Blog | Backbone HQ

How to Choose Your First PLM System

By: Team Backbone | Oct. 13th, 2021

At a Glance:

What is PLM Software?

Who Are PLM Tools Right For?

FHF Gear Finds a Home with Backbone

Top Features for Your First PLM

Buying Considerations for Your First PLM Tool

Pros and Cons of Your First PLM Tool

Countless fashion and apparel brands said goodbye to their legacy software for Backbone PLM and experienced high buy-in and seamless user adoption. However, if you’re investing in your very first PLM solution, you may be asking, “Where should I begin?”

Before you commit to a product lifecycle management (PLM) software, it’s important to understand what exactly PLM is and what it has to offer. If you’re exhausted from the duct tape workflow of slapping Excel spreadsheets and email threads together to manage your product development cycle, a resourceful PLM tool will streamline every step of this process from design ideation to manufacturer production.

Related Article: Backbone PLM Leads in High Adoption Rates

What is PLM Software? 

PLM software is your solution to efficiently track products as they move throughout each step in the development process. A PLM tool allows designers and product developers to improve collaboration efforts, organize product data, and reduce sampling to better align both pre- and post-production workflows.

PLM solutions can help your brand:

  • Establish one centralized source of truth that is easily accessible in real-time
  • Improve insights into the entire production process
  • Reduce time to market while launching new products smarter, faster, and at scale to meet consumer demand
  • Save time and lessen product development costs
  • Better collaborate with partners and associated supply chains
  • Provide transparency and communication no matter where team members are located
  • Limit product samples for a smoother (and faster) manufacturing process 
  • Automate design and development workflows during every stage of the product lifecycle

Who Are PLM Tools Right For? 

There was a time where PLM software was reserved for major corporations or large manufacturers — but today, small to mid-level companies are reaping the benefits of adopting their first PLM tool. For those companies involved in fashion and apparel, industry innovation coupled with consumer expectations has led to a more intricate product development cycle — meaning, brands require strong communication between internal teams and suppliers to maintain visibility surrounding vital product data.

If your organization’s productivity has been inhibited by limited file sharing, manual reporting, or muddled spreadsheets, then it’s time to adopt your very first PLM solution to manage day-to-day development tasks and transform unique designs into new products.

The Solution: Backbone PLM.

FHF Gear Finds a Home with Backbone 

FHF Gear is an American-made outdoor apparel brand specializing in the hunting and fishing industry. The brand’s inventory highlights the durability of tactical gear and top-tier outdoor products with a design that is both minimalistic and modular.

FHF Gear is a smaller company that created tech packs the old-fashioned way — using Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint. The brand decided to adopt Backbone as its first PLM tool to replace these tedious, restrictive systems. FHF Gear found Backbone with the help of their parent company, First Lite, and saw the opportunity to integrate the two companies’ development strategy for improved collaboration.

Prior to Backbone, FHF Gear didn’t utilize any PLM tool. According to Phil Larson, the brand’s Product Developer, “We saw the value almost instantly. We didn’t have anything beforehand, so most of our info was scattered between emails or Excel docs. It was never compiled in one place altogether, so now being able to change the price of a component instantly, provides live and accurate updates to see where things are utilized.”

Because Backbone is a cloud-based system, entire departments can access crucial product detail and make updates throughout the system in a flash. Once the team at FHF Gear consolidated all their component records and onboarded with Backbone, “it was only a day or two, and I was ready to create the bill of material (BOMs) and tech packs and really utilize Backbone,” said Larson. “It was pretty seamless; it worked very well right off the bat.”

The Customer Success team at Backbone strives to launch a fast and comprehensive implementation strategy to get designers and developers into the system and make the transition as smooth as possible for first-time PLM users. There are video series and onboarding training guides that help walk entire teams through the system and show them how to create a product from beginning to end.

As Larson reflected on this process, he stated, “The onboarding time in-between meetings was enough to get your hands dirty but not too far apart where life swept you away. Once I got a better grasp after the video series, I dove in headfirst and created all the tech packs and BOMs.”

Larson went on to add, “Questions were answered promptly and that impressed me … there’s nothing I’d do differently regarding our experience with Backbone.”

Even if your organization is new to PLM solutions, anyone can successfully adopt Backbone to fulfill design and production-related needs. Now that FHF Gear has adopted a PLM tool, designers are busy updating current products, and the team looks forward to sending proper tech packs to factories to “hold their feet to the fire” with a single source of truth. 

Larson concluded, “Backbone has been above and beyond any experience I’ve had before.”

Related Article: Mack Weldon Teams up with Backbone

Top Features for Your First PLM 

If you’re a part of an organization like FHF Gear that is exploring its first PLM tool, here are some of the top features that you’ll want to ensure are included in your first PLM system.

