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A week later after the PLM Innovation conference in the US, I have time to write down my impressions. It was the first time this event was organized in the US, after having successful events the past years in Europe. For me it was a pleasure to meet some of my PLM friends in reality as most of my activities are in Europe.

With an audience of approximate 300 people, there were a lot of interesting sessions. Some of them in parallel, but as all session are recorded I will soon catch up with the sessions I have been missing.

My overall impression of the event: Loud en Positive, which is perhaps a typical difference between the US and Old Europe.

Here some impressions from sessions that caught my attention

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Kevin Fowler, Chief Architect Commercial Airplanes Processes and Tools from The Boeing Company presented the PLM journey BCA went through. Their evolution path is very similar to the way Siemens and Dassault Systemes went through (driven by Boeing’s challenges).

Impressive was the amount of parts that need to be managed aircraft (up to a billion) and with that all its related information. Interesting to see that the amount of parts for the 787 have strongly decreased.

After PLM Generation 1 based on Teamcenter and Generation 2 based on Dassault Kevin demonstrated that functionality and cost of ownership increased due to more complexity, it was evident that usability decreased.

And this will be a serious point of attention for Generation 3, the PLM system BCA will be selecting for 2015 and beyond. Usability has to increase.

And as we were among all the PLM vendors and customers, during the breaks there was a discussion, which PLM vendor would be the preferred next partner for PLM.  I had a discussion related to PLM vision and visibility with one of the SAP partners (DSC software Inc.). He is convinced that SAP provides one of the best PLM platforms. I am not convinced as I see SAP still as a company that wants to do everything, starting from ERP. And as long as their management and websites do not reflect a PLM spirit I am not convinced. In 2015 I might be wrong with my impression that PLM, Usability and SAP are not connected.

Note: browse to this SAP PLM rapid-deployment solution page and view the Step by Step guide. Now the heading becomes SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution. A missing link, marketing or do they know the difference between PLM and CRM ?

imageNext Nathan Hartman from Purdue University described his view on future PLM which will be model-based and he presented how PLM tools could work together describing a generic architecture and interfaces. This is somehow the way the big PLM Vendors are describing their platform too, only in their situation more in a proprietary environment.

  • Nathan gave an interesting anecdote related to data sharing. He mentioned as example a 3D model that was built by one student and he asked another student to make modifications on it. This was already a challenge and even working with the same software lead to knowledge issues, trying to understand the way the model was built. Demonstrating  PLM data sharing is not only about having the right format and application, but also the underlying knowledge needs to be exposed

imageMonica Schnitger, as business analyst presented her thoughts on PLM justification. Where in Munich I presented Making the case for PLM session,  Monica focused on a set of basic questions that you need to ask (as a company) and how you can justify a PLM investment. It is not for the big kids anymore and you can find her presentation here (with another PLM definition).

I liked the approach of keeping things simple, as sometimes people make PLM too complex. (Also as it serves their own businesses). Monica presented that a company should define its own reasons for why and how PLM. Here I have a slight different approach. Often mid-market companies do not want PLM, they have pains they want to get rid of or problems that they want to solve. Often starting from the pain and with guidance from a consultant companies will understand which PLM practices they could use and how it fits in a bigger picture instead of using plasters to fix the pain.

imageBeth Lange, Chief Scientific Officer from Mary Kay presented how her organization, operating from the US (Texas), managed a portfolio of skin care products sold around the world by an independent local sales force all around the world. In order to do this successfully and meet all the local regulatory requirements, they implemented a PLM system where a central repository of global information is managed.

The challenge for Mary Kay is that from origin a company with a focus on skin care products and an indirect sales force, where sometimes the sales person has no IT skills, this project was also a big cultural change. Beth explained that indeed the support from Kalypso was crucial to manage the change. Something which I believe is always crucial in a global PLM project where the ideal implementation is so different from current, mainly isolated practices.

As regulatory compliance is an important topic for skin care products, Beth explained that due to the compliancy rules for China, where they have to expose their whole IP, the only way to protect their IP was putting a patent on everything, even on changes.

