PLM implementations and customer requirements

PLM implementations and customer requirements


Talk to any manufacturing company and they can easy convince you that their products, environment, engineering and manufacturing processes are unique. I’ve been in these conversations many times. This conversations and following PLM implementation can get ugly. It might lead to significant PLM configuration and customizations. And the result is an increased cost of implementations, service complexity and unhappy customer. Vendor and user are usually blaming each other for unique product requirements, rigid PLM architecture and bad communication.

There are two distinct trends in PLM development 1/ standard out-of-the-box PLM; and 2/ fully flexible customized PLM. I can literally see it as a fashion trends. First came toolkit approach. It was fully flexible, but expensive. Then it was changed by out-of-the-box templates. Easy to go, but stuck with customer requirements. Flexible platforms and configurable applications came to solve the problem. You can track PLM history for  PLM software releases and marketing campaigns in the past.

You can catch up on my articles about PLM customization here. While heavy customized PLM systems is a potential barrier in future PLM platform progress, the question of how to de-customize PLM is one of the most often asked by customers and vendors. Manufacturing companies are afraid to stuck in Limbo between heavy customization and future PLM software versions.  The cost is also not the latest factor here. SaaS PLM development turned as something that can support out-of-the-box PLM development as a way to compromise between cost and flexibility. You can get very low cost option for hosted PLM system that will limit PLM configuration and customization. The last was an attempt by PLM vendors to host their existing PLM platforms using IaaS environments.

So, what is the right answer? Actually, there is no silver bullet. I found the picture above can be used as an introduction into PLM implementation requirements with any manufacturing company. PLM consulting people can use it to create an appropriated mindset to discuss the balance between standard features and custom development. At the same time, compromises are not always good and can lead to future product design and manufacturing disasters.

This is where future trend of self-customization combined with continuous system development can emerge. Existing PLM implementations usually presents the situation as “old vs new” approach. But changes are hard. Instead of “change”, the idea of continuous PLM implementation can provide a different PLM implementation approach. It can help to deviate manufacturing company gradually from existing “unique” requirements towards a compromise by learning about their needs and process improvements. Known as “data modeling” and “implementation” processes will be replaced with self performed tasks coordinated between number of people working in different organizations and having different roles. The system will be in controllable continuous change process all the time. It will allow maximum flexibility and agility to organization and software vendors.

What is my conclusion? Standard vs unique. The truth is somewhere in between. While out-of-the-box PLM implementations are almost a myth, flexibility and customization is another extreme often turning into a complete PLM implementation catastrophe. Manufacturing companies have chosen their way to design and manufacturing products and there is engineering IP that associated with the way manufacturing system is operated. The process of continuous PLM implementation can be a way to escape from heavy debates about why current process is important and to move into process of improvement without chasing the agreement about what final state of PLM implementation will be. Lifecyle is unstoppable. And PLM implementation is part of this lifecycle. To understand manufacturing requirements, to bring a tool that help to make PLM implementation agile and lean will be a way to develop PLM in 21st century. 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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