Why small engineering [product] teams aren’t buying PDM / PLM solutions?

Why small engineering [product] teams aren’t buying PDM / PLM solutions?

Engineering.com just published an article confirming that small design and engineering team aren’t interested much in buying and implementing data management solutions (PDM and PLM). The following picture shows you an ugly truth – 60% of users aren’t using anything but shared drives and Excel spreadsheets to manage design and engineering data.

I think, 40% is already good number compared to adoption of the same type of solutions 10 years ago, it is still leaves a big adoption gap. So ,why these teams aren’t buying PDM/ PLM solutions? Especially, if the value of these solutions is very much compelling as it was described int he article.

It made me think that PDM/ PLM companies are missing some important elements of PDM / PLM solutions to make small team to get interested in the project.  In sales and marketing it called a competition with status quo, which is recognized as one of the most complex competitive use cases. 100% of design teams are working with CAD systems. Unless CAD system is sold together with data management solution, PDM / PLM is competing with the status quo of un-manages design data and some solution that company already have implemented.

How to compete with status of quo? Most of recommendations are focusing on the following 3 things – identify fear of change, demonstrate negative impact of doing nothing and influence companies by successful examples of PLM implementations.

It should start from the identification of fear of change. Such fear of change is actually one of the most critical contributors to the decision. Engineers don’t like PDM / PLM solutions because it put to much constraint in engineering process flexibility. Also, it might limit CAD system functionality. Finally, there is a risk of limiting updates to a newer version of CAD when it become available.  PLM vendors mostly addressed these aspects by creating seamless integration between CAD and PDM systems. Even lot of work was done by vendors, it is still far from an ideal.

The second thing vendors can do it is to address the impact of doing nothing. Lot of publications and case studies are demonstrating a potential disaster of not managing data and processes, relying on Excel and shared drives. Analyst researches shows how companies outperform competition by managing data and processes.

And finally, vendors should focus how to engage the emotional part of the engineers brain by telling multiple stories about how specific companies implemented PDM / PLM system successfully and demonstrated valuable outcome.

I can see 4 potential reasons why companies aren’t buying PDM / PLM – 1/ The value of change is too low; 2/ The risk is too high; 3/ Priority to solve the problem is relatively low; 4/ There is no money (solution is too expensive).

In my view, the reality is really about a combination of (1) and (2). These are real things stopping users. A significant disaster can accelerate the decision process and motivate users However, I don’t think, this is really good way to to increase an adoption of PDM/PLM solution.

I can see 2 possible ways to improve the situation – 1/ to embed data management functions into CAD system; 2/ mimicking existing environment. Bundle of CAD and PDM is a long process that requires lot of changes and can create a potential negative reaction. To create systems that mimicking existing PDM/PLM-less environment can be nice and interesting solution. A good example of such approach in the past was usage of file explorer paradigm in Solidworks PDM system.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors are competing with the reality of DIY data management  using Excel spreadsheets and shared drives. Even it is not a simple conclusion, but vendors should review their products, processes and find way to change the status quo between value and risks in PDM / PLM implementations. Big idea to think about. 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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