Alexa – Play La Cucaracha for CAD & PLM

Alexa – Play La Cucaracha for CAD & PLM

I learned that today was Cyber Monday. The internet was overblown by deals and promotions. I checked few websites including Amazon. Meh… the things that were highly demanded and highly priced are still the same. But, I noticed something interesting. Retailers are giving huge discounts to smart speakers-  Google and Amazon are leading the game by discounting speakers for 20-90$.

I captured an interesting picture showing what people are doing with smart speakers.The top 3 things people do with their Amazon Alexa or Google Home are: set a timer, play a song, check the weather.

It is fascinating to think how useless are those speakers, but it is kind of cool. And it is getting traction and adoption. And what is amazing that how much vendors are pushing to sell these speakers to everyone for such low price. Why are they doing so? Where is the profit? Aren’t they cool and can be sold in Apple store for a lot of money? My hunch is that speakers for both Amazon and Google aren’t a point of profit. It is a tool to sell future services. It is hardware as a service model in front of our eyes.

So, what PLM vendors can learn here? In my view, it is a great lesson about future business models. Google and Amazon are giving away devices collecting our voices and other intelligence and then turning it into services they sell to somebody else.

In my earlier articles, I shared thoughts about future business models in CAD and PLM. It is essentially about two things – services and polyhedral business models. Existing business models are relying on expensive software licenses. Modern technologies in data management, cloud and analytics can create a new value and turn it into new business model. Free software can create a value that can be traded to different businesses. All together will create a completely new eco-system different moving away from software licensed packages, resellers and manufacturing companies required to buy expensive software.

What is my conclusion? My initial reaction was maybe some PLM vendors need to think how to create a simple and stupid function in their application to improve adoption? Something like “Hey PLM, tell me what is a weather on a shop floor?”…  I still kind of like this idea, although it might not work for manufacturing companies. At the same time, giving software for free and building intelligence is a technique widely used by new digital businesses for the last decade. And this is what CAD and PLM vendors need to learn sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

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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  • That is very interesting. I just got an Alexa für Christmas. And yes at the moment we are using it only to play music.
    I think voice will be the new interface. At my workplace I thought about a chatbot connected to our PLM system to get easily information. The next step would be a speaker like Echo as interface. “Alexa. Can you please print all the released drawings of project xy on the printer next to me.”
    This would be fantastic.
    What we see and have at the moment is the beginning.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, Although, it sounds interesting to tell printing documents, this operation can be sometimes hard to accomplish (how would you specific list of documents to be printed).Also, Alexa can be easy distracted by other voices. But I agree, voice interface for Alexa is cool….

  • I must agree, that the voice interface of Alexa has the be improved. I’m not thinking of Speaker in the Roman for everyone. More like a headset that you wear. Or a AI that is trained to your voice.

    For the document gathering issue. In my PLM system we have a unique number for a project. Every drawing is connected to this number. So the PLM system can find all the drawings. Additional our drawings are linked to the corresponding material. So starting with the BOM you can find all the drawings. Realising this problem is not so hard.
    The printer could be a DIN A3 printer. All the drawings would be scaled. All this is coordinated by a document output system. We’re using PLOSSYS from Seal System. It’s really not not a big deal.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, thanks for sharing your experience. I agree, if things are organized, then finding documents in’t a big dal.

    Btw, may I ask you what system are you using to manage BOMs in your environment? Thank you, Oleg

  • Sure can you ask. We are using SAP PLM so therefore all the BOMs are in SAP.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, thanks for sharing! I guess, in such case everything should be easy. Do you mind to share how big is your organization and what is the cost of SAP PLM?

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