Arena Swims to the Top with PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

July 23, 2010 at 06:55 | Posted in Research | Leave a comment
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Posted On: 3/31/2010

Arena Swims to the Top with PLM

Founded in Italy during the early 1970’s, Arena is known for its authentic waterwear brands for athletes and sports lovers, and enjoys a following of top athletes and water sports lovers because of its reputation for best performing equipment and apparel.

Arena works diligently to maintain leadership in the field of top competition swimwear, investing on research and innovation to develop a best-in-class product range including high performance technical suits, glamorous styles and innovative beachwear and equipment.

Like most companies, Arena is challenged to bring the right products to market at the right time and to stay ahead of the competition. And, like many companies, says Vincenzo Gamberale, Arena Group’s global IT coordinator, “We were challenged by partly integrated processes, both internally and externally. This resulted in time wasted and risk of errors.”

Prior to implementing a new system, all company files were managed on local PCs, and all related procedures were manual, including modifications, updating and publishing on shared network folders. The collaborative flow was supported only through e-mails, resulting in misalignment and data inconsistencies with no control over procedural flows, and no opportunity to track changes on sketches or technical sheets including bill of material, construction specifications and fitting results. All of this disjointedness translated into disharmonized and time-wasting procedures in managing the product lifecycle.

The PLM approach and timeline

Arena knew it needed a consolidated PLM solution. Its approach was to create a PLM platform using Lectra Fashion PLM, a modular and scalable solution tailored specifically to the needs of the fashion industry.

Arena’s PLM system would consist of three integrated modules. The basic module is PDM, which represents the foundation of the entire solution, and is the basis for the other two modules, Workflow and Line Planning.

From the beginning, Arena defined a progressive implementation strategy, starting with PDM functionalities that could support the users’ operational flows. The initial analysis phase was scheduled from November 2007 through March 2008. Subsequently, Arena started a pilot project using its Fall/Winter 2009 collection, managing the data simultaneously with its legacy procedures until July 2008.

In September 2008, Arena officially launched the “go live” phase on PDM with its Spring/Summer 2010 collection. After procedures were fine-tuned and consolidated, Arena started the second phase, implementation of the Workflow module, in July 2009. The company devoted roughly one month to initial analysis, in order to define a “core” process flow to be implemented in the Spring/Summer 2011 collection.

Arena recently started the preliminary evaluation phase of the Line Planning module in order to conduct a thorough investigation of the factors determining the structure of its collections, both in quantitative terms relative to the balancing of styles and colors, to the financial aspects and the resources needed.

Technical requirements

Arena has a unique ERP solution implemented at a local level for each business unit. One of the goals the company wants to achieve with the PDM module is the creation of a centralized master repository to interface with the local ERP systems. Because of this situation, the PDM has been designed to match the requirements at a local level. Consequently, Arena was not constrained by the pre-existing IT system, with the only exceptions being the interfaces required between the local ERPs and the PDM module.

The basic prerequisite from a technical point of view was a solid platform with consolidated references. When Arena started this project, the team was aware that the Lectra Fashion PLM implementation would be the first on a Microsoft database, as all of Lectra’s customers at the time were on Oracle infrastructures.

There were, early on, some technical difficulties related to this, but Gamberale says that Arena received full support from Lectra to solve those issues, and further attributes the success of the project to the Lectra consultants’ knowledge of Arena’s business.

Other important factors contributing to success, according to Gamberale, were the commitment from the company’s internal management and the experience of the project work group.

The company was also flexible in its approach, making changes when needed. One of the goals of the Arena implementation, for example, was to adapt the software to the current procedures, trying to eliminate redundancies while rationalizing the processes and automating them.

While this worked in some cases, in others the company decided to adopt alternative flows in order to improve the legacy procedures, and was able to benefit in this regard from the previous experience of Lectra’s consultants.

Benefits of the Lectra Fashion PLM solution

Arena product design and development processes are centralized, from design through product engineering, to the modeling and fitting of the prototypes and samples, while the production is entirely outsourced to third-party vendors, typically in the Far East. The whole product development cycle involves a continuous interaction among both internal departments (such as sales, marketing and sourcing) and external parties (such as design studios, suppliers and commercial business units).

The primary advantages gained during the Lectra Fashion PLM implementation are all linked to the collaborative flows that the company is now able to execute in an effective way, says Gamberale. As a result, Arena has reduced time to market of whole collections while optimizing their costs. “We have minimized the errors and manual data re-entry, are able to track in real time all the product modifications that occurred and can share and approve in real-time the sketches made by the external design studios,” he says.

Additionally, the business units can select their own collections in an interactive way, and communication flow with business units and vendors is kept under control. “Finally, due to the centralized repository and web-based architecture, all data are updated in real-time and are promptly accessible by each one of the actors involved in the collaboration process at a world-wide level,” he adds.

Looking forward, Arena has started a process aimed to share and capitalize on the internal knowledge, which it expects to further improve the quality level of its collections.

The Arena Group contributed this story to Apparel.

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