Would NPI mean New Patent Introduction in the CPG market ?

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Ron Watson, Director, PLM COE and IT Architecture
from Xylem Inc. presented their global PLM approach. As the company is is relative young (2011) but is a collection of businesses all around the world, they have the challenge to operate as a single company and sharing the synergy.

Ron introduced PDLM (Product Data Lifecycle Management) and he explained there was first a focus getting all data under control and make it the single source for all product data in a digital format, preferably with a minimum of translation needed.

Here you see xylem has chosen for an integrated platform and not the best of breed applications. After having the product data under control the focus can be on standardizing processed overall the company. Something which other companies that have followed this approach, confirm it brings huge benefits.

As it was a PTC case study, Graham Birch, senior director of Product Management from PTC did the closing part. Unfortunate by demoing some pieces of the software. A pity as I believe people do not get impressed by seeing some data on the screen they recognize. Only when there is a new paradigm to demonstrate related to usability I would be interested.

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And as-if they have read my mind, Daniel Armour from Joy Global demonstrated the value and attractiveness of 3D Visualization tools in their organization. Joy Global is manufacturer of some of the biggest mining equipment and he demonstrated how 3D Visualization can be used in the sales and marketing process, but also during training and analysis of work scenarios.

His demonstration showed again that 3D as a communication layer is attractive and appeals to the user (serious gaming in some cases).

As it was a SAP case, I was surprised to hear the words from Brian Soaper, explaining the power of 3D for SAP users and how SAP users will benefit from better understanding, higher usability etc. Iw as as-if a 3D-CAD/PLM was talking, was this a dream ?

I woke up out of this dream when someone from the audience asked to Daniel how they would keep the visualizations actual, is there a kind of version management ?  Daniel mentioned currently not but you could build a database to perform check-in/checkout of data. Apparently all the 3D we have seen is not connected to this single database SAP always promotes.

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Peter Bilello, CIMdata’s president had a closing session with the title: Evaluate the tangible benefits from PLM can prove complex, which indeed is true.  Peter’s presentation was partly similar to the presentation he gave early this year in Munich. And this is what I appreciate about CIMdata. Some people in the audience mentioned that many times it is the same story and many of the issues Peter was presenting are somehow known facts. And this is what I like about CIMdata, PLM is not changing per conference or new IT-hype. If you want to understand PLM, you need to keep to the purpose and meaning of PLM. And these known facts apparently are not so known, a majority of PLM projects are executed or lead by people that decided to invent the wheel,as inventing the wheel seems cheaper than renting a wheel, and this lead again to issues later that every experienced consultant could foresee.

imageThe evening with a champagne reception on the paddle boat making a tour around the lake and a dinner at the lake side concluded this first day.
The combination of presentations, scheduled network meetings and enough network time made it a successful first day

observationNext day I started with a BOM management Think Thank were in the target was to come to some common practices and understanding of BOM management.  As the amount of participants was large and the time was short we only had a chance to touch the surface of the cases brought in.

What was clear from this session to me is that most challenges reported were due to the fact that the tools were already in place and only afterwards the PLM team (mostly engineering people) had to struggle to make it into a consistent process. They do not get a real help from PLM vendors or implementers, as their focus is on selling more tools and services.

What is missing for these organizations is a PLM for Dummies methodology guide, which is business centric instead of technology centric. For sure there are people who have published PLM books, but either they are not found of relevant. And as nothing comes for free, these companies try to invent the wheel again. PLM is serious business.

imageThe first keynote speech from the second day was from Dantar Oosterwal, Partner and President of the Milwaukee Consulting Group, who inspired us with Lean and PLM: Operation Excellence and this all related to his experiences with Harley Davidson.

It was interesting how described the process of focusing on the throughput to get market results. There are various parameters how you can influence market share, by a price strategy, by increased marketing , but the most impact on Harley Davidson sales result was the effect of innovation. More model variants being the choice for more potential customers. By measuring and analyzing the throughput of the organization an optimal tuning could be found.

