How collaborative economy will change PLM

How collaborative economy will change PLM


Have you heard about collaborative economy? If you are not familiar with the term, it is a time to get up to speed. I’m sure you are familiar with many examples of collaborative economy or so-called economy of share. Here is Wikipedia definition, which I found pretty accurate:

The sharing economy (sometimes also referred to as the peer-to-peer economy, mesh, collaborative economy, collaborative consumption) is a socio-economic system built around the sharing of human and physical resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations.[1] These systems take a variety of forms, often leveraging information technology to empower individuals, corporations, non-profits and government with information that enables distribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity in goods and services.[2] A common premise is that when information about goods is shared, the value of those goods may increase, for the business, for individuals, and for the community.[3]

The economy of share is growing. You can find an interesting perspective on presenting of collaboration economy in the following article by Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies – The collaborative economy honeycomb.

Reading about growing collaborative economy made me think about significant influence on a world of things and the way people and companies are interacting during the process of designing, engineering, manufacturing and servicing products. It comes across many aspects of business and can fundamentally change business relationships and, as a result, influence product lifecycle.

Remember, existing PLM paradigms and fundamental ways companies are using engineering and manufacturing software were established back 40-50 years ago. The model CAD/PLM companies used for that came from large aerospace, automotive and defense companies. World we live in today is changing. So, how it will change product lifecycle management environment?

I captured few bold examples that can give you an idea of that change. Sharing economy environment is growing and evolving. Some of these examples can be transformed in the future or dissapear at all. But, in my view, it won’t change a trend of changes in manufacturing.

Distributed manufacturing and material production

Large companies that used to build existing PLM models already had distributed infrastructure. This infrastructure was centrally controlled and managed. It includes systems and infra to manage IP, transportation, etc. All together, it presented economically feasible model for manufacturing and distribution. Existing PLM system helped to execute elements of this model – design, engineering, services and others.

The emerging sharing economy model is different. It introduced new type of intellectual property management (including IP cooperation) and leverage a network of smaller players connected around the world leading technology innovation. This ecosystem made of network of workshops that can produce things locally. However, this model requires global physical coordination between players that located around the world. The demand for infrastructure and tools to support such type of model will be growing.

Peer production in manufacturing

Peer-to-peer is a form allowing connection between individuals and organizations and aggregate around the creation of common value. Building blocks of this model are cooperation, common knowledge, shared resources and open distribution. Open source software demonstrated a power of peer-to-peer production. Modern web was significantly influenced by this software creation model.

The model of peer production is now going beyond software in many domains. Manufacturing clearly will be impacted by introducing of new forms of relationships and production. Open source software created many tools that served needs of FOSS community. We might see similar situation in software for engineering and manufacturing.

Personal manufacturing

Manufacturing is transforming. What was before only possible for large companies and government is now scaling down to one. Regular people and small manufacturing shops with small investment capital are able to setup and grow up as their business will be growing. We know many examples of successful digital fabrication and personal manufacturing. Just go on Kickstarter and watch companies there.

However, most of Kickstarter projects are failing to deliver on time. They are facing problems with scaling their product development and manufacturing processes without right tools. I covered it in my blog – Why Kickstarter need PLM.

What is my conclusion? I only mentioned few examples of how economy of share is going to transform manufacturing. Future manufacturing processes will be network driven, which will introduce a complete new model for product lfiecycle management tools. This is where cloud PLM and other SaaS tools will have significant advantage. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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