I had chance to discuss PLM adoption rate already several time. I think, adoption rate, is one of the factors why Product Lifecycle Management is not coming to mainstream and remains something exclusive. If I look back in the computer and CAD industry history, the revolutions happened when sophisticated technologies were moved from exclusive and more expensive environment to mainstream. Microsoft did it for PC, John Walker and his partners moved from exclusive CAD workstations to mainstream PC in 1982, SolidWorks took all experience Pro-E developed until 1995 and revolutionized it on Windows platform.
So, what I had in my mind over this weekend is to think more about how to find roots for expensive and complicated PLM implementations. What those factors that make them so complicated and maybe to put few initial thoughts about how to move them to mainstream. I thought about every PLM implementation I had chance to touch and came to a conclusion that the following three major factors or steps are always causing complexity and cost: 1/Customization; 2/Legacy data; 3/Integration with ERP and other systems.
#1 – Customization.
This is a very significant piece of every PLM implementation. I hardly believe in “typical manufacturing environment”. Yes, definitely, there is some general similarity based on industry or organization type, but fundamentally people are running manufacturing differently, have their own environment, semantics of data, customized name schemas etc. So, cost to customize PLM system to get it to the right level is quite significant. To have right customization tools and integrated programming environment is key to success here. Everything is possible in software – we know that. However, what will be cost of these “possibilities”?
#2 – Legacy Data
In order to run your manufacturing environment, you need to have “your data” in the system. Without this, you are not actually running your manufacturing with PLM. To get legacy data in the system is a very painful task, in my view. I have almost never seen this happened easy. This is almost every time set of complicated steps of exporting and importing data. Since, there is no standard data, we back partially to factor #1 (customization) again.
#2 – Integration with ERP
This is last, but not least. The first chain in product development PLM needs to support is integration with ERP. If you don’t have integration with ERP implemented, you have closed environment that almost cannot optimize your manufacturing. Most of the product cost driving factors these days are on the intersection of product requirements, design and manufacturing and supply chain capabilities. To make integration with ERP is #1 task for PLM.
So, what is my short conclusion? These three factors can move every PLM implementation to nightmare. In today’s modern PLM systems, I had chance to follow few possible solutions to resolve these issues. Most PLM providers these days are focusing on industries, verticals and best practices. Not bad step in my view. As much closer you will come to final environment, less time you will spend to customize final environment. From integration and customization standpoint, moving to Microsoft development environment, Visual Basic and script based customization can be very efficient to decrease cost of implementation.
Even if I don’t think, these solutions are completely successful, but they definitely can bring some pain relief. However, I do believe, the right solutions are probably still in the future.
I’m looking forward to your comment and thoughts. I’d be glad to learn about your experience.