PLM vendors are usually proud of the ability to scale up and support enterprise environments, complex product structures and sophisticated processes. Global enterprises, automotive OEMs, aerospace and defense manufacturers, sophisticated industrial equipment machinery. I can move forward with examples of industries and products that for many years are on the list of success stores of major PLM vendors. Big names and big revenues are behind that deals. The sales process is complex and politically charged. The number of these deals is relatively small in the industry as we speak about large companies that move slow and once decided can take a decade to make the next move. These customers are super important for PLM companies also because by selling to them, PLM vendors can force an entire supply chain network to use their products. It indeed happened in some situations.
PLM life is completely different on the other side of the manufacturing university – small and medium-sized manufacturing companies. Small and medium-sized business is tough (and not only for PLM). Mid-size businesses have very similar needs to large companies, but they have limited resources, overlapped roles, bad decision process and, in addition to that, they die very often. Therefore, to sell PLM for SMB companies was considered impractical. PLM industry had some successes with SMB companies, but the number of failures in SMB PLM is much bigger.
The example of failures in SMB PLM is long.
SmarTeam can be called once success in SMB PLM. Read Jim Brown of Tech-Clarify published an article about SmarTeam and PLM for SMB from 2009. But SmarTeam was discontinued and replaced by Enovia, which never really was a replacement despite many attempts done by Dassault System. Even today I know mediums size enterprise companies successfully using SmarTeam.
PTC was making several attempts to get into SMB PLM business. One of them was introducing a product on top of Microsoft SharePoint – ProductPoint. It was introduced with the great fanfares – PTC Product Point is a Facebook for PLM says GraficSpeak article.
PTC introduces Windchill ProductPoint, a new product data management product based on Microsoft SharePoint. It is the first product ever built from scratch on top of the SharePoint technology stack, and becomes PTC’s new “Social Product Development Platform.”
PTC replaced ProductPoint with Windchill 10 and according to the PTC announcement, it supposed to become a solution for SMB, but I doubt it actually happened.
More examples of SMB failures – SAP halted the development of business by design. SolidEdge SP from Siemens was also an attempt to get into SMB business.
Earlier this week, my attention was caught by Aras announcements of the partnership with Minerva Group to launch Minerva PLM – a PLM software solution based on the Aras Innovator platform with industry best practice features that will serve small to medium-sized manufacturers. Here is the press release.
The passage is very generic.
Minerva PLM, powered by Aras, combines the flexible, model-based technology inside the Aras Innovator platform with industry-specific features that have been developed through Minerva’s 25 years of enterprise software implementation experience. The solution is a result of the best practices that the Minerva team has established over decades of close collaboration with customers across different industries and incorporates the knowledge and experience from more than 100 successful Aras Innovator implementations.
Minerva made ~100 Aras implementations and feels strong to bring it to smaller companies. Knowing that Aras is not selling PLM to accounts with less than 250 seats, working with the partner is the only way for SMB manufacturing companies to buy Aras subscription.
It is not clear how Minerva plans to do so. Will Minerva host Aras using IaaS infrastructure or deliver on the premise? Will Minerva keep Aras free and Minerva will charge for support only like Aras does? It is not clear from the press release.
Everything seems to be working in PowerPoints as it always happened in PLM. The industry has seen tons of announcements about large and sophisticated platforms that are able to support small manufacturing companies. Here is how it sounds – “we made PLM for a super big global enterprise and learned a lot, so we will apply these best practices to smaller companies”. The problem is that small company are unique, often don’t care about best practices, sensitive to prices and picky about user experience. Users’ roles are overlapped, which creates tons of user experience challenges. And this is only a short list of problems you can experience with SMB companies. The reality is that none of the existing large PLM vendors is well-positioned for small and medium-sized businesses. Check more in G2 Grid for PLM.
What is my conclusion?
Aras and Minerva are getting in a hot tub of PLM for SMB. It can be a pleasant and nice experience, but it can too hot and they can get burned. I know companies that downloaded Aras for free to use it, but stuck and got frustrated without resources, skills and IT. Will Minerva be able to scale down Aras to the level that allows them to deliver needed SMB PLM experience or they will burn themselves as many other large PLM vendors did. It looks like PLM vendors are turning back to small and medium-sized companies. It is time to buy popcorn to watch the show. We will see a lot of flashy marketing. Will Aras scale down to SMB is the real question we need to get answered. It is an interesting time in the PLM industry. 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.
Photo credit Minke Wagenaar