Production access to the product data for that dress, so the technical design team would never have to even notify them via email!

Overall PLM tools let the company’s teams work as a collaboration from the initial concept all the way through to the customer which helps spotting problems ahead(like a zipper) that cause delayed deliveries or money loss.

PLM vs PDM

As you can see PLM and PDM software are very intricate and both should not be viewed as a singular software but both as being one software made up of many! Why would a company ever use PDM over PLM or are they that different?

First, how do they compare?

  • PDM is only used in the development/design stage. PLM covers all aspects of the product supply chain thus reaching multiple departments within a company.
  • PLM is developed on a web-based platform while PDM is not.
  • PLM is a more complex and expensive system that is harder to learn, so it is better suited for large companies with global offices. PDM is easier to learn and less expensive thus better suited for smaller companies.

As you can see there is a lot of overlap between the two. The main takeaway is that PDM is a subset of PLM. PDM software is given product data by the design team and manages it. PLM makes this data available to other departments within the company such as the sales team and production team.

Now more than ever with consumers’ demand for “see-now-buy-now” and the trend (that hopefully will stay) of sustainable fashion, I can see now how PLM and PDM benefits and helps fashion companies.

Former fashion designer turned software engineer

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