Small manufacturers and search of simple solutions

Small manufacturers and search of simple solutions

Manufacturing innovation blog article – Challenge Forecasting for Very Small Manufacturers brings an interesting perspective on challenges for very small manufacturing companies. Here is a passage which caught by special attention:

The top three challenges facing very small MEP clients over the next three years are: 1) Ongoing Continuous Improvement, 2) Identifying Growth opportunities, and 3) Product Development/Innovation. This is consistent with the population of our survey respondents over the past year, who reported the same top three challenges in the exact same order.

In the past two years I had a chance to speak to many very small manufacturing companies – small OEMs, engineering services companies, hardware startups and contractors. The message from Manufacturing innovation blog is very resonating with things I learned during the last two years. Small manufacturing businesses are focusing on how to maintain the growth and improve their day to day operations. The think I found the most interesting is the demand for simple tools.

Which made me think about recent online discussion I had with Jos Voskuil. His last blog – Human Beings, PLM and Simplicity can give you a good summary of our ongoing debates which I found very interesting and fruitful. Here is my favorite passage. It speaks about the role of top-down strategy and business transformation.

Business transformations will never happen because of simple tools. People are measured and pushed to optimize their silos in the organization. A digital transformation, which is creating a horizontal flow and transparency of information, will never happen through a tool. The organization needs to change, and this is always driven by a top-down strategy. PLM consultants are valuable to explain the potential future, to coach all levels of the organization. In theory, a PLM consultant’s job is tool independent. However, the challenge of being completely disconnected from the existing tools might allow for dreams that never can be realized. In reality, most PLM consultants are experienced in one or more specific tools they have been implementing. The customer should be aware of that and make sure they own the PLM roadmap.

I believe this is one of the places where we can see a great miss-alignment between PLM strategies and the demand of small manufacturing companies. With high focus on product development process transformation, PLM strategy is always focusing how to build a potential future.  It might be a good approach for large companies, but it is very hard for small manufacturing business looking for simple tool. This tool can help to answer a handful of important questions, so the software can build itself around these questions – product, inventory, cost, orders. It is very similar to Turbotax if you’re familiar with such tool that is flexible to be customized for your needs.

I can see such a trend among companies building platforms other businesses can build on top of. Think about Facebook, Github, Apple. Other tools can be build on top of these platforms while preserving core values and features of these platforms.

What is my conclusion? I believe, the simpler something to use, the more likely it will be adopted by companies focusing on growing their business and thinking about continues improvement. And these companies are looking for core simple tools they can use and have the ability to build out applications around them – a strong argument about what is the most important characteristic of future product development and manufacturing platforms. 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

By Jorge.maturana (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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