Why PLM can’t eat, sleep and breathe mobile?

Why PLM can’t eat, sleep and breathe mobile?


I’ve been on the road for the last few days. It occurred to me that I hardly imagine my travel experience without mobile applications – I used Uber to get to the airport, United mobile app to check-in and get on board, Google Maps to find location and Waze to help navigating when car navigation system stuck into construction and closed roads. I communicated with my colleagues and family using Slack and Google Chat. I was taking notes using Evernote mobile. I was able to upload my presentation slides using Google Drive mobile.

Now think about manufacturing company. In one of my earlier articles, I’ve been sharing my thoughts about Mobile PLM innovation continuum. I still believe manufacturing is a goldmine for mobile developers. At the same time I think something is missed to turn that opportunity in the reality.

My attention this morning was caught by VMWare blog article – Bringing Mobile Moments to the Enterprise. Check it out. The article speaks about 3 stages of mobile development in consumer market – Initiation, Evolution and Maturity.

Initiation was the initial influx of mobile devices, seven or eight years ago, when smartphones and tablets finally caught on. In the Evolution stage, websites were made more mobile-friendly and the development of mobile-specific applications steadily became a multibillion-dollar industry. In the third phase, Maturity, mobile-first and even mobile-only apps—like WhatsApp and Snapchat—were introduced to deliver maximum value for mobile users by making the most of smartphone and tablet hardware (including GPS, camera, wireless connectivity, a streamlined user experience, and so on).

While the consumer marketplace is now reaping the benefits of the Maturity stage, the enterprise world is still stuck somewhere between Initiation and Evolution. And it’s time for businesses to catch up.

The article made me think about why PLM is so slow to find its mobile moment. Think about manufacturing company. It can be small or large company. It doesn’t matter. Their design and engineering work is heavily dependent on desktop CAD systems saving information using files. These files can be synchronized to Dropbox or Google Drive, but you cannot do anything with these files on mobile device, besides to view them if you are lucky to have an app to support that (there are few available today). Moving downstream in the development stages, it gets even more complicated. Simulation, analysis, manufacturing planning, procurement, orders and shipments. The diversity of application is high and most of the applications are saving data using databases and files making them not available for easy extraction and visualization. Could you imagine the whole chain of operation experience happening on mobile devices?

What is my conclusion? Thinking about mobile development stages, we are still in early evolution stage. Almost every person in manufacturing company has mobile device. At the same time, the engineering and manufacturing application environment is not mobile friendly. Something should happen for application developers, so they will put focus on developing of mobile applications. It should start from the early focusing on design and requirements and then going to manufacturing, maintenance and support. Eliminate files, make application to focus on data and actions. Software vendors in engineering space should start thinking about mobile enablement for everything they do. This is probably the first steps to unlock PLM goldmine. Without that, PLM mobile moment won’t happen. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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  • Roman Kligerman

    The most manufacture and warehouse workers and managers still prefer hardcopy
    documents instead of digital documents, BOMs and project gantts on mobile device. Still PLM mobile applications do not have easy markup tools or some snap tools with smart
    saving possibility.
    I am aware one of them: TVC Mobile Access for Enovia v6, developed by Technia. I
    manage PLM Enovia in one Israeli company and asked different groups of users if
    they need mobile access to Enovia. The only functionality they appreciated is
    ability to approve their tasks for different approval processes.
    Considering that many companies still do not use PLM at all because of its complicity, PLM
    developers spend the most time for basic functionality development. It is not
    so popular to get mobile today.

  • beyondplm

    Roman, thanks for sharing this customer story. Most of manufacturing companies when it comes to PLM are considering it as a big data storage with workflow processes on top that. Now, data is complex and workflow approvals are simple. So, I’m not surprised. But here is the thing – if you go back to 3 phases of mobile adoption, you can see that most of PLM implementations didn’t pass even phase 1. As a result – data is complex and not available. There is very little chance that in such environment somebody will come with the idea to switch to “mobile processes”. Best, Oleg