The adoption of PLM is a tricky question. I use a term PLM for the moment, to describe both tools and processes needed for PLM adoption. Here is the thing, regardless on what tools are you using you do have PLM processes in place. You might have bad processes in place, but you clearly have some processes in place to insure a company is shipping products. It is more complicated with tools. Excel is probably one of the most widely adopted PLM tools. The visible simplicity and flexibility of Excel makes is easy to adopt and use. It is getting messy later, so company is keeping “Chief Excel Officer” to handle their messy excels. But… the rational of Excel (or spreadsheets) is clear – this is a tool that easy to adopt and use.
Even PLM industry made a significant step towards simplicity and usability for the last few years, the situation is still far from ideal. PLM concept is not easy to grasp and it takes time and a lot of effort to make company to agree how to use PLM system, to create an abstraction models and implement it using one of the available PLM technologies and tools.
In my blog last week – How PLM vendors can compete with manufacturing status-quo I raised the point of “inertia” as one of the key element in PLM competition. For many manufacturing companies to keep status quo is an easier decision rather than to start PLM implementations.
Sourcing Journal article Can PLM Systems Help Apparel Companies Catch Up With Fast Fashion? brings some interesting examples of inertia and how fashion industry companies are adopting new technologies. Here is my favorite passage from the article:
But the fashion industry is notoriously slow to invest in practical technology and a large majority of companies are happy for each department to rely on spreadsheets to manage their day-to-day operations. McKee argued against this practice, “There’s no structure. You don’t know where you stand. You don’t know if the head of sales or the president has suggested a budget. You never have a good idea where you stand against your goal.” Given all the technology that exists today, McKee said there’s no reason apparel companies should still be conducting their businesses that way.
So why are they? “The reasons vary from company to company but from a creative standpoint very often we find that creative people, designers in particular, sometimes can be technology averse,” offered Luis Velazquez, a business consultant for Lectra North America, which unveiled the latest version of its PLM software in March, an iteration that focuses heavily on collection planning and calendar management. “What we find sometimes is if you have a more experienced design team that’s only ever sketched by hand, there can be some pushback when you try moving them to a digital platform.”
People are using existing tools because of their existing habits. New tools require new skills. Learning curve is slow and daily operation is sucking energy. After all, the goal of manufacturing companies is to produce products and not to implement PLM. Successful PLM implementations are usually relying on local company talents and visionary individuals that creating spirit of innovation in engineering software tools.
What is my conclusion? PLM still needs a push to be implemented. It is hard to convince people to change their behaviors and adopt new processes and tools. You can often hear about complexity of business process changes. In practice it might be just inertia of people to change from Excel spreadsheet to another PLM tool. To conventional wisdom of PLM community is to bring consulting and advisors to help companies with education and forming PLM implementation strategies. Nothing wrong with that approach, but… Maybe as an alternative, PLM vendors can think about better tools that will help people to overcome their bad habits and change the way they work. Just my thoughts…