How IoT can eclipse and outcompete PLM platforms

How IoT can eclipse and outcompete PLM platforms


IoT is one of the biggest buzzword these days. IoT technologies and tools are promising to connect physical products and delivery new type of software services leveraging product data and analytic. In the past few months, I’ve got many questions about IoT and its impact on PLM. It made me think about different aspects of how IoT and PLM trajectories can intertwined. No doubt, IoT will impact engineering and manufacturing industry. And the result can be surprising, in my view.

Competition might have different faces. Long time ago when visited a company manufacturing luxury yachts, I asked them who is their direct competitor. The answer was “Ferrari cars”. There is a simple reason for that. A person who will buy Ferrari has lower chance to buy a yacht at the same year. Earlier last week, my attention was caught by an interesting article – Dropbox: the first dead decacorn. It gives you another angle on competition between companies. Here is my favorite passage:

If you’re worth a billion dollars, you’re probably doing enough things well that your direct competitors can’t take you to the cleaners overnight. Instead, your nightmares shift to a fate even scarier than being outcompeted: being eclipsed. Specifically, being eclipsed by someone at one level of the stack above or below you.

What does this look like in practice? It’s what Microsoft did to the PC manufacturers, and then what the web browser did to Microsoft. It’s what Android/iOS did to the handset makers, and what Facebook is trying to do to them in turn. To those being eclipsed, it’s terrifying because the change happens so gradually and then so suddenly: Compaq was one of the best PC makers around until all of a sudden Windows was what mattered, not the machine it ran on. Then a bit later on, Windows ruled the world and Microsoft was King- but all the interesting stuff started happening inside the web browser. My point being: Compaq didn’t get creamed because somebody else came along and made a better desktop PC. They lost because all of a sudden Windows was what was important- and other PC Manufacturers like Dell were better suited to thrive in the new reality of modular commodity.

Both examples can helps to think about competition in a different form of its existence. In PLM world, if company decided to implement ERP, it usually lower chances to make a decision about PLM the same year. Historically PLM vs ERP competition postponed PLM implementations because companies had no time, focus and budget to deal with PLM implementation when they made investment and focus on ERP side. In many situations, PLM vs ERP competition was a competition for vision. If a company has PLM vision and put a focus on product innovation and product development processes, the priority will be to define PLM strategy. In that case PLM vision outcompetes ERP manufacturing strategy.

Few days ago, Autodesk announced the acquisition of SeeControl – Califronia based software outfit developing enterprise IoT Cloud Service helps manufacturers and systems integrators create virtual product experiences and new service revenue. It organizes and makes sense of data from the Internet of Things with no coding skills required. The press release is here. The following quote by Amar Hanspal, Autodesk SVP for Information modeling and platform products is confirming the fact Autodesk joined “IoT vision club”.

“A new future of making things is emerging, where any built object, product or environment can be embedded with sensors that can feed information back into the design process. The acquisition of SeeControl is the first step on Autodesk’s ongoing efforts to develop new technologies and solutions that will help our customers leverage the Internet of Things, starting by enabling them to capture, analyze, and utilize data from their products. We welcome the SeeControl team and ecosystem to Autodesk,”

The following short video can give you a good perspective of what SeeControl can do.

Among many things, I captured few interesting characteristics of SeeControl solutions that sounds very complementary to PLM infrastructure – product data models, workflow services, on the fly reporting and dashboards. Combined with the architecture that has cloud scale, it is an interesting combination of elements that can raise many questions about how does it can be aligned with a typical PLM implementation.

From some conversations online, I’ve got a sense that SeeControl will become part of the same group as PLM 360. Which can make a perfect sense if Autodesk is planning to create a larger scale cloud platform to cover wider scope of services for manufacturers and building industry. I hope to learn more about it later today at Autodesk PLM360 conference in Boston – the keynote by Scott Reese, Autodesk VP of Cloud platform might give us few data points about future PLM360 and SeeControl trajectories.

What is my conclusion? PLM and IoT trajectories are going to be intertwined and it might take some interesting forms. PLM platforms can be out-competed and eclipsed by IoT platforms on the level of stack above or below PLM – the most scary perspective for PLM vendors. Autodesk joined IoT PLM competition race after PTC, which made few strong steps towards arming itself with IoT platforms and tools. Future few years will show an interesting development in the development of both PLM and IoT platforms for manufacturing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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