If you design equipment or processes for the apparel, food or consumer packaged goods industries, you know that your customers’ success depends on staying ahead of the latest trends. This requirement makes new product development an indispensable part of their business viability.
You know this. They know this. And yet—accelerating product development remains a major pain point for these trend-driven companies. This challenge stems from numerous problems that hold back business processes. As you think about the technical aspects of your customers’ businesses, you can help them accelerate new product development, as well as time to market, by ensuring that all design features account for one of the more dynamic areas of innovation in supporting the development, launch and marketing of new products: product asset management (PAM).
PAM makes content across the organization dynamically available to accelerate every stage of the product design and development process, from materials selection to product knowledge bases for customer service representatives. With PAM, your customers are liberated to scale and accelerate product development because they will no longer get bogged down by antiquated development processes.
What do you need to know to understand PAM? Here are a few insights that will introduce you and give you what you need to know.
PAM Success Starts with DAM
Many companies have used digital asset management (DAM) systems to create and launch new products. Product lifecycle management (PLM) and product information management (PIM) systems are other commonly used tools for this approach.
A modern DAM solution moves corporate thinking beyond piecemeal solutions and stopgap measures that only put one piece of the puzzle in place.
If we examine the role of creative content in the holistic design-to-shelf life cycle approach for trend-driven product companies, we can see how a modern DAM solution helps integrate solutions.
The process starts with materials that drive product design, which is in turn used to make samples that are used in product photography and creative content development. This content will be stored and distributed in content hubs and portals when the product is in-market, for use by in-store and call center representatives as well as sales teams.
Whether your customer’s business depends on ingredients, formulations, fabrics or parts, shorter product design cycles can start at the very beginning—with the basic materials used to make products. Recognize that information about materials isn’t always easy to find, even for the teams that depend on it most.
Take the example of a footwear and sports apparel manufacturer, whose design teams repeatedly found it very hard to find material textures. The company’s legacy systems provided access to the name, color and supplier of a material, but design teams could not get information on which textures were available for each brand or season.
PAM gives these designers access with full visual capabilities that engage the senses of the design team. 3D texture maps and other types of complex objects ingested via 3D scanning technology can now bring each product component (like buttons and zippers in apparel) into sandbox environments, allowing designers to configure and experiment with color and material.
Legacy systems haven’t been able to keep up with these new, complex object types. As a result, they are often stored in different systems, with low visibility and connectivity between silos— and designers have to rely on texture names or weeks-long sample creation processes to understand the final look and feel of each product. The future of materials libraries involves connecting these disparate sources of information into a unified, contextualized view, giving teams the freedom to tinker, experiment and iterate digitally until they’ve created the next big success.
Today’s modern DAM platforms empower your customers to create materials libraries that make every downstream stage easier and faster. It’s a connected approach that continues to provide value as the PAM cycle continues.
Modernizing Product Design Processes
After upstream teams make new materials available in the materials library, designers can start the process of applying those materials to new styles and designs.
Product design workflows are highly iterated and vary significantly across industries. In mass-market apparel and footwear, for example, designers select textiles and other materials from a list. Then, they prototype ideas: first within the design team, and as they are refined, with broader circles internally and eventually with retail customers.
In the old world of information silos, materials lists were maintained manually, always out of date and missing critical information like visual swatches and up-to-date volumes available. This traditional approach is extremely time-consuming and inefficient, which is why product companies today are changing it at the speed of digital modernization.
When teams rely on physical samples, time-consuming manual processes put designers and downstream product teams out of step with one another. Designs are sent for prototype production and by the time the prototype is ready for review (usually several weeks later), modifications have already been requested by another team or a material is no longer available. New samples must be ordered with alterations to accommodate these changes, as well as any changes made after reviewing the prototype.
Wholesalers face an additional round of review and iteration with their retail customers. These changes during sell-in can have major impacts on profitability and time to market when each small, iterative change requires new sample production and review.
With a modern DAM, businesses can accelerate prototyping and sell-in to drive faster, more-responsive design cycles. With full control over materials libraries and relevant data on cost, availability and product appearance, the modern DAM makes it possible for design teams to have confidence in their materials choices, for less rework and faster design cycles.
Design files can be kept connected and contextualized in their master formats, as well as easy-to-share formats for quick review and approval by people without access to design tools. With automated, configurable workflows and built-in annotation capabilities, approval cycles take less time and involve less rework.
Design Without Limits
Whatever the stage of PAM, product development is about information. When that process is fueled by collaboration, co-operation and information sharing, the results can be extraordinary. You might just find that your company creates something great: a product that customers love and an experience that keeps them coming back.
Designing the next big hit means responding to consumer preferences fast—but streamlining just one part of the product’s creative life cycle simply doesn’t go far enough, and may even make work more difficult for teams at another stage.
In traditional product design and creative processes, content moved downstream from one stage to the next, but the associated context didn’t follow it. Companies pay a high price for low visibility: time-consuming reviews and approvals, searching in multiple systems and versioning chaos.
Today’s PAM solutions should go beyond traditional marketing DAM—they should connect product information, workflows, approvals and all the product and version context that brings products and their associated assets from ideas to reality.
These modern DAM platforms adapt to your design and development processes, integrating content and data from across your existing systems and enabling teams to collaborate seamlessly across multiple functions and stages in the product’s creative life cycle.
Design without limits, faster than ever before…that’s the goal and, for the first time, it is truly within reach for the largest product companies. Today’s modern DAM platforms scale to accommodate an unlimited number of assets, from the simple (images, documents, video, product data) to the complex (3D renderings, campaigns, talent records).
Alan J. Porter is director of product marketing at Nuxeo. He was recently named one of the top 25 content strategist influencers by MindTouch.