Recently I attended a product lifecycle management (PLM) seminar hosted by PTC and its North American Windchill Partner of the Year award-winner BRT Solutions. The main topic of this seminar was about how small & medium businesses (SMBs) can start and advance their PLM practices. After the seminar, I kept thinking about what the PLM industry can offer for SMBs. PLM used to be a luxury for large enterprises. Is the PLM industry ready to accommodate the increasing demands from SMBs?
For the majority of SMBs, I don’t recommend using the “big bang” strategy to build their PLM systems. Having worked with SMBs on various PLM projects, I totally agree with the step-by-step approach proposed by PTC. In the discrete manufacturing sector, PLM tools such as CAD, CAE and CAM are usually the early PLM involvements that companies have. The use of these tools has changed the landscape of manufacturing during the past few decades, and some tools such as 3D CAD, previously considered high-end technologies, now have become more affordable for SMBs.
PLM tools increase productivity dramatically but they also lead to chaotic situations sometimes because the production of product information and technical documents becomes too easy. People realized that a vault is needed to maintain the single source of truth (master repository) for product information. Moving on, a company will find that it also needs a system to manage engineering changes, an environment to collaborate on development projects, and a mechanism to let product information flow seamlessly within the organization. So, in order to achieve a full meaning PLM, there is usually a long adopting process to go through.
In fact, PLM initiatives are driven by concurrent internal demands and external pressure, and any advance down the PLM adoption road should be the natural consequence of previous steps. In some cases as I have seen, financial returns of adopting PLM to a certain level are good enough to support a company’s further PLM ventures. By adopting this phased approach, SMBs will be able to take steady steps toward PLM with fewer risks and be in a better position to finance their projects.
One common problem for an SMB to roll out its PLM initiatives is the difficulty in receiving attention from the vendors that it wants. Big vendors may have strong offerings but they usually have a focus on big projects. Small vendors are usually more approachable but you might not want what they can offer. There are two things that you should know about to address this problem. First, some mainstream vendors now have tailored or specialized solutions for SMBs. Second, if you can’t get attention directly from a top vendor, try to find help from qualified value-added resellers (VARs) in your area. The PLM industry seems to reach a situation where larger customers are supported by top vendors directly and smaller customers are supported by partners of those vendors.
So far, what I have described is the traditional way of building a PLM system – you select a vendor, buy the software and deploy it on your in-house servers. Besides that, there are at least two other alternatives that SMBs may consider. They are on-demand PLM and open source PLM.
Partnering with IBM, PTC is probably the only top PLM vendor that also offers an on-demand PLM solution at the moment. As long as the market demands keep increasing, it won’t surprise me if other major players also provide on-demand PLM in the near future.
Another example of on-demand PLM is Arena Solutions, which has been certified by Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC). There are also other on-demand PLM providers available. One thing a customer should be aware of is that some on-demand PLM solutions have specific industry orientations. While selecting an on-demand PLM solution, you need to make sure of before going further that it is the right one for your industry.
An example of an open source PLM is Aras Corporation. Almost two years ago, Aras decided to move to open source on the Microsoft platform, and the result seems to be very positive. According to a May 2008 press release on the Aras web site, the company has achieved “over 10,000 Aras Innovator enterprise system downloads in 79 countries around the world,” and “more than 4,500 corporate community members are now part of the international Aras Community Network.” Although you may need to pay for training, implementation, integration, support, and other services, the software is free for download and use. To SMBs, it might be beneficial if you can download and install a system to get a taste of PLM before jumping onto the PLM bandwagon.
ENOVIA SmarTeam provide PLM solutions and focused on SMB market. You can visit our web sites (http://www.3ds.com/company/regional-spotlights/northamerica/v5-solutions/enovia-smarteam-engineering-express/) , my blog (www.plmtwine.com) as well blogs www.virtualdutchman.com or www.mikiblueeyes.com.
Will be glad to discuss!
Excellent post Kurt and I must say it fits very well in the current discussion around PLM for the SMB.
Happy to see in the comments also Oleg’s comment, who making a point on the SMB too
As I am trying and succeed to implement PLM in SMB companies, i am still asking myself the question what PLM vendors should do - as SMB’s cannot afford or will not get the individual approach as you describe .
Two weeks ago I wrote a post around, why SMB’s are not addopting PLM like enterprises, which lead to an excellent discussion on linked-in.
I am interested in your reasoning why PLM solutions should be on-demand ?
Also I am still interrogatiing myself what is the value of open Source PLM, knowing that SMB companies have no focus on IT and require people that support their business with knowledge.
The reason i am asking this question as i was involved in a customer situation where the software provided could perhaps do the PLM job, but the provided support and consultancy was all focussed on software enhancements/development and there was no match with the industry knowledge.
Please have a look at the following posts:
or a reaction from an open source fan:
Personally I am planning to write a more comprehensive summary on what i learned in this area the past months and I am looking forward to your elaboration and contribution
Hi Oleg and Jos, thank you for your comments, which will lead to further discussion on the PLM for SMB topic as I expected when writing this post.
