Entrepreneurs are changing manufacturing. How it will impact CAD, PLM and ERP tools?

Entrepreneurs are changing manufacturing. How it will impact CAD, PLM and ERP tools?


Entrepreneurs are taking manufacturing by storm. Recent HBR article –Entrepreneurs Take On Manufacturing by Mark Muro gives you an interesting perspective on a hardware renaissance and a wave of new manufacturing companies coming from a vibrant local “maker movement” and hardware hobbyist communities.

Although makers and hobbyist provided a jump start, the community of startup manufacturers is growing bigger and mature. It heavily supported by the development of new tools and resources that helping to manufacturing companies to connect between hobbyist projects and manufacturing start-ups. Software is playing an important role. The article from Bolt VC put some lights on the role of software – each product today is considered as a trojan horse for software. As a result, software-enabled manufacturing startups are growing and have a potential for significant economical impact.

The potential of manufacturing transformation is huge. Here is an interesting passage from HBR article:

“new products — actual, physical products — will go from idea to store shelves in a matter of months.” Surely a surge of startup ferment would be energizing for America’s manufacturing sector. Such an age could be beneficial for the U.S. given the nation’s advantages in creativity, software, and cloud-based business organization, even if much of the resulting new production winds up offshore.

At the same time, new hardware companies are experience an interesting set of challenges. Each hardware startup is operating under the enormous stress of resources and product development and manufacturing activity. The timelines are crazy. Hardware startup is heavily dependent on resources and deliveries from variety of contractors – designers, supply chain, contract manufacturers, etc.

This is where it starts to get connected to engineering and manufacturing software. New manufacturing companies will require new software to support design, engineering and manufacturing processes of a different scale. What does it mean for software developers working on CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP and other tools?

There is a need for tools that can support distributed design, simulation and 3D prototyping. Processes are distributed and global. A data and process management tools are needed. I wrote about it in my previous articles abouthardware startups. You can catch up on some specific articles  – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? ; 5 elements of PLM for hardware startup; The challenges of BoM management for small batch manufacturing.

We can see an initial reaction from CAD and PLM vendors. New cloud CAD and PLM tools are much easier to setup and use compared to original PLM platforms developed for large enterprise manufacturing companies. But this is just a beginning of the change, in my view. The magnitude of speed, distribution and flexibility of hardware startup processes is on a different level from any established manufacturing company. And it might require tuning and special configuration of software tools.

What is my conclusion? The development of hardware products by new startups still looks like insurgency. It is initially driven by new model of finance, open source tools and cheap electronic and supportive infrastructure. At the same time,  hardware startups understand the importance of scaling up their businesses.  It raises the questions related to data and process management. Software tools will be demanded to support design, manage product data records, supply chain and contract manufacturing projects. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit thenextweb article


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  • Jessica Woods

    Thank you for this article. It provided a lot of insight when it comes to new challenges companies have to face up to nowadays. They need to think of using innovative ERP tools to manage all the processes going on in their business. Efficiency, integrated information, interaction and security are all important factors that have to be taken into consideration when choosing the right one. ms dynamics is the one which appears to meet all the requirements.