Protecting Your Brand With Product Lifecycle Management

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and supply chain management traditionally focus on metrics such as speed to market, cost reduction, consumer trend response times, and supply chain agility. But there’s a new imperative: ensuring ethical sourcing and social compliance.

Designing and delivering great brands means ensuring products are safe, manufactured responsibly, and comply with myriad complex government regulations. Businesses can’t afford to be associated with unsafe working conditions, child labor, factory accidents, and products that contain banned substances or don’t comply with regulations.

Three Keys to Compliance

Managing ethical sourcing and social compliance is extraordinarily complex, involving brands, retailers, and a host of third parties. It can be broken down into three basic parts:

1. Evaluate. Companies must evaluate their vendors in areas such as social compliance, and ask them to provide full transparency about subcontractors, and traditional metrics such as price, quality, and performance.

2. Manage. Companies must also manage a host of conflicting requirements, including Standards of Vendor Engagements (SOVEs) that may be different for each customer, as well as government, environmental, and quality regulations. Then they need to take corrective action when vendors fail to meet requirements.

3. Report. Finally, allow stakeholders in product development, sourcing, and logistics to access and share information, which promotes supply chain transparency and increases confidence among trading partners.

While traditionally viewed as a tool for product design and development, PLM can play a much larger role—orchestrating all information, processes, departments, and geographies.

PLM ensures a seamless, real-time flow of information that includes all areas of compliance: vendor, environmental, regulatory, and product. Approach product design and manufacturing with PLM as the hub of an integrated compliance system.

The following characteristics make PLM an ideal platform for managing social compliance and ethical sourcing.

  • Easy access to information. PLM systems can provide internal and external stakeholders with centralized access to audit and test results, SOVEs, vendor factory profiles, information on capabilities and capacity planning, and other vital data. The system can house vendor scorecards and KPIs, helping to determine the most appropriate vendors for sourcing decisions.
  • Workflow management. Proactive calendars—common in PLM systems—keep track of audits and certification dates. Rather than relying on emails, faxes, and spreadsheets, communication takes place within the system, with collaboration that is tied to SKUs, audits, or purchase orders.
  • Improved collaboration and reporting. PLM systems help improve collaboration worldwide, ensuring that all parties work toward common goals for compliance and sourcing, with traceability and accountability throughout. uring ethical sourcing and social compliance can be daunting—but companies can’t afford to ignore it. Most companies can take advantage of PLM’s capabilities as a central system for ensuring compliance, which is at the heart of brand protection. And this gets back to the central mission of PLM: developing and furthering your company’s brand.

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