PLM: Rightsizing vs. Wrongsizing Debates?

What is the right PLM size? This question is continuously debated and discussed by PLM vendors. This topic remains active for the last 10-15 years. The history is going back to the origins of PLM and work that CAD/PLM companies did with very large aero, automotive and defense companies. That was the place where concepts of PLM were developed – outcome of configuration management, BOM management and change management. From time to time, PLM companies are coming with the idea of developing of right size PLM for smaller companies. If you watch this industry long enough time you can even see waves of "PLM for SMB" development.

Last week, PTC announced the new "rightsized" version of PLM for SMB called PTC Windchill Essentials. Navigate here to read the press release. You can read more in the following DE article – PTC’s Windchill Essentials is Made for SMBs. The following passage stood out:

Enter PTC, the latest of the large PLM vendors to take a stab at what they call “rightsizing” PLM for the SMB market. PTC has taken the core product data management capabilities of its Windchill enterprise PLM platform and packaged it up as PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, specifically tuned to the needs of SMBs. The focus of the new release is to simplify the installation process and user interface so there are less choices and companies can get started right away, according to Michael Distler, Windchill product marketing director at PTC. “With very little effort, companies can get the system up and running,” he explains. “It’s really intended for smaller companies that may not have dedicated IT people.”

Interesting enough, a year ago (2012), PTC retired their previous attempt to address the needs of smaller size manufacturing companies – Product Point. The original idea was to use Microsoft SharePoint as a platform for PLM product closing gaps of Windchill for SMB market.

At the same time, another large PLM provider – Siemens PLM actually is coming opposite course and last year introduced a new product SolidEdge Insight XT based on SharePoint and… again focusing on the needs of SolidEdge customers and SMB manufacturing companies.

The dance around SMB manufacturing companies is interesting. While the vast majority of large manufacturing companies and trying to improve the existing PLM implementation or maybe even to replace old technologies and products, the huge amount of SMBs are using file management and Microsoft Excel to solve their PLM problems. DE’s Stackpole articulates it very well. Here is the passage:

While large enterprises have had their fair share of well-publicized bouts trying to tame the PLM beast, small and mid-sized companies (SMBs) have mostly shied away, reluctant to take on a technology many larger companies couldn’t swallow. At the same time, however, smaller manufacturers face a lot of the same product development and engineering challenges as their bigger brethren. Time-to-market pressures, increasingly dispersed and sometimes global engineering teams, and the need for more cost-effective and repeatable design processes have many SMBs hungry for a solution that can help them better coordinate product development strategies, optimize design cycles, and institute better planning.

However, large manufacturing companies are also suffering from poor PLM implementations. Below you can see the photo I made 2 weeks ago during PI Congress in Berlin. In the following slide, presented by Boeing, we can see how Boeing PLM implementation is suffering from poor usability at the time when the amount of features introduced by PLM vendors is skyrocketing (together with cost of ownership).

What is my conclusion? Less is more. PLM companies need to focus on usability and how to make cost of ownership low. In my view, it is true for companies of any size. It prevents small and medium size manufacturing companies from implementing existing PLM systems and raises many questions to IT of largest OEMs. The fact companies like PTC and Siemens PLM are focusing on SMB-tailored solutions is important since it reflects customer demands. New Gen-Y of workers are expecting zero installation effort and will be probably asking for URL rather than for simplified installation packages sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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