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Fashion Research Institute implements IBM Virtual World PLM
Oct '08
IBM announced it has signed a multi-million IBM Global Business Services agreement with the Fashion Research Institute (FRI) to implement a first-of-a-kind Virtual World Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Enterprise System.

Fashion Research Institute, headquartered in New York, NY, conducts research into technology-based initiatives and develops emerging technologies to overhaul traditional fashion practices and methodologies. FRI's mission is to reduce the carbon footprint and change the environmental impact of the industry in ways that are sustainable, replicable, respectful of the practitioners, and meaningful for all stakeholders. FRI maintains Shengri-La, a five-island complex in Second Life, and an OpenSim complex.

"We're proud to pioneer the first big business solution that leverages the OpenSim virtual world platform to address economies of scale," said Shenlei Winkler, FRI. "The Fashion Research Institute understands how to design real world consumer goods using a virtual world environment, and IBM understands the scaling challenges of global enterprise. Taking on both simultaneously is a winning move."

This virtual world enterprise solution, expressly created as a product design environment, will offer a fundamentally new work flow addressing critical issues facing the design industry, such as ensuring manufacturability of designs and decreasing substantial sample costs by two-thirds. Users of this solution will ultimately be able to enter a virtual world, receive training on the systems, and take a design from concept to prototype -- with every step short of actual manufacturing being done virtually.

This first-of-a-kind system will allow fashion and consumer packaging designers to access and use 3-D tools with the Second Life client interface. In addition it will also connect to the OpenSim virtual world platform to create packaging and fashion products, provide efficient workflow queues, and allow groups with an interest in the product to collaborate and modify designs. The program will also generate virtual product samples and accurate factory specifications that enable high quality product mass-manufacturing in the real world.

FRI will offer an IBM-backed and co-developed enterprise solution providing a simpler and more intuitive user interface than currently existing design-industry-oriented software including scalability for businesses of all sizes. Users of the IBM-built technology could see product sample creation costs and time to market decrease dramatically.

The initial proof-of-concept solution expected to go live in 2H09 will be piloted with up to 20 international design houses. Ultimately this solution will be offered as a design service or enterprise installation, to creative industry design houses of all sizes globally.

"As the Fashion Research Institute continues to enhance the IT capabilities of the fashion and consumer packaged goods industries, IBM's deep knowledge in product design, enterprise systems, and virtual worlds will help FRI bring new market opportunities to the fashion world," said Jeffrey Russell, IBM Global Business Services. "A design house implementing this solution could reduce dozens of weeks of design time, minimize the number of physical samples manufactured, and increase product manufacturing quality enough to put into development and production many additional collections."

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