The reasons that I feel on-demand PLM could be an alternative include limited budget and lack of expertise that SMBs are facing. For open source PLM, it is mainly about budget.
In some sectors (e.g. the fashion industry), I feel on-demand PLM has established stable playground. To some industries, some features that used to be critical for traditional PLM are no longer so indispensable. For example, CAD integration is not significant in fashion PLM. Rather, apparel manufacturers need the methodology behind PLM to manage their fast-moving products throughout the whole supply chain.
It is still a question to me whether on-demand and open source PLM solutions will become long-term commitment for SMBs in terms of comprehensive PLM. Nevertheless, I totally agree with Jos that SMBs need a vision for PLM, and personally I feel these two alternatives are more financially approachable and may help facilitate the formation of the PLM vision.
By the way, I really enjoyed your blogs.
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PLM OnDemand is a great alternative for SMB’s that lack the IT infrastructure, the reason being is thy do not need to spend on hardware, security protocols, IT staff and all the amortization expenses than an on premise solution demands.
SMB’s must understand also that this is a stepping stone if they decide to go with an on premise solution in the future, they are not limited nor tied up forever to a long term contract.
I suggest you read a bit more about this lution following this link:
Great Blog on on demand PLM. Zweave is offering on demand PLM to the fashion industry. Our focus is the SMB market.
I think the big differentiator for success with on demand PLM is the level of pre-configuration offered to the small enterprise out of the box. I agree with everyone that SMB’s typically don’t have the staff or strategic vision nailed down to go all the way with PLM. The necessary steps a vendor needs to take as a result is to fill the gaps in for the client and provide as close to an out of the box implementation as possible.
This of course becomes very difficult when both the data model for the PLM solution is not specific to a vertical Market but also if the PLM solution architecture is not highly configurable and flexible.
My experience working with many PLM solutions is that they are counter intuitive both from a technical/implementation perspective and a user perspective.
At Zweave we have had the ability to address these challenges. Our solution was built with an on demand framework, an open source platform and transcends basic PDM, CAD management and BOM management. We include portfolio, color, material, sample, costing management and more into our product suite. For Zweave PLM to the SMB is all about addressing the client’s needs, day one, with minimal customization. Because we have stayed focused on a specific vertical I think we have been able to address in our solution many of the challenges you describe in your above postings.
The good news is we never lost sight of the capabilities we offer for other markets too. In developing the solution we also built a configuration tool box to support web based implementations too. Part of the SMB story is to have partners on the ground, local to the SMB who can provide implementation services.
Overall my experience with implementing PLM with smaller companies has been great. The biggest challenge is the same with big and small companies. Leaders are busy and implementing and learning new tools takes commitment. Most organization, both users and leaders barely have time to get their work done. All in all, PLM should be what you do when you have already decided you are changing your processes to achieve different results. If the goal is to achieve the same results with automation I recommend sticking with email and spreadsheets!
ProductDossier Solutions has come up with its own flaghip product ‘TouchBase PLM’ that gives technological solution to SMB as well as Enterprise market.
Infact it is the pioneer in 3PLM space that do Project, Process and Product Life Cycle Management hence also called “The 3PLM Company”. I am sure that TouchBase PLM is a most suited reply to SMB needs when it comes to PLM solution.
To know more about the company and its product do visit at www.productdossier.com
glad to see your addressing this important topic. there is a real need for companies of all sizes to better manage configuration and change processes across the lifecycle to compete effectively, especially in the down economy.
the enterprise open source format used by Aras is really about providing a more comprehensive approach to PLM for businesses large and small.
sure the cost is less… because PLM licenses are eliminated (no users, modules, servers, etc) so the up-front costs are removed and you avoid runaway license expenses during rollout.
from there, what we have done is deliver comprehensive out-of-the-box enterprise PLM functionality for complex BOMs, parts, drawings, doc mgt, change workflows, compliance (both quality & environmental), NPDI, and more.
the open format means that it is also highly flexible and can be easily extended and tied in with other systems. there are extensive CAD/EDA integrations and prepackaged ERP adaptors as well.
this makes PLM collaboration and process automation possible for the first time for many… and provides a PLM system that actually works for those frustrated with repeatedly trying to get the major systems to do what they advertise.
try it, prove it, pilot it, run it… all before you commit. that’s our vision… if you want to eliminate PLM risk and get rid of PLM licenses in the process, then Aras could be the answer you’ve been waiting for…
Check out a demo at http://www.aras.com
Hopefully (or not) I was brought to your site by search engine. PLM for SMBs is hot topic nowadays. There are controversial points of view on the issue.
Many vendors are offering different PLM solutiojns to the market. All of them have advantages and not. Anyway every product will find its customer.
Recently ASCON GROUP come up with New PLM Solution that sure has some sweetspots and approach to manage PLM processes that can be in demand for SMB.
If you have time, please take a look at DEXMA PLM Solution at http://dexma-plm.com/.