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Vendors

PLM-for-SME

PLM is in the focus on many companies these days. Questions how to improve processes, optimize cost and improve quality are important and PLM vendors are laser focus on that. But… with one small clarification . It works for large manufacturing companies. To transform business processes is the way PLM succeeded to deliver ROI and demonstrate clear value. It is hard to find large manufacturing company these days that is not implementing  kind of PLM. You can see multiple options – complete home made PLM system developed by IT department (usually based on some of available PLM toolkits), combination of older PDM/PLM system with some additional development and complete solutions from leading PLM companies.

However, when it comes to small manufacturing companies, the situation is very different. It is not rare to face the question “what is PLM and why do we need it?” as well as to see customers confused about the difference between PDM and PLM. The last one is a big misleading factor in PLM marketing. Few weeks ago I posted Why PLM stuck in PDM? The article raised lots of comments and opinions. The question I want to ask today is about why PLM software and strategies failed to deliver value to small manufacturing companies or so called SME (small and medium enterprises).

Speak to software vendors about PLM and SME and you will learn about top three PLM inhibitors – (1) limited financial resources, (2) lack of IT support and (3) diverse set of requirements. While PLM competition for large OEMs is getting stronger, SME becomes a very attractive opportunity for PLM to growth. It is an attractive and turbulent market with lots of innovative companies. Together with growing number of smaller suppliers. To win this market is a very interesting opportunity with significant growth potential.

SME remains a very challenging place for PLM vendors. The question about how to serve SME with PLM solutions is open for a long time. Large PLM vendors tried to serve these customers by scaling down their large PLM product suites and developing special packaged solutions. Newcomers tried to provide special applications for SME. Open source, SaaS, Out-of-the-box (OOTB) applications… After all, SME PLM marketshare remains very fragmented with lot of opportunities and no mainstream solution.

It made me think about some problems in existing PLM strategies for SME. I can see some similarity with mass customization trend in manufacturing. The time when car supposed to be “Ford” and “black” is over. Automotive and other manufacturers explored new opportunities to customize their solution to satisfy turbulent market with diverse set of requirements. So, focus on the niche markets and individual customer is important. In the past, it was a strategy Japanese firms captured marketshare in U.S. PLM vendors are trying to win PLM SME market by focusing on flexibility of their solution and OOTB applications.  The problematic part of this strategy is cost. This is where flexible PLM failed. The cost of PLM implementation is still very high. Marketing, sales, business development and implementation services are not allowing to PLM vendors to scale their PLM operations for SME.

What is my conclusion? Low cost and efficiency. When it comes to customization and fulfillment of diverse customer requirements, low cost and efficiency are “must have” components of your strategy. Flexible platforms and OOTB Apps are not enough. Cloud solved some problems related to cost and IT support but left implementation services cost open. PLM vendors need to think how to deliver PLM services at low cost or think about alternative strategies. So far, PLM vendors failed to deliver to SME. Cost of the delivery is too high. After more than a decade of “focus on flexibility”, I think it is a time for PLM vendors to find an alternative. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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web-services-recombination-cad-plm

Collaboration is the name of the game today for many vendors. CAD and PLM vendors are included. Cloud technology is opening many new capabilities to collaborate and it is captured by existing players and newcomers. Sometimes, it happens so fast that it even create an internal competition. Image and Data Manager article Is OneDrive for Business the SharePoint alternative? speaks about interesting transformation that happens these days around file collaboration using Microsoft family of product. We knew about SharePoint capabilities to collaborate and share content (files). However, the new born child – OneDrive is growing fast and potentially can capture some spaces occupied by SharePoint today. I liked the following passage explaining how OneDrive takes on SharePoint:

OneDrive has a very simple interface (one that has been simplified further with recent updates). So it’s easy to upload your files and share them. You can also sync to all your devices, desktop, tablet, smartphone, giving you direct access to your content when you are online or offline. You even have mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and Windows RT.

OneDrive even has this cool feature that allows you to grab a file from your PC even if you haven’t uploaded it to OneDrive. You have to turn that feature on, but it’s pretty nice to have.

SharePoint’s interface is OK, but it’s the subject of much debate. It’s not very intuitive to use and requires a fair amount of planning and organizing to get it set up in a way that’s easy for people to understand. Getting access to SharePoint on mobile devices has been spotty at best. Access via mobile (tablet or smartphone) has improved a lot with SharePoint 2013, but for those on SharePoint 2010, the story is not so good.

What I learned from this article is that file sharing, collaboration space is getting busy and competitive. Which brings me back to the discussion about specialized CAD collaboration tools. It made me think about some strategies CAD collaboration tools can use in order to avoid frontal competition with OneDrive, Dropbox and other file sharing and sync tools.

The name for this game is “layers”. Creating of layered architecture will allow to CAD collaboration tools to store data using OneDrive (or other storage and share service) and, at the same time, enhance it with the data layer providing rich access to CAD specific content, viewer and other CAD data relationships. Think about it in a similar way how Google organized information from web for you. You are not necessarily store data on websites and other locations. Nevertheless Google gives you easy access to this information via different services. The basic service is search. Enhanced services can provide a specific vertical slices of information (think about Google Flight as an example).

