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Jul 8 th, 2017
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Tomayto, tomahto, PLM strategy and small manufacturing teams

Engineers are usually get frustrated with discussions about PDM / PLM strategies and solutions. For most of them, it sounds very abstract and far for their engineering and manufacturing realities. Business process, product information, downstream and upstream processes, data continuity, etc. It sounds and feels like a different planet for most of them. Therefore small product teams are not thinking about PDM / PLM implementations and prefer to use shared drives, spreadsheets and emails.

I shared some of my thoughts and observations about why PDM / PLM vendors are losing the competition on small engineering and product team to a status quo. You can catch up on my article here – Why small engineering [product] teams aren’t buying PDM / PLM solutions?

I was thrilled by comments from some of my old readers. Take a look below.

Jos Voskuil – PLM Coach, Blogger & Lecturer – passionate advocate for a digital future. Connecting the dots. Oleg I think the tittle is already stating part of the problem. Companies buy PLM solutions as they need to implement a business strategy. Engineering teams are not necessary the main driver for that. I have seen several successful PLM implementations in small companies where the need for PLM did not come from engineering but from the fact that end-to-end (digital) continuity was needed.

Paul-Eric Belanger – Solutions Architect. Oleg, Jos means to implement a Business Strategy that extends beyond the Engineering department – involving Sales, Procurement, Finance, Manufacturing (for manufacturability!) and Marketing, for instance. The engineering department might be quite content with only managing their ecosystem, but including a wider audience that participates both upstream and downstream from the engineering team does help align everyone on the business goals, enhances visibility of a product’s development, and improves its outcome. Remember the 1-10-100 rule.

While, I’m in total agreement with both Paul-Eric and Jos about PLM business strategy development, I think these comments are brilliant outlining the reason why PLM as it is today doesn’t fit the needs of small engineering and manufacturing teams. Most of these small companies are driven by a business strategy to build products and ship them to customers. To make it happen, this is how simplified business process looks like for most of them: design product, prototype and make it work, order parts, assembly and shipment. Even such simple process involves lot of complexity, the nature of small companies to solve them by applying simple tools and not complex business strategies. In my view, this is the reason why I often can see over-scaled Solidworks PDM installations and can rarely find scaled down PLM implementations. Digital strategies for these teams are often driven by consumer apps and web trends. There is high probability for them to try some web tools and mobile apps rather than think about complex PLM infrastructure.

PLM industry as of today doesn’t fit small engineering and manufacturing companies. This is not a new thing. It happened 10-15 years ago with “PLM for SMB” strategies and it happens again and again. To solve this problem, PLM vendors should start over from re-thinking user experience and customers in the way Steve Jobs explained it one day.

…one of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. And I made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I got the scar tissue to prove it. And I know that it’s the case,” Jobs said. “And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’ Not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that?’

What is my conclusion? Start from customer experience and not from business strategies and existing PLM products. The latter can work for large corporations, but doesn’t work for small manufacturing teams. Can PLM vendors push “start over” button? When I look at some achievements done by PDM / PLM for the last 10-15 years, I think it is possible. But, unfortunately lots of valuable innovations were dead on the way to mass adoption. To sell product to Boeing and Ford is hard. But to sell products to millions of users is every harder. PLM doesn’t fit for such mission… yet. 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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