PLM is in the focus on many companies these days. Questions how to improve processes, optimize cost and improve quality are important and PLM vendors are laser focus on that. But… with one small clarification . It works for large manufacturing companies. To transform business processes is the way PLM succeeded to deliver ROI and demonstrate clear value. It is hard to find large manufacturing company these days that is not implementing kind of PLM. You can see multiple options – complete home made PLM system developed by IT department (usually based on some of available PLM toolkits), combination of older PDM/PLM system with some additional development and complete solutions from leading PLM companies.
However, when it comes to small manufacturing companies, the situation is very different. It is not rare to face the question “what is PLM and why do we need it?” as well as to see customers confused about the difference between PDM and PLM. The last one is a big misleading factor in PLM marketing. Few weeks ago I posted Why PLM stuck in PDM? The article raised lots of comments and opinions. The question I want to ask today is about why PLM software and strategies failed to deliver value to small manufacturing companies or so called SME (small and medium enterprises).
Speak to software vendors about PLM and SME and you will learn about top three PLM inhibitors – (1) limited financial resources, (2) lack of IT support and (3) diverse set of requirements. While PLM competition for large OEMs is getting stronger, SME becomes a very attractive opportunity for PLM to growth. It is an attractive and turbulent market with lots of innovative companies. Together with growing number of smaller suppliers. To win this market is a very interesting opportunity with significant growth potential.
SME remains a very challenging place for PLM vendors. The question about how to serve SME with PLM solutions is open for a long time. Large PLM vendors tried to serve these customers by scaling down their large PLM product suites and developing special packaged solutions. Newcomers tried to provide special applications for SME. Open source, SaaS, Out-of-the-box (OOTB) applications… After all, SME PLM marketshare remains very fragmented with lot of opportunities and no mainstream solution.
It made me think about some problems in existing PLM strategies for SME. I can see some similarity with mass customization trend in manufacturing. The time when car supposed to be “Ford” and “black” is over. Automotive and other manufacturers explored new opportunities to customize their solution to satisfy turbulent market with diverse set of requirements. So, focus on the niche markets and individual customer is important. In the past, it was a strategy Japanese firms captured marketshare in U.S. PLM vendors are trying to win PLM SME market by focusing on flexibility of their solution and OOTB applications. The problematic part of this strategy is cost. This is where flexible PLM failed. The cost of PLM implementation is still very high. Marketing, sales, business development and implementation services are not allowing to PLM vendors to scale their PLM operations for SME.
What is my conclusion? Low cost and efficiency. When it comes to customization and fulfillment of diverse customer requirements, low cost and efficiency are “must have” components of your strategy. Flexible platforms and OOTB Apps are not enough. Cloud solved some problems related to cost and IT support but left implementation services cost open. PLM vendors need to think how to deliver PLM services at low cost or think about alternative strategies. So far, PLM vendors failed to deliver to SME. Cost of the delivery is too high. After more than a decade of “focus on flexibility”, I think it is a time for PLM vendors to find an alternative. Just my thoughts…