Fashion Industry

How PLM creates traceability in the fashion supply chain

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Vilmer Ståhle
· 3 minute read

A sustainable strategy requires brands to keep traceability of their supply chain. There is a need for transparency between all players and processes along all tiers to enable a traceable product journey from the earliest stage in the lifecycle.

Brands can either use Excel or PLM solutions to collect and share data, so we’re comparing both systems and their effectiveness in regards to traceability and transparency below.

Article topics:

Mapping materials in a dynamic item library

Building a detailed item library from the very early sourcing processes to improve the traceability of raw materials is crucial for creating a transparent supply chain. 

Item libraries can be created in Excel but it is a time-consuming and demanding process to manually develop a structure where data is organized and updated at all times.

On the other hand, PLM systems provide a proven structure to create and manage item libraries. With built-in supplier collaboration to manage fabric libraries, trims, material swatches, supplier comments, changes, approvals and much more, information is automatically documented and updated as the development process evolves. 

Automate BOM to ensure consistent quality and traceability

Once the detailed item library is built, fashion brands can pick the single pieces of the product puzzle to compose a comprehensive Bill of Material (BOM). Consistency will bring quality – a well-defined BOM is the base of a cost, time and waste-efficient production process ensuring that garments will be assembled without causing production errors. 

Working with a BOM in Excel is a time-consuming process as every single change needs to be manually operated. A method that can easily entail typos and ultimately risk damaging the quality and validity of the company’s BOM.

PLM systems support the automation of BOMs, meaning that each change of an item is automatically reflected in all of the BOMs in which it is used, ensuring consistency of quality and saving time from manually keeping track of these changes. 

Automated handling of a BOM will reduce resources involved in updating it, and decrease the risk of errors, ultimately improving traceability.

Transparency: Mapping the supply chain and sharing knowledge

Traceability is the key to creating transparency. Mapping the supply chain and sharing data across teams and suppliers is vital in order to ensure a transparent sourcing and development process.

The mapping can be manually performed based on supplier information in various item lists in Excel – however, this might be a substantial and time-consuming task in order to get a thorough overview of the entire process. 

Certificates, test reports and information from manufacturers can be shared via email and personal databases, but without a centralized solution, keeping track of all information quickly becomes a complicated task.

On the contrary, a collaborative PLM system automatically maintains an overview of suppliers and information, which removes the complexity of juggling with data in multiple systems. In that way, PLM creates compliance through full transparency of updated product data that is accessible for all stakeholders. 


In conclusion, Excel requires a lot of work to develop a structured way of maintaining data in the supply chain. Working manually in Excel, emails and personal databases means that data sharing and accessibility becomes more complicated and can result in errors and mistakes that damage the fashion brands’ traceability making it difficult to live up to a sustainable strategy. 

With a PLM system, companies can make sure that data is automatically structured, always updated, easy to share and accessible for everyone at all times. PLM makes it faster and less costly to deploy a traceability strategy and can contribute to the superior desire of running a sustainable fashion company.  

Book a demo consultation to see how a PLM solution can help you improve transparency and traceability in your supply chain.

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