Nobody wants to sell plain bagels these days. People are looking for differentiation. It is very much true for what is happening in the world of PLM software. PLM vendors are looking for differentiation factors for their PLM suites, platforms and applications. The differentiation process is actually orthogonal to the need to developing business practices suporting engineering rules, standards and many other things associated with the way engineering and manufacturing company is doing business. After all, it is all about design, 3D models, drawings, bill of materials, ECO / MCOs, inventory, manufacturing planning. Recent PLM marketing gizmos introduced us to platforms, digital PLM, connected PLM, customer-driven PLM, business of engineering, cloud PLM, etc. But it still feels very much as “fake” differentiation factors. After all, I never heard about users looking after “connected PLM” or “digital PLM”.
It made me think about Amazon e-commerce vision and retail industry. The differentiation in retail industry is hard and price is usually the only thing that can differentiate 2 stores located on the same street. Back in 1998, Jeff Bezos had a vision for the internet. He was few years into building of Amazon. Here is almost 20 years old article from Washington Post- Amazon Gets Personal With E-Commerce.
As Bezos sees it, the success of electronic retailers will depend on their ability to analyze each customer’s tastes and create unique experiences from the moment they walk in the virtual door. “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store,” he says. “We should have 4.5 million stores.”
Amazon was one of the first Internet sites to customize pages for each registered customer, offering recommendations for books and music through a process called “collaborative filtering.” Using mathematical formulas, it arrives at predictions by comparing a customer’s previous purchases and stated preferences (click “Not for Me” to weed out lousy suggestions) with the preferences of other people who bought the same titles.
It made me think about personalization as a next differentiation factor for PLM software. PLM is very much focused on people and processes. This is a place to source information and data to personalize user experience. Most of people can give you something like role-based user interface by programmatically hiding features and functions defined for a specific role. But this is so much 1995 vision of personalization. Think about future personalized user experience driven by rich set of data produced by systems, extracted from processes and personalized for your tasks and priorities in the organization. Sounds like sci-fi movie. It could be… But 1998 vision of Jeff Bezos was also like sci-fi movie. Actually Jeff Bezos was a sci-fi buff who named his dog after the “Star Trek” character Kamala.
What is my conclusion? The future differentiation of PLM platform is in user experience. Although “experience” became another noisy word in the lexicon of marketing and executives, to make it data driven by what actually every person does in a manufacturing company, can be an interesting challenge. Everyone has a dream. This is PLM. 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