Why PLM vendors missed a spot in CBInsights list of technologies for manufacturing transformation?

Why PLM vendors missed a spot in CBInsights list of technologies for manufacturing transformation?

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. Often Henry Ford is credited for this quote and I like to mention it in the context of manufacturing transformation and new technology. To reach its full potential, the manufacturing industry will need to continue to embrace new technology. Technology have changed so many industries in the past decades and it is amazing to see how technology is changing modern manufacturing landscape of tools and transform manufacturing processes.

CBInsights is a software and research startup outfit that builds software that predicts what the next technology trend will be. It uses variety of data analysis to build and predict technology and trends. For the last couple of years, I’ve been following publications and researches published by CBInsights and found them remarkable and interesting.

My attention was caught by recent CBInsights research publications – Future Factory: How Technology Is Transforming Manufacturing. Read the article and draw your opinion. If you’re doing business in manufacturing, it is worth attention. Article covers what CBInsights consider a landscape of future factory. Check this picture.

CBInsights took a dive into 8 different steps of manufacturing – from R&D to transportation and logistic. Here is a brief passage with the overview.

(1) Product R&D: A look at how platforms are democratizing R&D talent, the ways AI is helping materials science, and how the drafting board of tomorrow could be an AR or VR headset;

(2) Resource Planning & Sourcing: On-demand decentralized manufacturing and blockchain projects are working on the complexities of integrating suppliers.

(3) Operations Technology Monitoring & Machine Data: A look at the IT stack and platforms powering future factories. First, factories will get basic digitization, and further along we’ll see greater predictive power;

(4) Labor Augmentation & Management: AR, wearables, and exoskeletons are augmenting human capabilities on the factory floor.

(5) Machining, Production & Assembly: Modular equipment and custom machines like 3D printers are enabling manufacturers to handle greater demand for variety.

(6) Quality Assurance (QA): A look at how computer vision will find imperfections, and how software and blockchain tech will more quickly be able to identify problems (and implement recalls).

(7) Warehousing: New warehouse demand could bring “lights-out” warehouses even faster than an unmanned factory, with the help of robotics and vision tracking.

(8) Transport & Supply Chain Management: Telematics, IoT, and autonomous vehicles will bring greater efficiency and granularity for manufacturers delivering their products.

I found great deal of examples about technologies and companies changing manufacturing. My favorite examples are related to Decentralized Part Manufacturing and cobbled ERP software.

Sourcing of parts and orders is transforming. Manufacturing process is complex and requires sophisticated decisions to be made to decide where to manufacture, source and ship. Mass-production is replaced with mass-customization. To manage network of suppliers becomes a huge problem for modern manufacturing.

Decentralized manufacturing may be one impending change that helps manufacturers handle demand for parts orders. Distributed or decentralized manufacturing employs a network of geographically dispersed facilities that are coordinated with IT. Parts orders, especially for making medium- or small-run items like 3D printed parts, can be fulfilled at scale using distributed manufacturing platforms. As mass-customization takes off, so could the reliance on decentralized network of parts suppliers.

Manufacturing aren’t done by a single company anymore. It brings a point of multiple enterprise systems to be used for process management. The following examples brings a data point about 100 different ERP used to manage these companies. Distributed process and distributed ledger are targeting  data and process unification.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software tracks resource allocation from raw material procurement all the way through customer relationship management (CRM).Yet a manufacturing business can have so many disparate ERP systems and siloed data that, ironically, the ERP “stack” (which is intended to simplify things) can itself become a tangled mess of cobbled-together software.In fact, a recent PwC report found that many large industrial manufacturers have as many as 100 different ERP systems.Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) projects aim to unite data from a company’s various processes and stakeholders into a universal data structure.

However, the shocking thing for me was that CBInsights article didn’t mention much of PLM and CAD technologies as a factors to transform manufacturing in the future. Among all CAD companies, only Autodesk made it to the list of CAD vendors to be mentioned. Even so, article is referencing it as a company developing AutoCAD without mentioning other tools developed by Autodesk. None of other CAD and PLM vendors are mentioned in the article. PLM industry is not represented as a class – no PLM mentioning in transforming manufacturing. The same can be said about “digital transformation” in manufacturing, which is not mentioned in the article.

CBInsights is usually doing an outstanding data-driven researches. Therefore, I’m curious how CAD and PLM technologies practically got missed from the list of tools for manufacturing transformation. Maybe CBInisght can share some of their data points and researches – it would be interesting to see.

At the same time, it can be an alarm call for PLM companies and technological leadership. PLM companies are spending significant amount of effort presenting PLM as a strategic initiative and not technology. As much as it can sound strange, the latest can easy exclude PLM vendors from the list of technological providers transforming manufacturing. It is also an alarm clock for marketing executives missing such vendor as CBInsights with their research initiatives.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing is transforming and it can change landscape of companies and tools helping to companies to design, plan, manufacturing and support  processes for manufacturing industry. There is a great danger for PLM providers to stay on the side of Manufacturing technology highway. Focus on business strategy and process transformation is absolutely important, but to figure out what is the next technology to change CAD design, data management and collaboration can be equally important.  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.

Picture credit CBInsights article.


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