Happy New Year to all my readers. 2015 Year was amazing and I want to thank everyone for being with me and Beyond PLM. It was a year of many experiments – consulting, writing and social media activity.
First of all, the book about PLM is coming. Keep watching plmbook.com in January for updates. It won’t be a traditional book – so, stay tuned.
Consulting was an interesting professional change – I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot during past year. Today I wanted to share few things that I learned about PLM in 2015. Just to make a disclaimer – this is not a scientific research. I also not trying to predict future of PLM, trends, vendors’ business results, etc. This is just my reflection of what I learned about PLM, market, companies, technologies, sales, people.
PLM sales and solution lifecycle
Regardless on what you want to sell in PLM (technology, product, service, etc.), the first thing you learn is patience. Your main competitors are inertia and status quo. Every manufacturing company in the world has some sort of PLM solution in place. Even if they don’t call it PLM. It can be papers trail, email, spreadsheets, PDM system, home grown database, existing PLM solution. PLM vendors are selling them a change and promise that “there is a better way”. Result is the same as before – long sales process. Even for most advanced and easiest cloud implementations, PLM is still a product that needs to be “sold” to customer and it takes time.
There are three typical use cases for PLM sales – (1) existing PLM system is outdated and not supported by vendor, (2) existing PLM solution is too expensive to maintain or scale; (3) existing homegrown solution cannot scale; (4) company has no idea about PDM / PLM and you can try to convince company that PLM is a right way to manage product development and manufacturing processes.
Because of inertia and long lifecycle of many manufacturing processes, once the solution is sold, it has very long life time in production. Manufacturing companies are investing resources to customize and build specific processes around existing products and technologies. All together it creates a good maintenance revenue stream to existing vendors.
Most of manufacturing companies are very slow to adopt new technologies. The main reason is long lifecycle of engineering solutions, complexity and IT policies. Relational database is a foundation of all PLM solutions on the market today. It was surprising to learn that rich client based solutions are still heavy in production for many customers I visited and talked to. Another things is amount of outdated and home grown integration solutions. My hunch is that the best PLM implementation in production is 3-5 years backward in the technological stack.
Cloud was a big tech and business buzzword in PLM industry for the last few years. What I’ve learned in 2015, cloud is not a differentiation factor any more. Although I’ve seen hot debates about what is “true PLM cloud”, most of customers don’t care much about that. Every vendor today has his “cloud story” and marketing explaining why his “cloud” is better than “other clouds”. All cloud PLM solutions today can be divided into two groups: “hosted” and “SaaS”. Both types of cloud PLM became a solution to eliminate the need in hardware and IT cost. Some solutions are better and some products are more useful and flexible. But, in general, in 2015, traditional PLM vendors closed the gap in cloud PLM competition that was open by cloud and SaaS innovators.
IoT was another hot trend in PLM business in 2015. What I’ve learned that most of IoT solutions are isolated cloud services to collect information from products in the field and optimize activities in service and maintenance. Some of these technologies was around for about a decade with well articulated value proposition. The most well articulated value proposition is to optimize maintenance. The connection between PLM and IoT is mostly in marketing materials and strategic presentations and videos. At the same time, companies are eager to learn how to get value out of IoT technologies.
Most of implementations I’ve seen in 2015 are still following traditional engineering oriented approach. CAD and other engineering related integrations are absolutely important for most customers in traditional auto, aero, industrial equipment and high tech industries. BoM management together with other business workflows are central part for most of implementations.
The diversity of implementations is very high, which makes all conversations about OOTB (out of the box) implementations irrelevant. The best case, templates are used as a starting point for customization or how most of PLM vendors today like to call it “configurations”.
Integration between PLM and other products and services
To connect PLM with other applications is still the most complicated task. The paradigm of integration remains unchanged for the last 10-15 years. Some technologies got an update in 2015. SaaS product introduced REST API based integration tools. But it is still mostly about export, import and synchronization of data between multiple databases.
Cloud CAD and PLM
Cloud CAD is a big story of 2015. Onshape was major disruptor. Onshape introduced full browser based 3D MCAD and moved from beta to commercial release in 2015. I believe, other CAD / PLM vendors will have to play technological catch up in 2016. Although important by itself, I haven’t see cloud CAD influenced anything related to PLM implementation and strategy in 2015.
What is my conclusion? The amount of legacy PLM solutions in production is climbing. I’ve been trying to find data points about average PLM implementation lifetime. In private discussions, people mentioned 10-15 years, but no official or public confirmations to that. I look forward to new challenges and learning in 2016. Stay tuned to news and updates on Beyond PLM.
Image courtesy of krishna arts at FreeDigitalPhotos.net