COVID-19 threw the world into a global supply chain crisis. The tech industry took notice and realized there was an increase in demand for product lifecycle management (PLM) software. With necessity being the mother of invention, this led to the creation of Surefront, a PLM software that is becoming well known for saving the sanity of suppliers and buyers. Thanks to Surefront, the retail industry is learning that it’s possible to manage production cycles without spreadsheets.
Michael Forrest, a retail industry veteran who has worked at both Apple and LVMH, has been leading the charge at Surefront as their CEO. Surefront’s primary function is to incorporate on application communication, meaning all communication and decision-making around a single product is on one platform versus the old school way of using spreadsheets, e-mail chains, and pdfs. According to Forrest, Surefront has been able to increase market speed by 75 percent.
Retailers benefit from this because it allows them to get a product to market much faster. The benefit of this for retailers is that if they can increase turn rates in getting a product to market it increases their profitability. They can also audit products faster to bring more appropriate products to the marketplace consistently.
“Retail is all about how well you communicate with your suppliers and manufacturers,” Forrest said to FashionUnited. “The problem was, the minute you have to start communicating outside of your organizations, people typically went to the lowest common denominators, which included e-mail and spreadsheets that you would have to toggle back and forth between. It can create a lot of chaos, confusion, and wastes time. What Surefront does is help give an individual one to three hours back of that time they’d usually be wasting on that chaos by creating a cloud platform for centralized communication where data is tracked in one spot.”
Excel spreadsheets can become a hassle for retailers due to version control issues. If suppliers, manufacturers, and buyers are exchanging spreadsheets back and forth and modifying them, this can be a problem if anyone leaves their companies. While Google spreadsheets can come in handy since that is a cloud platform, what Surefront does is add the equivalent of a Slack chat component to centralize all communication.
Surefront has been a blessing for companies like Jia Home and BaubleBar. For BaubleBar, Surefront has been particularly helpful because they have thousands of SKUs distributed to many retailers, so whereas communication for getting a product to market used to take them days, it’s now just a matter of hours.
“We believe the retailer, brand, and manufacturer all have a shared mission, which is getting to that end customer,” said Doug Heckmann, director of product at Surefront, to FashionUnited. “You need the right product at the right place at the right time to do that effectively. Brands and manufacturers build trust relationships with each other, they just need better tools to collaborate and work together.”
Surefront has been in development for five years, but has only been in the market for one year now. In the short time they’ve been available to retailers for use, partner companies have reported a dramatic increase in the speed of products hitting the market. They have also reported a dramatic decrease in communication errors. Currently, Surefront is the PLM platform that provides both a chat history component and data tracking to build a database all in one. While we might still be battling supply chain issues, Surefront is at least ready to make those problems a little easier.