What is my conclusion? To separate vertical application and horizontal services is getting more and more important. It was true in the past to build right enterprise architecture, but it is getting even more important in the era of cloud services. To be successful, cloud vendors will have to learn how to recombine and reuse technologies provided by different players. File Share and Synchronization is a very good examples to start with. For CAD vendors it means to learn how to share data on OneDrive or Dropbox, but at the same time to provide vertical experience specific for CAD content. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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plm-industries

Let’s talk about PLM technologies. Err.. PLM is not a technology. Even more, PLM is even not a product. So, what is that? Business strategy? Product development politics? For the sake of this conversation let’s leave these debates out. I want to speak about PLM technologies that allow you to manage product data, CAD files, bill of materials, rich set of related information as well as processes around it. This technology came to us about 20-25 years ago first as a very hard-coded set of tools. You had to build it literally different for every customer. So, it supported only large customers that were able to pay for software, infrastructure and implementation. Later on, PDM/PLM turned into software toolkit. The next step in PDM/PLM technology evolution was called flexible data modeling. The first flexible (dynamic) PLM data modeling tools were released back in 1995-2000 and… not much changed since then.

So, what happened since that time? PLM vendors went to develop out-of-the-box and vertical industry solutions in a massive way. David Linthicum’s article Saleforce.com officially is out of ideas reminded me about the joke comparing technology vs. industry play. Here is the passage:

When you run out of new ways to provide innovative technology, you go vertical. That was the running joke among CTOs back in the day. It usually meant the market had reached the saturation point and you could not find new growth

I found this message very compelling to what happens in PLM industry. PLM vendors are trying to compete by providing more comprehensive set of data models, best practices, process templates. By doing so, vendors want to reduce TCO of PLM implementations. It is actually brings success and many customers are using these solutions as a starting point for their PLM implementation.

So, where is the problem? For most of the situations, PLM is still costly and expensive implementation. Services may take up to 50% of the cost.  Here is the issue – core PLM data and process modeling technology didn’t change a lot for the last 10-15 years. Data models, CAD file management, product structure, process orchestration. All these things are evolving, but very little. The fundamental capabilities are the same. And it is very expensive to develop solutions using these technologies.

You may ask me about cloud technologies. Cloud is the answer. But only partially. It solves problems related to infrastructure, deployments and updates. Cloud provides clear benefits here. However, from the implementation technology standpoint, it is very similar to what non-cloud solutions can offer. Another interesting passage from Infoworld cloud computing article explains what is the problem new SaaS/cloud products can experience when trying to displace existing vendors:

So many companies have tried this approach — many times — but most found limited success. I can’t help but think the same will occur here. Salesforce will soon discover that when you get into vertical industries, the existing foundation of industry-specific applications is difficult to displace. Although Salesforce can always play the SaaS card, most of those industry-specific providers have already moved to SaaS or are in the midst of such a move. That means SaaS won’t be the key differentiator it was when Salesforce first provided its powerful sales automation service more than a decade ago.

What is my conclusion? Efficiency and cost. These are two most important things to make PLM implementation successful. So, the technology must be improved. Data and model capturing tools, flexibility and ease of use – everything must be more efficient to support future of manufacturing processes. How to do so? This is a good topic to discuss with technology leaders and strategiest. I’m going to attend COFES 2014 in 10 days. I hope to find some answers there and share it with you.

Best, Oleg

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Will PLM Vendors Jump into Microsoft Cloud Window in Europe?

April 10, 2014

Cloud is raising lots of controversy in Europe. While manufacturing companies in U.S. are generally more open towards new tech, European rivals are much more conservative. Many of my industry colleagues in Germany, France, Switzerland and other EU countries probably can confirm that. Europe is coming to cloud systems, but much slower. I’ve been posting […]

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PLM Best Practices and Henry Ford Mass Production System

April 6, 2014

If you are in PLM business, I’m sure you are familiar with term called “best practices”. The term is widely used to explain how PLM system can be deployed, how to manage data and how to organize and optimize product development processes. So, where are roots of PLM best practices and why PLM vendors like […]

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Why PLM stuck in PDM?

April 5, 2014

I’ve been following CIMdata PLM market industry forum earlier this week on twitter. If you’re are on twitter, navigate here or search for #PLM4UM hash tag on twitter. The agenda of PLM forum is here. The following session discussed one of my favorite topics- PDM v PLM. PLM: Well Beyond Just PDM by Peter Bilello. […]

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How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to […]

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How engineers find path from emails and messages to collaboration?

March 14, 2014

We are really bad about managing ourselves. The natural people behavior is to create mess. Life is getting more dynamic these days. We are swamped into the ocean of information, data streams, social networks, emails, calls, etc. If you want me to do something, send me an email. I’m pretty sure you are familiar with […]

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CAD Collaboration & Cloud: Chat With GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum

March 12, 2014

I had new kind of experience yesterday. It was on demand webinar. To me it was more like live blogging conversation. In case you following my twitter closely, you probably noticed Engineering.com webinar yesterday – CAD Collaboration & the Cloud: On-Demand Webinar with GrabCAD & Beyond PLM. I had a chance to meet and talk […]

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Who will create Google Sheets BOM (Bill Of Materials) Add-On?

March 11, 2014

For the last few years, I’ve been chatting about the opportunity to use Google infrastructure and tools to innovate in PLM, engineering and manufacturing.  Google enterprise apps influence on PDM/PLM market is still minor these days. However, I believe, Google cloud infrastructure and tools are consistently inspire established vendors and new companies to develop better […]

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