PLM is not for small companies. It was a typical statement popular 10 years ago. Smaller manufacturing company is a fascinating place to innovate. CAD / PLM companies always wanted to crack this market segment. It was done first with CAD systems that were moving from UNIX to Wintell machines. With PDM/PLM things were different. In my view, first wave of PLM scaling down to smaller manufacturing companies was introduced in the first half of 2000s. However, with the recession of late 2000s PLM companies were more focused on their core business and came back to stay focused on larger companies. Companies like Siemens PLM, Dassault focused their work on introducing and validation of their new PLM platforms staying away from SMB market. One of the most visible PLM SMB shutdowns was PTC retiring their Windchill ProductPoint. I can also see companies like Aras are more focusing on competing with high end PLM offering and giving away PLM for smaller companies.
How to scale down PLM?
Despite the lack of commercial success with small manufacturing companies, PDM / PLM for SMB topic was always actively discussed by the industry community. Jos Voskuil (known as virtualdutchman blogger) often writes about and PLM and SMB. You might be interested to navigate on one of his writeups – What if SMB as a vision for PLM and PLM vendors don’t understand it back in 2008. Another interesting conversation about the same topic was recorded at COFES 2010 – Recorded Audio Roundtable: PLM for SMB Discussion at COFES 2010 published by Chad Jackson on his engineering-matters blog.
The Renaissance of PLM for SMB?
Two announcements about future products and product enhancements made me think, PLM vendors are getting back to SMB market. One of them was made last week during PlanetPTC 2012 conference. During the Windchill roadmap presentation and also separately during Q&A session, PTC mentioned the new version / configuration of Windchill product for SMB. Below is a slide I captured from this session recorded video materials. It came as part of future Windchill version called X-24.
Another announcement is expected this week during SolidEdge University 2012 in Nashville, TN. Siemens PLM is planning to announce SolidEdge Insight XT. SolidEdge Insight is not a new product. It was created quite many years ago on top of Microsoft SharePoint. Siemens didn’t retire this product, and it co-existed with TeamCenter Express (another product focused on introductory segment of market part of Velocity product line). This year Siemens is planning to introduce a new version called SolidEdge Insight XT.
What is my conclusion? 60-80% of CAD seats in industry not connected to any data-management software provided by CAD/PLM vendors. This is the well-known fact. To be able to capture this market is a long-time dream by everybody in the CAD/PLM industry. However, here is the problem, in my view. To scale down something is probably the wrong way to do business. Toyota is successfully selling Prius to many people that can afford BMW. The focus should be on the product. PLM vendors never focused on how to create the right product for these companies. Will it happen now? Let’s wait for new products to come to market. Just my thoughts…