It Is Easy Being Green!

PLM drives sustainability efforts in product development for retail, apparel, footwear industries


Merchandise planning

The planning module in PLM provides an ideal platform to map an assortment for the collection. The planners can specify the number of green styles and Stock-Keeping Units (SKUs) in the plan that will set a direction for the designers to create a collection accordingly. The marketing team can use the line plan to craft their marketing strategy, highlighting green products in the upcoming season. Management can then look at what percentage of the line is meeting the green targets and take corrective actions in time.

Product design

Product sustainability expanded the horizon of design from a narrow upstream activity to a broader process encapsulating wider considerations of the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Renew), many of which lie outside the expertise of traditional designers and product managers. PLM helps in transitioning away from the conventional model of designing products—which doesn’t understand the upstream and downstream implications—to a more integrated approach that draws together cross-functional teams to provide inputs in the product design and development.

Conventionally, designers create products that meet the needs of consumers irrespective of their social and environmental implications. The challenge is to develop a framework which promotes creation of these products with sustainability in mind. PLM helps to create these frameworks in the following ways:

  • Sustainable design requires a more collaborative approach comprised of tasks and inputs distributed across the organization. PLM’s focus on People, Process and Product Data (3P) is ideal for encouraging a sustainability mindset in the organization.
  • Sustainability requires infrastructure linking to allow people to identify and cooperate with each other’s sustainability programs. PLM enables a transparent flow of information across the supply chain, ensuring that sustainability initiatives promoted by one group are supported by others.
  • Since PLM covers the product lifecycle from concept to production, it provides a valid platform to figure out where in the lifecycle of the product sustainability issues have occurred.
  • PLM creates accountability mechanisms to ensure that identified people are accountable for the sustainability outcomes of the product.

Material development and testing

Materials used in any product form the most important consideration: to realize the sustainability goals of the organization. PLM helps by defining the right composition of material used in the product; the environmental impact during the manufacturing process; and the impact of the product at the end of its lifecycle. Here are some of the ways in which PLM can help increase the use of greener materials:

  • Information on the environmental footprint of the materials used should be made available to designers. PLM captures this information through the definition of key attributes on every material used in the product. The simple act of increasing the natural component in the fabric goes a long way in creating sustainable products in the apparel and footwear industry.
  • The Bill-of-Materials (BOM) in PLM consolidates all materials that are used in the product with information on their usage, content and their environmental impact (as defined by attributes on the material). The BOM plays an important role in calculating the sustainability index of the product.
  • Analytical and reporting capabilities of the PLM can be used to trigger an alert if material content exceeds the accepted levels defined by the compliance and regulatory bodies.

Sustainable packaging

Packaging often has been called a “silent salesman.” Being the first level of interaction with a consumer, it plays an immense role in the majority of buying decisions. With increasing awareness among consumers about the economic, social and environmental impact caused by product packaging, sustainable packaging has become a key consideration while shopping.

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