Gerber Technology, Yunique Solutions Push Forward on Innovation Investment

Following impressive revenue growth specifically in its PLM/PDM arm, Yunique Solutions, Gerber Technology is making major product investments in both hardware and software with a goal of making its technology more intuitive, intelligent and integrated.

At its 2013 ideation Conference, held Oct. 10-11, in Hilton Head, S.C., Donny Askin, senior vice president and general manager of the Yunique Solutions Group, told Apparel: "We are so committed to innovation in product and we have tripled our resources in those areas."

Askin noted that since Gerber purchased Yunique Solutions in 2009, its product lifecycle management (PLM) business has grown almost 775 percent, with a 110 percent growth in the past fiscal year. (Gerber's fiscal year is May to April.) The growth has come both in North America and abroad, with global implementations in Europe, Australia, Russia, Hong Kong and mainland China.

Askin calls v5.0 of YuniquePLM a "dramatic" release, and now 5.1 has been released as well. It offers enhanced integration with Adobe Illustrator, dynamic line creation capabilities, sourcing and compliance tracking, as well as "what if" scenarios that enable teams to determine if a product will meet profitability expectations before designers sketch a concept or generate artwork.

Customer reactions
Marquee client AÉropostale, the largest teen  promotional specialty brand with more than 1,000 stores, recently went live with YuniquePLM following a vendor evaluation that began with scorecarding providers on functionality, technical fit and usability. 

Speaking at ideation, David Grant, director of application development, AÉropostale, said the business team was very involved in the selection process and that the core YuniquePLM offering was what ultimately sold his company. "The tech pack piece works, it's easy to use and it's easy to update.  The users love it.  And that carries over into the fit and sample process." 

Grant says the benefits are having one version of the truth in product development and greater accuracy and overall consistency of tech packs, which now can be mass downloaded. He also cited increased reporting capabilities, a decrease in manual work, consistently of fit and better communication as wins with the new PLM system.

The solution was rolled out first to the P.S. from AÉropostale brand and then to AERO. Training was done by the business leads and workshops supplemented the training.

Grant summarizes that there were five keys to the success of the implementation: (1) executive support, (2) using a phased approach, (3) having business stakeholders, (4) having solid roll-out support and (5) working to set hardware specifications in advance.

Another major client, J. Jill Corp., with more than 200 retail stores and a robust catalog business, implemented YuniquePLM v5.0 in September. Looking to double its business, the retailer was seeking more overall transparency in product adoption, the ability to drive a faster calendar and better cost effectiveness. At ideation, J. Jill's management team shared its belief that by freeing up time spent on data re-entry, for example, its associates will have more time to think more strategically.   

Cutting advancements & mobile enhancements
"Behind the scenes of all that has happened, Gerber in general has made a new commitment to innovation that goes far beyond the software side of the house," says Askin. "We just announced a whole new generation of cutters called Paragon with an interface that's so intuitive anyone can use it, even if they have no prior experience with automated cutting."

The Paragon GERBERcutter is the result of a multi-million dollar investment. Product attributes include ease of use, maximum throughput, optimal first-run yield and more. The modular design makes it easy to add on or reconfigure to grow according to the business. Paragon's sensing technologies constantly monitor operations and can automatically adjust and provide wizard-based feedback to operators to improve throughput and quality. And, with patent-pending Ever Sharp technology, knife sharpening stones can be replaced in seconds and get up to three times more usable life than traditional stones.

Significant investments also are being made in YuniquePLM, including a series of mobile apps that will continue to roll out over the next 12 months. The apps are designed and set up around functional roles, such as a designer or merchandiser, for example.

YuSnap, which became available in the Apple Store in June, enables collaborators to snap photos and instantly synchronize them with YuniquePLM. While on the go, design, development, merchant and sourcing teams can easily capture and share digital assets for inspiration, communication and collaboration. The app also could be used to take factory photos for compliance purposes. 

With its second version in development, YuSpin allows users to easily take 360-degree images from an iPhone of samples on a fit model during a fitting. Images can be uploaded via mobile broadband or Wi-Fi, and by leveraging YuniqueMarkup, the user may then begin to make comments on the images.

YuStyle, currently in beta testing with a targeted release date of December, will allow users to quickly create a line or collection of styles and easily add images, colors, materials and measurement templates, and the app will support a sample request.

Though details are not being released yet, other apps are in development as well.

Susan S. Nichols is publisher of Apparel and may be contacted at [email protected].
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