Will Facebook create “PLM for gadgets”?

Will Facebook create “PLM for gadgets”?


The last decade of open source, mobile and web development taught us that to create software can be easy. Don’t take me wrong it still requires knowledge and specific organization and experience. But compare it to hardware development and manufacturing processes and you will see the difference. It was true until may be few years ago.

The last few years of hardware development demonstrated that we live in the era of hardware renaissance. Globalization, new materials, manufacturing technologies, crowdfunding and internet of things changed our perspective on what is possible in manufacturing. The boundary between manufacturing and software company is blurring. At the same time, to manufacture physical products is still a complex process that requires special skills.

For the last few years I shared my thoughts about hardware development, globalization and how trajectories of modern engineering software are intertwining with new trends in hardware development. Navigate to the following link to read my articles about hardware.

Inspiring by software tools, new manufacturing companies are seeking for better tools to design, manufacturing planning, supply chain and collaboration.

Techcrunch article Facebook acquires modular consumer hardware maker Nascent Objects can give you an unexpected perspective of manufacturing and hardware development at Facebook.

Nascent Objects is a small California startup founded in 2014 that focuses on creating a modular electronics system that consumers could use to build their gadgets, using reconfigurable components including batteries, camera, sensors and more. The so-called “world’s first modular consumer electronics platform” created by Nascent was designed to make it easier for end users without any special electronics manufacturing expertise to design and prototype new products, without incurring too much cost or effort when compared to traditional prototyping methods. It’s kind of like the hardware equivalent of those rapid prototyping software tools you see for quickly mocking up app design and interaction models before they’re coded into fully shipping products.

The article gives you an idea about what is Facebook Building 8 lab and how the team is focusing on rapid prototyping and building products from the idea to shipping state. A short video tour will probably remove the illusion about Facebook as a software company only. Here is a link to the video.

Software companies like Facebook are searching how to build hardware for internal operation and for gadget prototyping. It made me think about what role engineering software companies will take in such process. It is hard to imagine Facebook can start using desktop engineering tools created 10-15 years before Facebook was founded. At the same time, my hunch is that engineering and manufacturing challenges of Facebook environment are very sophisticated.

What is my conclusion? Modern manufacturing environment will create an extreme set of challenges for engineering software. My hunch, Facebook team will demand global, collaborative and connected environment similar to Facebook. Is there one today available? I don’t think so. Will Facebook plan to build one? The idea is resonating with the question I asked about Tesla Motors couple of years ago. Just my thought…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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