The garment and apparel industries, whether of small or large scale, worldwide face the pressure of adapting to the changing markets, and consumer trends from time to time. Manufacturing in time, to meet the fluctuating and speedy demands, requires a sophisticated and organized system that provides timely solutions.

Producers today have a host of different software systems to choose from, like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Enterprise Resource Management (ERP), and Supply Chain Management (SCM) to name a few. But these solutions have so far been limited to and procured by large scale industries. Product Data Management (PDM) is developed keeping in mind small textile companies and their requirements. Software like this gives them a competitive edge and help remove bottlenecks pertaining to product data management.

The process of product development requires recording and communicating details of a particular garment to members involved in it. The traditional paper based method of procuring data is time-consuming and prone to errors. Retrieving and sharing information by the conventional means lacks efficiency and are not cost effective. Product management software is what comes handy and simplifies the otherwise complex procedure. The Product Data Management software (PDM) provides just that and much more.

To an extent an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system does help achieve this but with not so much specifications and visual displays. PDM is a subset of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. PLM finds its place in large textile industries, while PDM is a solution to product data management of small scale companies. PDM organizes, records, and allows communicating information related to product development and pre-production. This includes details like garment specifications, fabric particulars, and bills of materials along with images. This information can be shared between the merchandising, sourcing, product developing, costing, and knitting, weaving, printing, and designing departments.

PDM serves as a centralized system of database that provides clarity and simplicity. It promotes the synthesis and exchange of data among users who have authorized access to it. With the utilization of PDM, apparel industries can manage product development, operation, and maintenance. It also aids in maximum usage of production resources, limits the wastage of raw materials, helps in retaining the quality of the product, and enables to share information with different wings of a textile company.

Since every department is allocated different tasks and is involved in different functions, PDM software allows users to update information pertaining to their work, and responsibilities regularly, which in turn can be used by others to smoothen the manufacturing process. Hence any form of information recorded, created, or re-used helps to perform the production efficiently. Any input on a product, adds value and links the system to diverse users like the CAD (Computer Aided Designing) team, production managers, and designers to work with the latest data.

The PDM software provides minute details of product development like requirements, supplier datasheets, test results, inspection details, and technical design specifics. The system also answers queries related to what, who, and why changes were made formerly to a particular product, and further what alternatives, or changes were taken into account. This particular feature of the software is apt for the small scale textile companies, where design related changes are made very frequently. PDM system shoves the problems, arising from data redundancy away, and is a time saving tool.

The key functions implemented by standard PDM software are as follows: electronic data library for CAD, design documentation identification and control, supplier source records, bills of materials management, lab dips, and physical part attributes records. Advanced versions of the PDM software can work with CAD software for innovative designing, grading, and marking purposes.

Moreover PDM rules out costly errors and outdated documentation, paving the way for orderly and approved data. It is estimated that with the help of PDM system, textile companies can reduce data related costs by 20%. The data handling time can be saved by 30% and it decreases the number of data changes by 40%. Since PDM focuses on engineering associated activities and more, importantly, design related functions, it is extremely useful in a fashion, apparel or clothing companies, where trends keep changing.

Though PDM is loaded with features that can be of great advantage, this software also has a few limitations. It falls weak and is not inclusive of non-technical documents, post-sales documentation, and inventory and spare product support, service, and disposal. But PDM does offer hands full of other features, that are sufficient for small companies, like information related suppliers, purchase prices, samples and production notes, washing labels, logistics details, style specifics, material compositions, and most importantly, sharing of images at each stage of the process cycle.

Hence it can be concluded that PDM is suitable for small scale industries, willing to streamline their production, and eyeing to explore the fruits of lean manufacturing, with the help of systematic data management. A simple tool to store, re-use, and share product related data can ease out the process of developing a piece of garment.






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