Small manufacturing companies and enterprises always presented a weak point in the landscape of PLM implementations. While complex organizations demonstrated an increased value of broader PLM deployments, small and medium sizes companies were tough nut to crack – long sales cycle, complex IT and functional requirements, configuration and customization. All together made PLM for SME almost mission impossible. Multiple attempts were made to bring PLM to smaller companies – out-of-the box templates, industry practices, tools like SharePoint and finally “cloud PLM’. The outcome… Nada.
Digital Engineering article from 2013 explores opinions of many PLM companies speaking about how to bring PLM to SME domain- Vendors Try to ‘Rightsize’ PLM for Smaller Businesses.
One of the most typical way to rightsize PLM was to eliminate flexibility. That was some companies did by focusing on out-of-the-box PLM. Here is the passage from the article by Chuck Cimalore of Omnify.
Omnify has pursued an out-of-the-box approach from the beginning, according to its CTO and President Chuck Cimalore, and continues to evolve it. This year, for example, the company is segmenting the Empower PLM platform to support vertical functionality so a system can be quickly deployed to support a quality or data management process without extensive configuration. Omnify is also exploring cloud delivery models for further ease of deployment, Cimalore says.
Mevion Medical, a longtime Empower user with just three IT staffers, says Omnify’s approach, coupled with its efforts to support the cloud, made PLM a reality for its team. “My job is to support the business, not build out IT,” notes Ed Quinn, IT manager for Mevion, which manufacturers radiation therapy technology that advances the treatment of cancer. “I’m not looking to buy a big, honking back-end system and hire someone to keep it going.”
Rightsize, wrongsize… I like to say “beavers do what beavers do”. Usually it speaks for sales people. When you have two opportunities and you need to work the same time to get each of them, which options will you take? Strange question… Of course, the bigger outcome. So, PLM sales people did the same and came back to sell enterprise PLM deals. Which sent PLM SME business into another knockout for 5 more years.
Fast forward into 2018, PLM for SME is still an issue. These small and medium size manufacturing companies are continue to be an Excel kingdom mixed with traditional CAD / PDM approach to manage files. And PLM vendors are looking for another magic button to boost PLM adoption by SME manufacturing.
Sensors Insight Magazine article The IoT Is Expanding: How PLM Software Can Help Smaller Businesses Thrive speaks about how PLM together with IoT will become a lifesaver for SMB companies. The same Chuck Cimalore of Omnify address the opportunity to mix PLM and IoT.
Product planning, design, and quality departments can learn from a product’s operational behavior via IoT to improve features that customers use most. IoT data managed with PLM will enable manufacturers to track and configure product design requirements based on usage patterns and allow for the redesign of devices or systems to improve quality. IoT analysis and triggers can automatically report issues into PLM, which are then escalated through various processes to review and resolve. In addition, mobility improvements give users access to PLM data and processes from their mobile devices, allowing them to securely review, respond, and react faster. It gives them the ability to record and process audit findings and any quality issues onsite or in the field.
Manufacturers have consistently focused on improving quality, performance, reliability and positive relationships with customers. However, it has become evident that the next generation of competition is digital, and seems to entail change in everything from designing products to supply chain management.
It made me think about my earlier article – It is a time to rethink PLM for SMB buzzword. The problem is not the size, but the company, its implementation and specific requirements combined with resources. PLM is not much different between 2013 and 2018. Will adding IoT into cocktail of PLM implementation make it easier to make. I doubt. There are organizations that cannot or don’t want to afford expensive old-fashion PLM implementations. There are organizations that are looking for quick ROI. There are organizations that don’t want to have 10 people IT team maintaining PLM installation and upgrades. There are organizations that have people distributed everywhere and cannot rely on old-fashion enterprise PLM server. These problems are still the same. IoT only can make them more complex.
What is my conclusion? Making a salad more rich will not eliminate the individual complexity of some elements. In such case PLM is a complex ingredient in the future of expanding IoT. Regardless how bright are IoT lights, PLM for SMB implementations are still gloom and doom. Just my thoughts…
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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.