Two decades of PLM SMB innovation and next steps

Two decades of PLM SMB innovation and next steps

One of the readers of my blog, raised the topic of PLM for SMB. Long time ago I was working at SmarTeam developing PDM and PLM solutions for mid-sized manufacturing companies. The following passage reminded me discussion about PLM for SMB that happened in the industry for almost 2 decades.

In a world where companies do not want to pay the massive price tag to bring on a legacy PLM tool (especially in the SMB space), SaaS/Multi-tenant is the only way to go.  The PLM market has been slow to adopt it, but it NEEDS to and will come shortly 😉

PLM for SMB is an old topic. But it seems to be still relevant and PLM companies are still not resolved the problem.  You can find few good articles written by Jos Voskuil about PLM for SMB. My favorite is this one. What if SMB as a vision for PLM and PLM vendors don’t understand it. You can find some of my relatively recent articles about PLM for SMB – Is it a time to change PLM for SMB mantra and call it “efficient PLM”?

Long time ago, PLM was designed to serve large organization with their data and change management processes. PLM systems were big, complex and requires lot of effort to make it work.  As PLM companies progressed in the market the question how to address problems of different organization (and not only large OEMs) became important. PLM vendors used different approaches and marketed them differently. I captured them below in the following diagram.

Recent development of SaaS application is certainly addressing some of the problems associated with smaller manufacturing companies

1. IT Resources

2. Expensive licensing model

3. Complex user experience

These are absolutely valid points, but in my view, root cause of PLM for SMB failures aren’t exactly about cost and resources. In my view, it is related to effort / ROI balance of current PLM implementation paradigm. This paradigm is focusing on a specific organizational behaviors (mostly controlling data). It works well and for the last decade we can see an increased adoption of simpler PDM systems. However, when it comes to expanding PLM outside of engineering, the adoption is slowing down and %% of smaller organization ready to accept the solution is much lower. So, conceptually PLM barrier is too high.  At the same time, PLM isn’t addressing easy enough collaboration and communication between different organization, downstream information availability and online internet experience (this is why modern PLM companies are brining the topic of multi-tenancy).

What is my conclusion? I think for many manufacturing companies PLM is a long term vision that never materialized. I can see how PLM concepts were pushed in different forms to small organization but there is a need for a different solution. Cloud is a starting point. Enabler. But, paradigm shift is required. Single point of truth isn’t good in the environment where many companies contractors and individuals are working together. Simplification and network experience can make a difference. I think small is a new big and “SMB” tag is really annoying innovative people running agile business these days. 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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