Interview with Tony Parkinson

Tony Parkinson
Tony Parkinson
Option Systems Limited (OSL)
Option Systems Limited (OSL)

What are the latest innovations in product lifecycle management (PLM) and ERP solutions?

There is a continuing move towards 'applications as a service', where systems are seen more as a utility, which also typically involves cloud deployment.  Systems are becoming increasingly integrated, both within a business and with trading partners, and it is safe to say this trend will continue, with no company operating in isolation.  This approach has huge benefits for information accuracy, labour-saving and speed to market.

In the product development world, 3D design and prototyping are making some inroads, and it is easy to see how well that can work with footwear and simple products, but harder to see how well it can translate to concepts like dress design.  The prize here is to reduce the number of samples produced, resulting in faster time to market and lower development costs. 

What are the challenges that apparel and retailers will face by 2020? How can they be more prepared in terms of IT solutions?

2020 is not so far off now; it starts in less than two years.  I think it is safe to say that most of the challenges on that timescale are easy to foresee - landlords are likely to compromise to balance store rent and occupancy, duty changes are likely unless the looming trade war fizzles out, currency fluctuations are likely to result from Brexit and trade wars, consumer engagement will still tax brand's creative minds.  Unfortunately, IT solutions cannot solve any of these challenges, but they can position the business to understand the ramifications and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

How does your software improve speed in PLM?

There are several ways in which Styleman PLM software improves speed to market, primarily by reducing the possibility of errors and by driving the development schedule according to the desired timetable.  Errors are reduced by both the factory and company looking at the same data, by the accuracy of the tech pack and by quality of feedback from sample fit sessions.  A development style inherits a defined critical path for the type of garment, source country and desired tracking points, and notifies all personnel of upcoming and overdue events in the cycle.  Management have overviews of all the products in development and can easily spot and anticipate problems.

What are the challenges in getting people to adapt to newer technologies?

Typically, clients using Styleman PLM are moving on from Excel as a development tool, usually since the volume of products being developed outgrows the ability of Excel to manage it.  Excel is highly flexible and simple to use for this sort of purpose.  However, its information is siloed and generally not shared with others involved, and its limits are soon apparent as the volume of products and size of development team increases.   

PLM vendors' challenges are to provide the simplicity of use of the Excel spreadsheet but over a purpose-built collaborative database.  In Styleman PLM, we have a report builder that allows users to construct their preferred data view, which can then be used to show and update data within the application. 

How was your fiscal 2016-17? What are your financial targets for the year 2018-19?

Following a dip in revenues after the financial crisis of 2007-8, OSL has enjoyed sales growth and profitability throughout the 2010s.  We tend to budget conservatively and Brexit has definitely impacted new business sales in 2017.  Our targets for 2018 are the same as 2017 and hopefully for 2019, we will have some clarity on the new business landscape.

What are your future plans?

For software companies, business is in continual development to take advantage of new technology, standards, devices and ideas.  The business is in a long transition to a more cloud-based model, but we still see a lot of companies who like their data on a box in the corner.  We are seeing more adoption of mobile technologies, both within a business and for business partners - sales, customers and suppliers.  We are also keeping an eye on voice interface (Siri, Alexa, Google, etc.), which is certainly gaining traction on home devices but has yet to make it into the office. (HO)
Published on: 27/04/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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