Dantar also shared an interesting anecdote about an engineer that had to study the impact of ethanol as fuel for a certain engine. And after a certain time the engineer came back with the answer: yes we can. He answered the question but left no knowledge behind. Where a similar question was asked about performance to a supplier and he came back with an answer and graphs explaining where the answered was based upon. This answer created knowledge as it could be reused for similar questions. It is a good example how companies should focus on collecting knowledge in their PLM environment instead of answers on a question.

imageThe second keynote speaker was from the world biggest brand, Christopher Boudard, PLM Director from the Coca Cola Company. With its multiple brands and global operations it is a challenge to work towards a single PLM platform. He explained that at this stage they are still busy loading data into the system, where a lot of time is spent on data cleansing as the system has only value when the data is clean and accurate.

And this requires a lot of motivation for the PLM team to keep the executive management involved and sponsoring a project that takes five years to consolidate data and only then through the right processes make sure the data remains correct.

Christopher demonstrated in a passionate manner that leadership is crucial for such a project to be successful and implemented. For me as an European it was interesting to see that the world biggest brand PLM Director is a French citizen inspiring the management of such an American company.

imageMonica Schnitger conducted an interesting session about the state-of-the-state of multi-platform PLM.
If you cannot understand this tittle, it was a debate between the PLM vendors ( Aras, Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, PTC, SAP and Siemens) about openness, interoperability, cloud and open source.

After the first question from Monica about the openness of each of the vendor’s systems, it was clear there are no problems to expect in the future. All systems were extremely open according to the respondents and I lost my attention for the debate somehow as I had the feeling I was listening to an election debate. Monica did her best to make it an unbiased discussion, however I feel when some people want to make a specific point and use every question to jump on that it becomes an irritation.

imageChad Jackson, this time dressed up as the guy that is always killed in the first 5 minutes of a Star Trek episode, shared with us the early findings of the 2012 State of PLM. Tech4PD followers, and who is not a follower, understood he lost the bet of the second episode.

Chad let me know if this picture needs to be removed, as it can kill your future career.

The preliminary findings Chad was sharing with us that manufacturing and service where significant interested and consumers of PLM data, but do not consider it as their data, where they have to contribute too also. The fact that it is available makes them involved in using the data, still these departments do not show active participating in PLM. Somehow this confirms the observation that PLM is still considered as an engineering tool, not as an enterprise wide platform.

As the initial group of participants (n = 100) is small and not random selected from an overall population, the questions remains what the state of PLM is in 2012. I assume Chad will come back on that in a later time.

The last plenary sessions, David Karamian from Flextronics and Michael Grieves, a Virtual Perfect Future, had the ungrateful position being the last two speakers of this event. I have to review  David’s presentation again as it was not easy to digest and recall a week later what were his highlights. Michael’s presentation was easier to digest and I also believe with the new upcoming concepts and technology the virtual perfect future is there.

Looking back on a successful event, where I met many of my PLM peers from across the ocean, I will take the upcoming weeks to review the sessions I missed. Final good news for all PLM mind sharers, is the fact that CIMdata and MarketKey announced the coordination of their upcoming events next year – more content and more attendees guaranteed.

eb In 2008 and 2009 several analysts predicted that the mid-market was now ready for PLM and that most of the PLM vendors were building a targeted offering for the mid-market. I was, and still am, a believer that mid-market companies will benefit from PLM in case ………… they implement it.
When you review my observations in my blog from the past two years, apparently this does not seem to happen. Therefore in the past months, I have been analyzing posts and discussions around the ‘old’ and ‘new’ PLM, I have been talking with representatives from various PLM and PDM vendors, and last but not least analyzed what was the implementation process of a PLM system in companies, where I could get these insights.

This all lead to this post, perhaps too big for a blog, too small for a report.