  1. Product and Component Libraries: Interconnected libraries with dynamically updated data that can be reused or edited are essential for your business. Keeping current product and component data available to your team in a centralized platform is the core of any functional PLM.
  2. Tech Packs: Look for the ability to create full templates with images, layouts, and files that can be reused for various products. Companies have reported that using spreadsheets or manual templates to create their tech packs can take days. A PLM system that utilizes product and component data to create them on the fly will save your team countless hours and reduce the potential for a lot of human error. Backbone adds additional functionality by allowing you to send tech packs directly from the platform to factories, your team, or anyone else in minutes.
  3. Bill of Materials (BOMs): Similar to tech packs, creating a manual list of the raw materials and components required to manufacture specific products can occupy hours of valuable time. Your first PLM solution should leverage the dynamic libraries mentioned above, so every change is reflected automatically and BOMs can be exported in minutes. In Backbone, built-in BOM templates provide a starting point for new products to be adjusted for individual components.
  4. Point of Measure Library (POMs): If you’re a technical designer, we didn’t forget about you! Your first PLM tool should provide all tech designers a centralized location to store common POMs in one convenient place to use across assortments and easily build Block Templates.
  5. Size Specifications (Blocks Library): Standardize size specifications and fit across core and carryover styles while eliminating duplicative work with reusable, dynamically graded rules and measurements.
  6. Color Palettes & Swatches: Almost as important as those flexible product and component libraries, you’ll want your first PLM to enable your team to manage and access product and component colorways, including custom palettes. Backbone offers customers built-in access to  all Pantone libraries for no additional cost.
  7. Collaboration Tools: Drive engagement across teams by giving them ways to work in the system together. Backbone achieves this by enabling callouts on images that dynamically populate your BOMs and collect revisions all in one place.
  8. Line Sheets Reports: A common desire for visual product reports that compile key data for greater visibility as you collaborate with internal and external partners. Look for a system that offers built-in line sheets so you can summarize and review products by season, collection, type, and more.
  9. Cloud-Based Platform: Last but not least, in a time where more companies than ever before are operating as remote teams dispersed around the world, your first PLM should be cloud-based and accessible from anywhere. If the PLM software you’re considering still requires on-premise installation, we can guarantee you’ll be limited by its short leash as your team’s business ventures expand.

Buying Considerations for Your First PLM Tool 

Brands should not rush into purchasing PLM software. It’s important to conduct your research and select a model that ensures your company achieves a full return on investment (ROI). As you explore PLM solutions, keep these three items in mind.

  1. Implementation Costs: Don’t get stuck paying large fees or waste time sourcing a development staff to implement your PLM software. Your first PLM should be easy to use, affordable for your growing brand, and provide excellent customer support with self-training resources for your whole team to use whenever needed.
  2. Integration Costs: Not all programs within your company will be compatible with a new PLM software. It may require custom integrations to allow all apps to work together if they are not pre-built into the system. Make a list of our most-needed integrations, and ask vendors how their systems work with the tools you already use every day.
  3. Data Migration: Product data needs to be migrated from any previous software or spreadsheets before a PLM system can be fully implemented. This is a necessary step that can take days, so consider starting the internal process of gathering your key product and component data to have it ready, even while you’re searching for a system. You may find your team’s workload and capacity is going to impact how quickly you can move into a new system, so this exercise will help everyone set reasonable expectations and ask the right questions about onboarding in your evaluation process. 

Related Article: Velocio’s Design and Development Solution

Pros and Cons of Your First PLM 

Like every high-tech development solution, there are some pros and cons to adopting your first PLM system. However, they are merely natural growing pains that you would experience with any evolving technology and should not deter you from investing in a PLM tool.

Pros:

  • Accurate and accessible product data
  • Improved project collaboration and productivity
  • A repository of past and present product reports for sampling
  • A faster development cycle for new products (saves time and money)
  • The ability to integrate other systems into a PLM

Cons:

  • Potential for challenging implementation
  • Team members could resist adopting a new software if it isn’t user-friendly
  • Can be difficult to migrate an organization’s prior development process
  • Not having enough users in the software to properly manage products
  • The rollout of new upgrades or system versions (additional learning curve)

Your First PLM Solution: Choose Backbone 

For designers and developers creating a new era of fashion and apparel products, a PLM solution is the all-encompassing tool your company needs. Brands are empowered to operate more efficiently, and Backbone’s high adoption rates are certainly an indicator.

Before you select your first PLM tool, read case studies, blogs, and customer reviews so you can be confident in your PLM system of choice. A PLM platform should allow designers and developers to be creative and innovative, but it should also be easy to use and accessible for all team members.

Are you planning to implement PLM software soon? See what Backbone can do for your brand and schedule a customized demo today!