Selling PLM for SME was always a very controversial topic among PLM vendors. No consensus here. I wrote about it few months ago in my Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME post and got interesting follow up conversations with few industry pundits.
Every PLM vendor has some special product offering ready for SME market segment. But did it work well to anybody? My hunch, most of "successful PLM SME" implementations are focusing on basic CAD/PDM features. Very few SME organizations successfully implemented a complete PLM system including BOM, change management, configurations, manufacturing integration, requirement management and more. If you got a chance to see one, it is typically result of huge effort of people in the organization itself committed to make it work.
One of the most typical reasons for PLM vendors to sale to SME was high cost of implementation and sales multiplied by absence of IT people ready to handle PLM implementation. In my view, PLM vendors have a great hope to make it easier with modern cloud based PLM offering, but jury is still out to watch results.
Meantime, manufacturing landscape is getting even more interesting. Hardware is the new software. Nest, GoPro, Beats, Jawbone, Oculus… You’re welcome in the world of manufacturing startups. I touched it in my earlier post – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? Yesterday, my attention was caught by TechCrunch article – Hardware Case Study: Why Lockitron Has Taken So Long To Ship. Read the article – I found it very interesting. The following passage explains basically that from "limited assembly", manufacturing startups are moving towards full manufacturing cycle:
In our initial RFQs (“request for quote”) we leaned heavily towards manufacturing entirely in the United States. Our impetus for this was largely around logistics; if we could make everything domestically, we wouldn’t have to travel far and wide to ensure the quality we expected. It quickly became apparent that manufacturing domestically would cost far beyond what we had budgeted for. Given the number of parts, required touch time (the amount of time it takes someone to assemble a product), various materials and processes used, building entirely in the U.S. wasn’t viable. Potential domestic suppliers still looked East for most of the components we needed, albeit with longer lead times.
However, even more interesting quote is the following one explaining the level of challenges during the development processes.
We spent the next few months redesigning our gearbox to reduce noise while increasing power to deal with sticky or hard-to-close locks. While the choice was the right one to make, it cost us valuable time; a few parts had to be retooled and there were cascading effects on our electronics and supplier choices. We selected an ultra-efficient, powerful motor to place at the lock’s heart, but this also impacted our timeline. Most challenging, however, was the meshing of electronic and mechanical worlds. An initial circuit board design proved overly complex and underpowered.
As you noted the complexity of product including mechanical and electronic parts is very high. In addition to that, even it wasn’t stated explicitly by the article, I can see a growing complexity of integration between electromechanical and software components.
What is my conclusion? The complexity of manufacturing startups is growing. To scale product development and manufacturing is a very challenging job. And all must be done in a craziest timeline – the reality of every startup. Manufacturing startups is an interesting niche that clearly different from typical SME organizations we’ve seen before. The challenge of PLM with a typical manufacturing SME is to compete with a status quo of existing processes and tools. Manufacturing startups are different – absence of processes, startup culture and an absolutely need to get job done in a very short timeframe. It would be interesting to see a growing demand for PLM tools as well as growing complexity of product development and supply chain in these organizations. What PLM tools will provide an answer? Good question for PLM strategists these days. Just my thoughts…