The Future Of PLM Walmarting

Say “PLM” to anyone, and you hear the words “complex” and “expensive”. However, thinking about trajectories of different technologies, I came to the conclusion that it always introduced as something very expensive and then going down to become cheaper and, in the end, even free. It was a story of so many technological inventions in many industries. There are many outside of PLM examples. The most valuable insider’s stories related to the evolution of CAD systems. Even in the data management domain, we can definitely see a trend to move from expensive custom-built PDM systems to windows-based mid-priced solutions. It gave a certain push in the adoption level and allowed to “non-Boeing” customers to come and taste these products and technologies.

The Parallel History of CAD/PLM and Walmart
Let’s take an unusual look on how companies and product can grow within time. Let’s take a look first on the very interesting video of WalMarts growth across United States from 1964 until 2007. I think this video is amazing and shows viral WalMart distribution. You can take a look on the interactive map following this link.

Now let’s take a look on the following framgment. “This video is a TV show made about the software Ivan Sutherland developed in his 1963 thesis at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, “Sketchpad, A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System”, described as one of the most influential computer programs ever written. This work was seminal in Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), Computer Aided Design (CAD), and contraint/object-oriented programming“. These are definite roots of CAD and PLM.

The Future Is PLM Walmarting
In my view, there is a very interesting paradox related to PLM. I can see Product Lifecycle Management ideas as a vision and practical guidance about how to manage product from their entire life. These ideas are getting good acceptance from many people in the organizations. At the same time, as soon as discussion is going towards software and vendors, I can hear much more negative context about what PLM can and cannot do. Here is my point – to walmart PLM! It needs to be done easy, cheaper, simpler. It needs to be open and available. It needs to solve initially the subset of problems that relevant to everybody and not requires implementation time.

What is my conclusion today? I love Wal-Mart’s mission statement: “To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people“. I’d like to think about a direction toward the future of PLM – To give all engineers the chance to buy and use the same software as Boeing, Toyota, Honda, Airbus… I don’t think it is about people and methodology. They will not learn how to use complicated software. This is about software…

Just my thought.
Best, Oleg



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  • Oleg, great post and couldn’t agree more…

    and thanks for posting the Wal Mart mission statement, I hadn’t read it before.

    maybe the next generation PLM mission statement might be: “To provide every company worldwide with the chance to have the same PLM solution as the Fortune 500.”

    Think will circulate it here at Aras 🙂

    P.S. we of course need to use “have” instead of “buy”

  • Axel Spitzer

    Hello Oleg,
    Great post…

    … Reminds me what SolidWorks Corp. has establish over the last 15 Years in bringing 3D CAD on every professionals Windows Desktop…

    Have a Great Weekend,

  • Marc, Thanks for commenting. I’d be looking forward to a new Aras mission statement now. I think, to buy is not a bad thing. You can always sell for free :). Best, Oleg

  • Axel, Thanks for your comment. Indeed, I agree, SolidWorks made a lot spreading out a very innovative set of 3D technologies. Best, Oleg

  • Venkatesh

    Gr8 article Oleg.
    I completely agree with you. PLM needs to be easier, cheaper and simpler. To this, I strongly feel softwares need to be much more user-friendly and let people do what they want still keeping the soul “PLM”.
    I feel, its a long way to go in PLM before we see the Walmart or Windows revolution!!!!



  • Venkatesh, Thanks for your comments! In my view, the question is not how long to go, but how to make it in small granular steps. I don’t believe it will happen in one step… Best, Oleg

  • Олег

    Неуместное сравнение с Walmart.

    Вот мнение Джоэла Сполски
    …В некоторых рыночных отраслях низкая стоимость действительно важнее качества. «Уолмарт» (Wal*mart, крупнейшая сеть супермаркетов в США — прим. пер.) выросла в самую большую корпорацию на земле именно продажей дешевых, а не качественных продуктов. Если бы «Уолмарт» начали продавать высококачественные товары, цена пошла бы вверх и напрочь исчезло бы их конкурентное преимущество дешевизны. Скажем, если бы они попробовали продавать носки без пяток, выдерживающих такие издевательства, как, скажем, стирка в стиральной машине, им бы пришлось использовать для их производства весь спектр дорогих материалов, таких, как, скажем, хлопок. И тогда поднялась бы цена на каждый носок…

    PLM системы это штучный инструмент не для широкого круга лиц и решаемых задач. Массового применения не предвидится, а проблемы интеграции PLM/PDM систем у проектировщика,производителя,поставщика и потребителя – самая головная боль. Потому как каждый смотрит на одни и те же вещи по разному. Вспомни притчу про слона и слепых мудрецов.

  • Oleg,

    One of the PLM problems is customer adoption. PLM was initial born in the big companies like Boeing, Toyota, Airbus, etc .. However, small OEMs as well as suppliers of large OEMs are having the same spectrum of problems – how to decrease a product cost, how to communicate with customers, how to manufacture faster. However, these companies are not able to solve their problem in similar way Boeing and Toyota can do. So, they question of Walmarting is a question how to proliferate in Product Lifecycle Management capabilities to the wider audience. Probably, due to this shift, PLM will need to make a significant change… Who knows? However, this is a transformation I envision in the future.

    I think, Joel Spolsky made his comments in the context of analyzing of cost impact on business. I’d like to bring a notion of “good enough” for business. We can see more and more examples of “good enough” principles in many companies. Google Apps is “good enough” in terms of features in comparison to MS Office. “Vizio” is good enough in comparison to “Sony” etc. So, WalMart is good enough to achieve their goals. What will be “good enough” PLM to make it useful for a wider audience of manufacturers? This is a real question, in my view..

    best, Oleg.

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