Starting next semester, students in the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT) at Washington State University will now have access to a widely used product lifecycle management (PLM) software in the retail, fashion, footwear, and apparel industries.

Technology company PTC is contributing more than $1 million worth of its FlexPLM software suite to the AMDT program, which will allow students to build career skills by mastering the same technology used by iconic brands and retailers to design and develop products.

“We’re delighted to partner with PTC and excited about the prospect of including its FlexPLM solution in our curriculum,” said Ting Chi, chair of AMDT. “This will make the learning process more tangible and industry-relevant for our students. They won’t just be learning concepts; they’ll be getting a holistic, practical education that allows them to learn the art of designing and developing products, as well as gaining an in-depth understanding of the entire supply chain by the time they graduate.”

Product lifecycle management typically includes managing the entire product development process, from planning through design, full specification development, sourcing, costing, and pre-order confirmation.

The department will begin implementing FlexPLM software in the Spring 2021 semester. PTC’s consulting partner ITC Infotech is supporting WSU’s launch of the software, leveraging PTC’s Value Ready Deployment (VRD) profile to streamline the implementation process and ensure that managed information, such as product, material, color, and specification definitions, are consistent with the retail industry.

“Our eventual goal is to integrate FlexPLM into as many classes in the curriculum as possible, from 100-level courses to 400-level,” Chi said. “One day, graduating seniors will have produced a product lifecycle portfolio of all their work that they can show to prospective employers.”

“We hear often from people in the industry saying they wish they had access to our PLM software when they were in school,” said Bill Brewster, senior vice president and general manager of PTC’s Retail Business Unit. “By allowing students to use our software, it makes them more ready-to-work for the industry, provides them with vital hands-on experience, and helps them to gain the digital skills needed for a successful career in fashion and retail.”

Once the program is fully up and running at WSU, Chi said he thinks it will showcase the value of a WSU AMDT education. “When students see this industry-relevant curriculum, we know that it will lead to more interest, and more students, in our program,” Chi said. “And we’ve talked to many brands and retailers that are thrilled our students will have this experience coming out of school. Employers won’t need to spend extra time and resources training them, they’ll be more job-ready on day one.”

“ITC looks at the current engagement as an opportunity to combine its years of expertise in Retail PLM with WSU’s rich Industry perspective, to help create a unique learning experience for budding Retail professionals. We look forward to working together to extend the depth of the curriculum by bringing in additional topics and also fuel market friendly innovation in Retail PLM space, using advanced technologies like AI/M L and AR/VR” said Yadvinder Changotra, Vice President ITC Infotech’s Industry 4.0 offerings. He further added, “For ITC, this will be another opportunity to contribute towards extending Retail PLM in the academic space, following the successful implementations at University of Huddersfield, UK and Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.”