I’m sure, you learned about two industrial revolutions back in your school-time. First industrial revolution started in 18th century in Great Britain and second industrial revolution from second half of 19th century and until First World War. You can refresh your memories by reading the materials from wikipedia. I found it quite entertaining. One of the passages about the second industrial revolution and creating of mass manufacturing struck my attention.
The concept of interchangeable parts had been implemented in the early 19th century by inventors including Honoré Blanc, Henry Maudslay, John Hall, and Simeon North. Interchangeable parts in firearms had been developed by the armories at Springfield and Harper’s Ferry by the mid 19th century and mechanics familiar with armory practiceintroduced the concept to other industries, mainly in New England. The system relied on machine tools, jigs for guiding the tools and fixtures for properly holding the work and gauge blocks for checking the fit of parts. This method eventually became known as the American system of manufacturing. Application of the American system to the sewing machine and reaper industries in the 1880s resulted in substantial increases in productivity.
These days, we are facing the next round of technological disruption. Navigate to TechCrunch article Wired’s Chris Anderson: Today’s ‘Maker Movement’ Is The New Industrial Revolution. If you have 20 min, I recommend you to watch the video. Chris is speaking about next technological disruption and, specifically, the consolidation between the culture of DIYers and digital design and manufacturing technology.
Chris is talking about intersection of “markers” subculture and technologies like 3D printing, robotics, electronic and many others. However, I found the most important piece related to so-called – democratization of technology. Here is the passage I liked:
“The real revolution here is not in the creation of the technology, but the democratization of the technology. It’s when you basically give it to a huge expanded group of people who come up with new applications, and you harness the ideas and the creativity and the energy of everybody. That’s what really makes a revolution.…What we’re seeing here with the third industrial revolution is the combination of the two [technology and manufacturing]. It’s the computer meets manufacturing, and it’s at everybody’s desktop.”
Computer meets manufacturing. Actually, I liked it. However, there is something more. It is related to smaller teams of individuals who have more power today than ever before. It is easier to start manufacturing companies. At the same time, it creates specific challenges in technology of data management and collaboration we have never seen before. This is a part, which excites me the most. Thinking about “democratization of PLM technology” similar to what Google Apps did to Office technology. Google apps may didn’t match Microsoft Office on features, but by clear focus on collaboration created a new way to work together.
It made me think about 3 important characteristics of “PLM for Makers”: 1/ Native web and mobile; 2/ Data focused; 3/ Context oriented. Web and mobile will make PLM available for everybody without any preparation. We need to kickstart the environment in minutes from every place. Also, you need to use applications in every place and on every device. Data is a key. You need to be able to pull any piece of information related to the work you are doing to this environment painlessly and transparently. Finally, the data and information can be used in the context of actions and tasks.
What is my conclusion? Things are changing very fast. Think about mobile and web 10 years ago. It was a different world. At the same time, people are still struggling to work together efficiently. It sounds like a bad idea to keep using your “PLM excels” in 2012. I see it as a tremendous opportunity for large companies and small startups to innovate. Here are just few names to mention in this context – Autodesk PLM 360, GrabCAD, Nuage, Sunglass.io and many others. On the other side, companies like Quirky, LocalMotors, Etsy, Kickstarter and others are looking for solutions to develop new products. Just my thoughts…