First the definitions

Before giving my opinion, first my definitions of PLM and mid-market (as everyone has their own definition):

plm PLM means for me the management of all product related data and processes, from the initial concept phase, through planning, development, production planning and after sales/service. When talking about PLM, I have always a circular process in mind. Experiences from products in the market are again inputs for new product development. Instead of a linear process where every department manages their own data, the challenge is that every discipline contributes and collaborates around the product data. This implies that a PLM implementation always requires a business change process for a customer

mid-market Mid-market companies are for those companies where there is no strategic layer available plus a minimized investment in IT-resources. This leads to organizations where most changes are happening inside departments and cross-departmental changes are hard to implement. The IT-department might be a facilitator here but usually IT people focus on architecture and infrastructure instead of business change. This implies that a PLM changed should come from external people.

 

And who are doing PLM?

On the enterprise level, there is a battle between the big three (Dassault Systems, Siemens and PTC) and they are challenged mostly by the two big ERP vendors (SAP and Oracle) and on the PLM front by Aras, competing through its Open Source model. Of course there are many other vendors. These observations come from the area where I am active.

cad_txt There are various ways to group these PLM vendors; one is from the CAD engine point of view: DS-CATIA / Siemens-NX / PTC-Pro/E. Although all claim to support a multi-CAD environment, the main focus in these companies is around the PLM integration with their primary CAD engine.

Where in the past, CAD independent PDM systems existed (Metaphase, MatrixOne), they could only survive in the major PLM industries by being integrated with CAD tools and were acquired for that reason. It will be interesting to see if Aras can play a major role in the PLM only domain, where others failed in the past due to lack of integration capabilities.

erp_txt SAP and Oracle took a different path; they have understood that PLM cannot be neglected in an enterprise, so they need to address it. SAP did this by developing a PLM module as a logical extension on their infrastructure. Oracle has chosen to add PLM to their portfolio by the acquisition of two different PLM vendors. Where SAP does not have the challenge to explain to customers a full integrated story, Oracle has to spend more time on marketing to make it look like a single platform, which will come in the future. Big question however for both companies: do they really understand PLM? Is it in their veins and core strategy or does it remain an extension to gain market share, especially as you have no connections to the design world? (Try to find PLM on their corporate website).

plm_txt Interesting to see how Aras will evolve. In their business model, the initial purchase of software is not needed, but once working with Aras you pay also for maintenance like with other PLM vendors. Their advantage is that switching from an existing legacy PLM vendor is less painful, as there are no initial software costs, which can be huge for an enterprise. I believe they have a good chance to succeed in industries where there is less a dependency on the CAD engine.So on the enterprise level the need for PLM is justified. Resources exist and are budgeted both at the customer level as at the supplier level. The PLM suppliers are either the PLM vendors themselves with service teams, or big, global service providers specialized in implementing the PLM software. They can do strategic PLM projects and support the required business change.

So why does it look like a mission impossible in the mid-market ?

The big enterprise vendors (PLM/ERP) believe that you can just strip down your enterprise software in a kind of prepackaged mode – PLM Out of the Box is a common heard expression. Also the analysts praise in their reports the mid-market approach from some of these vendors.

But do they really address the mid-market or only the high-end mid-market? Again it is all about the definition of where is the mid-market and in this post I stay with my definition of mid-market.

There are two main characteristics for this mid-market:

  1. Sales and implementation of software is done through Value Added Resellers and not through the vendors or big service companies. The software revenue per customer does not justify high expenses for global consultants with additional high expenses due to travel costs (and sometimes the local language issue). The local VAR is supposed to be the point of contact.
  2. Mid-market companies do not change their main company processes. Depending on the type of core process, let’s assume ETO or BTO, they have sales and engineering working close together on product/solution definition and they have manufacturing planning and production working close together on product/solution delivery. In term of functionality a PDM focus for sales/engineering and an ERP focus for manufacturing.

A mid-market company can be characterized as a two pillar company :

Who are successful in the mid-market ?

There are two software vendors, touching our PLM prospects , that really understand the mid-market, Autodesk and Microsoft.

Autodesk has a huge range of products and when we focus on the area of manufacturing, Autodesk does not talk about PLM. And I believe for several reasons.

ad Autodesk has never been a front-runner in making new technology and concepts available for the mainstream. They are more a company providing functionality for mainstream concepts, as compared to a company pushing new concepts and technology for premium pricing.
And this is what their customers like, as they also do not have internal strategic resources to push the company to new directions and surely no one wants to take the risk.

