PLM vs ERP in Fashion: What Are The Differences?

With technology always evolving it can feel like you’re constantly struggling to keep up with the latest trends. 

You’ve finally wrapped your mind around ERP systems and have broken away from doing POs, invoices, and other data entry in Excel sheets or handwritten. 

So what is a PLM and does your fashion business really need it? After all, changing your ERP solutions sounds daunting and your team can find workarounds… even if they are tedious. 

In this blog, we will guide you through the differences between PLM and ERP systems and why your business might want to consider getting a solution that integrates both.

What Are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems serve as the system of record for your business’s financials. 

They provide a centralized framework for managing business processes by integrating various functions into one complete system to streamline processes and information across the organization.

12 Key Functionalities Of An ERP 

erp vs plm: erp functions

So what are key features you can expect from your ERP?

  1. Supply Chain Management (SCM): Streamlines supply chain activities such as sourcing, vendor management, and logistics, ensuring efficient procurement and distribution processes.
  2. Planning and Purchasing: Facilitates effective planning and purchasing decisions to maintain optimal inventory levels, even during the holiday season.
  3. Inventory Management: Monitors and manages inventory levels, orders, sales, and deliveries as well as forecast demand.
  4. Order Processing/Management: Manages customer orders from receipt through to fulfillment, ensuring timely delivery and customer satisfaction.
  5. Style and SKU Management: Helps manage different styles and SKUs, tracking various product attributes and categories including size, colors, and styles.
  6. Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Ensures that all business operations comply with industry standards, government regulations, and sustainability standards.
  7. Finance & Accounting: Manages financial transactions, general ledger, accounts payable/receivable, and financial reporting.
  8. Customer Relationship Management: Manages interactions with current and potential customers, improving customer service and relationships.
  9. Human Resources: Manages employee data, payroll, recruitment, and other HR functions.
  10. E-commerce: Integrates online sales and marketing, managing everything from online storefronts to digital transactions.
  11. Production Scheduling: Plan and schedule production activities to maximize efficiency and meet production targets.
  12. Business Intelligence and Analytics: Provides data analysis and reporting tools to support decision-making and strategic planning.

What Are Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Systems?

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems serve as the system of record for your products. They manage the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacturing, to service and disposal.

12 Key Functionalities Of A PLM

plm vs erp: plm functions

PLMs have features that help support your apparel production to reduce costs and time to market. 

  1. Item and Bill of Materials (BOM) Management: Manages items and BOM, ensuring accurate documentation and tracking of all product components.
  2. Sampling, Feedback, and Revisions: Tracks sampling processes, collects feedback, and manages revisions to improve product quality.
  3. Costing and Reporting: Provides detailed costing and financial reporting for better cost management and profitability analysis.
  4. Tech Pack Creation: Create and manage comprehensive tech packs that detail product specifications, materials, and construction methods.
  5. Product and Component Libraries: Maintains libraries of products, blocks, and components for easy access and reuse.
  6. Style and SKU Management: Manages colorways and palettes, and detailed size specifications for products, ensuring consistency and accuracy.
  7. Sizing and Fit: Manages fit sessions, tracks point of measure (POM), digitizes grading, and captures feedback to ensure optimal fit for all sizes.
  8. Multi-tasking and Workflow Optimization: Handle multiple tasks simultaneously, including working on several projects or aspects of a project to streamline workflows.
  9. Quality Assurance & Requirements Management: Manages product requirements to ensure all specifications and quality standards are met. 
  10. Product Design & Development: Supports the design and development processes to bring new products to market efficiently including pattern design and editing tools. 
  11. Compliance Management: Ensures products meet all regulatory compliance requirements and sustainability standards.
  12. Line Planning and Merchandising: Supports merchandising strategies and seasonal planning to optimize and align with shifting trends.

What Is The Difference Between PLM and ERP Systems?

While many people think the two are interchangeable, they actually have distinct differences. Here are the key differences that separate the two.

erp vs plm system

Scope and Focus

ERP systems focus on optimizing and automating business processes related to financials, supply chains, and operations. They are designed to integrate various functions and provide a unified view of business performance. 

PLM systems, on the other hand, focus on managing the product development lifecycle, from initial concept through design and manufacturing to end-of-life. They ensure all product-related information is centralized and accessible throughout the product’s lifecycle.


ERP systems offer broad functionality across multiple business areas, including financial management, supply chain, inventory, order processing, and human resources. 

PLM systems provide specialized product design, development, and lifecycle management tools, including BOM management, change management, tech pack creation, and compliance management.

Data Management

ERP systems manage transactional data and support daily business operations by maintaining a central database for financials, inventory, orders, and other operational data. 

PLM systems manage product-specific data, including design specifications, BOMs, change orders, and project documents, ensuring accurate and up-to-date product information throughout its lifecycle.


ERP systems facilitate collaboration across various departments by providing integrated data and processes, enabling better decision-making and operational efficiency. 

PLM systems enhance collaboration specifically within product development teams, allowing designers, engineers, and other stakeholders to work together seamlessly on product designs, revisions, and improvements.

Which System Is Right For Your Fashion Business?

Well, the real answer is both. While each has its purpose for your business, fashion businesses perform best when they use both. 

How ERP And PLM Complement Each Other

Integrating ERP and PLM systems can provide significant benefits to a fashion business by combining the strengths of both systems.

  • Efficiency Rates: Streamlined processes and improved data accuracy enhance overall efficiency.
  • Reduced Cost: Better resource management and reduced errors lead to cost savings.
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Faster time-to-market and higher product quality improve customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Seamless data sharing between systems enhances collaboration across departments.

Now you may think, “Well it can’t be that big of a deal.” But there can be roadblocks that may appear if you don’t. 

The Risks Of Implementing ERP Without PLM

Implementing an ERP system without a PLM system can lead to several risks, including:

  • Inefficient product development processes
  • Lack of centralized product data
  • Poor collaboration among product teams
  • Increased errors and delays in product launches

By integrating both ERP and PLM systems, fashion businesses can achieve a comprehensive solution that supports both operational efficiency and innovative product development, ensuring sustained growth and competitiveness in the market.

Get The Best of Both Worlds

Make sure your business doesn’t miss a beat with both ERP and PLM solutions at your team’s fingertips. 

PolyPM combines PLM and ERP into a single application enabling your entire enterprise to integrate all aspects of your product development, sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution processes.
See how we can help your business reach its goals. Get a free custom demo.


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