PLM market is tough when it comes to small and medium manufacturing companies. In my memory I have multiple attempts CAD and PLM vendors have tried to approach this market. The topic is interesting and complex. For many years, PLM vendors are stuck to provide solutions for SME that are capable to scale and not requires high touch of selling and dedication. I event thought that vendors should change “PLM for SMB” mantra and call it “Efficient PLM” . Despite all attempts to product an affordable PLM solution, PLM for SMB is still a system that cost 6 figures and cannot be afforded by most of companies. PLM vendors tried many approaches during two decades of PLM for SMB innovation – from “flexible PLM” to “cloud PLM”. But little success so far..
Few recent articles written by Engineering.com Vedri Ogewell are hinting that CAD vendors operating in SMB segment are probably found how to crack PLM market for engineering teams and mid sized manufacturing companies.
I have to applause Verdi for nice allegories he found to describe coming success of CAD vendors in PLM development. Here are two of them – “Ketchup Bottle Effect” and “3DEXPERIENCE Volcano is about to erupt“. Nice articles with lot of examples and data points.
I already shared my thoughts on Autodesk article – Did Autodesk find how to sell PLM to mid-size companies? I’m not convinced Autodesk unlocked PLM SMB market so far and $65M annual revenue mentioned by Verdi Ogewell’s article is not directly related to Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle, but probably to overall Autodesk data management products. Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle PLM is competing in the market that majority is Excel and spreadsheets and cloud PLM products such as Arena PLM and few other vendors.
Second article written by Verdi Ogewell is a very interesting compilation about the status of data management and PLM development in a huge segment of market, which belongs to Solidworks products. Here is a passage with interesting market data points:
510,000 Active Industrial SOLIDWORKS Users. These numbers reflect SOLIDWORKS as the market-leading desktop 3D CAD solution. We sometimes hear SOLIDWORKS representatives talking about 2.2 million users. However, Jay Vleeschhouwer, senior industry analyst and Griffin Securities’ Managing Director, states, “In my published reports, I’ve most recently stated that by our calculation the active commercial base for SOLIDOWRKS is in the neighborhood of 510,000—perhaps more, depending on cumulative maintenance reinstatements over the past few years. For Autodesk Inventor, we’ve calculated more than 325,000,” he said.
According to the same article Gian Paolo Bassi agreed with the fact PLM gives to SMB Shivers of Discomfort. At the same time, he believes SMB a critical mass of companies are moving to PLM world one step at a time. According to him there are not many alternatives to PLM for SMB and companies have to move to PLM not because they want, but because they have to.
Overall, Gian Paolo Bassi is positive about the future. CAD software is here to stay, playing a significantly growing and important role in contexts like digital twins, AR/VR and additive manufacturing—and in his assessment the PLM volcano has reached the boiling point. Obviously, the PLM mantra may not be received positively right away among SMEs, including the SOLIDWORKS community. Rather, the concept evokes a feeling of discomfort and a certain sense of resistance.
The question is whether this picture is relevant today, as much of the PLM resistance is a result of old problems that created an image which has proven very difficult to change.
The PLM skepticism in smaller companies is not unique to the SOLIDWORKS community. The same kind of skepticism and resistance can be found in the Autodesk world, where despite large investments, the company has had a hard time selling the idea of PLM to SMEs.
There are now signs that critical mass will soon be achieved, with a number of smaller companies moving into the PLM world one step at a time—not necessarily because they want to, but more because they have to.
So, what will help Solidworks users to move to PLM? According to Bassi, there are bridges that slowly built between Solidworks and 3DEXPERIENCE and it will help customers to move.
“I think these bridges make us ready for a careful, but good, start to the transformation of the SOLIDWORKS community. What is going to change the game is the suite of 3DEXPERIENCE PLM Collaboration Services, designed to support and integrate any file-system CAD, including CATIA V5, SOLIDWORKS and others, into the database-driven world of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform in the cloud, and therefore without the need of any infrastructure or even the installation of any client software, with the exception of the connectors to the various CAD platforms,” Bassi said.
I can see sources of positive thinking by Gian Paolo Bassi about how 3DEXPERIENCE and other related technologies can solve the problem of Solidworks customers. After all, majority of Solidworks customers are almost exclusively using Windows based desktop products and technologies. Despite success of Solidworks PDM, the product is dinosaur-age file explorer based tech developed almost two decades ago. 3DEXPERIENCE is an opportunity to switch to modern, browser based universe of tools to support collaboration, which is a key element of success in a modern manufacturing world. However the key question – is 3DEXPERIENCE ready to play alongside with existing Solidworks desktop products? New Solidworks browser based product xDesign is promising, but long play for majority of 500K customers still running desktop Solidworks on their PC computers and don’t rush to move to the cloud.
What is my conclusion? It is very much possible that PLM SMB volcano is cold. According to recent presentations made by CIMdata, industry should consider to stop selling “PLM” acronym. Solidworks and Autodesk products are representing a big portion of mechanical CAD marketshare for SMB market. I’m sure SMB market is hungry, but not convinced this market is receptive to “PLM” ideas? Companies and individual engineers are looking how to transform their engineering, production planning, manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain relationships from a spaghetti of emails and Excel spreadsheets into a new digital realm. Do you think 3DEXPERIENCE is the product to make it happen? Dassault Systemes has market share and resources. However, the question if 3DEXPERIENCE platform is capable to deliver solution to SME market is still not answered. Jury is still out. Just my thoughts…
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