What is the difference between PLM and Supply Chain Visibility (SCV) software?

  • Written by Ed Austin
  • Published on 8 February 2024
  • Blogs

In the fast-paced world of fashion, planners, designers, buyers and marketers require streamlined coordination and agility, and the secret weapon many brands wield is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. It's the hero managing your designs, materials, and production – but is it the whole story when it comes to supply chain visibility?


A PLM is a management tool that helps with planning and efficiencies – it shows the intent of the product design and marketing team – whereas a supply chain traceability tool reports what is actually happening.

If PLM software can do all that, why should retailers or fashion brands consider using a supply chain visibility (SCV) solution like Segura? Surely you would only need to have one tool, right?


A good way of explaining this is that PLM software shows the intention of how a product will be made, including preferred materials, processing, packaging, suppliers, etc., and the supply chain visibility software reports on which suppliers are actually engaged and thus gives validation to the PLM.

PLM Shows Intention and SCV Shows Validation

In other words, a key difference between PLM and SCV software is their focus. PLM software is focused on the product itself, while SCV software is focused on the actual manufacture and movement of the product, and its components, through the supply chain and the management of third-party suppliers involved.

Does a PLM accurately show the supply chain?

A PLM is not designed to accurately reflect the supply chain, but it does help with better planning and gives consideration to:

  • the feasibility of design ideas in terms of supply
  • selection and availability of component materials
  • product composition and environmental impacts
  • the compliance credentials of suppliers chosen for manufacturing

The PLM can specify the materials required for a product, such as

  • fabric
  • leather
  • wool
  • trims
  • packaging

And it can specify the preferred suppliers:

  • clothing factories
  • fabric mill
  • tannery/finishers
  • wool mill
  • trims suppliers
  • packaging suppliers

However, it will not have any visibility further up or down the supply chain. It does not consider the component or raw materials sourcing e.g:

  • yarn
  • card
  • ink
  • dyes
  • animal products
  • fibre
  • chemicals
  • pulp/timber

It also cannot see if the Tier 1 supplier enlists additional sub-contractors to fulfil orders made or the locations of any factories and any workforce engaged.

In comparison, SCV, like Segura, gives real-time visibility of the multi-tier supply chain and transparency to the N-tier supplier.

Segura can capture the bill of materials (BOM) and the Tier 1 suppliers. This starts end-to-end order tracking, tracing and reporting in a way that a PLM does not. It validates whether the intended suppliers were indeed engaged, and captures all the suppliers that are involved as sub-contractors or suppliers to the Tier 1 group.

What about environmental & social data and evidence?

SCV software, like Segura, also collates supplier data. Retailers can collect supplier details, including audits, inspection results and correction action plans (CAPs), and generate supplier scorecards. This creates a centralised repository of supplier and product compliance data and evidence (e.g. certificates), and the insights enable better supplier risk mapping and decision-making.

Segura’s data capture functionality can help retailers capture and calculate carbon usage, water usage and measure waste directly from upstream suppliers.

Mapping the whole supply chain with Segura positions Retailers to be able to demonstrate visually to their end-customers the origins of each product using Segura’s Digital Product Passport.

Do any departments get missed out by a PLM or SCV?

PLM is more focused on the buying and sourcing teams. Supply Chain Transparency goals and ownership are usually driven by ESG/ CSR and supplier management teams. One of the benefits of Segura is that all internal teams can review the same centralised real-time data, reducing departmental silos, and feeding back into the product planning route.

Can a PLM tool work effectively with an SCV like Segura?

Yes, a PLM and SCV can work very effectively together. When planning a product, the SCV can communicate various supplier credentials to the PLM, and once the product is created those details can be shared with the SCV:

Data from PLM and SCV can be shared via Application Programming Interface (API) or Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which allows real-time integration, as required, with existing systems at all tiers of the supply chain. This fully automated transactional layer means you don’t have to stop using your existing ERP or PLM software - you can continue to manage your supply chain as usual, while an SCV like Segura can collate the real-time supply chain information a business needs.

Should you invest in a PLM or SCV?

It is important to recognise that although there are superficial similarities between these two types of cloud-based software, they do answer very different business requirements.

Generally, it is the CSR or ethical department that owns supply chain transparency, including audits, compliance and supply chain mapping. However, the benefits of achieving Supply Chain Transparency are business-wide, including adherence to legislative compliance, increased consumer trust, improved supplier selection, reduced business risk and improved company performance.

In comparison, PLM is likely to help in the design process, reduce time to market, and make efficiencies in the product lifecycle. These are quite a different set of business wins.

When looking at software investment, each business will have different strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed, but ideally, an ethical, forward-looking fashion brand or retailer may consider both tools to be at the cutting edge of the apparel industry.


About Segura

Segura is the leading fashion supply chain traceability solution, empowering fashion retailers and brands to deliver ethical, sustainable and efficient multi-tier supply chains.  

Segura provides n-tier mapping, transparency, traceability, visualisation, compliance and reporting. Segura sits in the centre of your supply chain management structure creating a central repository for all your supply chain, ESG-related data, and evidence, including from third-party data sources.  

With all supply chain traceability data stored on a single platform, our customers get the right evidence in the right place to back up claims and meet regulatory compliance. 

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