Thus risk avoidance and understandable concepts are key targets for mid-market companies.
Autodesk tries to avoid reaching beyond their engineering domain, the maximum they cover is presented in their Digital Prototyping solution. With their Vault product range they stay close to PDM, but do not go into the concepts of PLM, like mBOM handling. PLM is not established enough in the mid-market, so a no-go area for Autodesk.

Microsoft addresses the mid-market more from the IT-infrastructure. Slowly SharePoint has reached a certain status of an infrastructure component for content management – so why not for all the engineering data? SharePoint is the most relevant component related to PDM or PLM in my review and what I observed here is that the IT-manager often is the person who supports and enables a cross-departmental implementation of SharePoint. So not pushed from a strategic business level but from a strategic IT architecture approach.

md PLM providers and implementers jumped on this opening in the mid-market by providing PLM capabilities on top of SharePoint. This to get their software used in the mid-market. It does not mean they do PLM, it means they expand the visibility of engineering data across the organization. Microsoft apparently does not want to enter the area of managing CAD or engineering data. You see mainly investments in the Microsoft Dynamics software, where ERP and CRM are targeted. Again PLM is not established enough in the mid-market to provide common functionality, so a no-go area for Microsoft.

And the impact of a indirect sales channel….

CADVARs are the next challenge for PLM in the mid-market. The PLM Vendors, who work with VARs, expect that these VARs are an extension of their sales organization. And sales means here selling software . PLM means however also selling services and I learned in the hard way in my past that companies selling products and services within the same group of people are constant in internal conflict how to balance software and service budgets

Selling and implementing PLM software is also difficult in mid-market companies as these companies buy software because they want to solve a pain in one of their departments. It is not common that they have a holistic approach. So VARs trying to sell PLM are engineering centric – often with their roots in CAD Selling. And as their nature comes from product selling, they feel comfortable in selling data management and PDM as this remains close to product features easy to justify. PLM requires different people, who can guide a business change across departments at the customer.

varIt is very rare for VARs to have these skilled people in place due to lack of scale. You need to act local to be cost efficient and close to your customer. As a VAR has only visibility of a limited group of implementations, the consultancy practices often are not based on global experience and best practices, but defined on their own best practices, sometimes bring their ‘magic’ to be even more different than required, to differentiate from other VARs.

The companies implementing PLM for enterprises can afford to share global knowledge; VARs need to build up the knowledge locally, which leads to an extreme dependency on the person who is available. And to be affordable on the payroll a VAR, the consultant often is an experienced application engineer, who knows to satisfy his customer by providing services on top of the product.

And as PLM is not established enough in the mid-market, they will not invest and push for PLM which requires a long term experience build-up, so almost a no-go area for VARs

So no PLM in the mid-market?

I believe real PLM in my mid-market will be a rarity, based on a lucky coincidence of the right people, the right company and the right product at a certain time. It will not become a main stream solution in the mid-market as there is the design world and the ERP world.

PLM SaaS (Software As A Service) delivered by Arena or PLMplus will not bring the solution either for the mid-market. You might remove the IT complexity, but you are missing the resources (internal and external) for business change – who will be there to initiate and guide the change . PLM SaaS probably will be implemented as a PDM environment.

gw I give more credits for Social PLM (Facebook alike collaboration, Google Wave). This approach might bypass the classical way of working in companies and lead to new concepts, which probably will not be tagged PLM – will the new trigram be SPC (Social Product Collaboration) ?

Still it will not happen fast I believe. It requires a change of the management in mid-market companies. Most of the managers are representative of the older generation, not wanting to take the risk to jump on a new hype they haven’t made themselves familiar yet

 

Conclusion: PLM in the mid-market seems like a mission impossible and although PLM concepts are valuable for the mid-market as analysts report, the typical mid-market characteristics block PLM to become a common practice there.

I am looking forward to learn from your comments

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