observation The past few weeks a had various moments to interrogate myself about the values for PLM and what would be the best way to address PLM for a mid-market company.

First I was in Copenhagen, attending the Microsoft Convergence event. A meeting where Dynamic customers, resellers and partners from all around Europe came together to learn the latest from Microsoft, to network with other partners and discuss their business processes.

Of course the focus from all of the 4000 attendees was around logistical processes, I was very curious to learn how manufacturing companies would describe their needs and where they feel the missing link – PLM.

But they did not feel it ……….

I believe this is one of the most challenging issues for mid-market companies. They have been investing in their ERP system and consider this as the company’s backbone. Their production and finance is dependent on it. Other departments, like sales and engineering provide somehow their inputs to the system, often Excel is here the information carrier. No PLM vision exist – or in case it exists – it is perfectly hidden.

I touched this topic in one of my previous post, called:  “We do not need PLM, we already have ERP”

So why is PLM not yet adopted by mid-market companies and I raise this question mainly for those companies that obvious would benefit from PLM ?

I believe the major reason is the fact that often in mid-market companies there is no high-level strategy available analyzing where the company should be in 5 years from now and what are the challenges to overcome. Most of the companies I am currently working with want to implement something they call PLM, but often it is just PDM.

The big difference between PLM and PDM is that PLM requires the company to work different across departments, where PDM is considered more as an automated way to centralize product data, without changing the department responsibilities.

And now some generalizations

shout_left In addition mid-market CAD resellers try to explain their customers that PLM is only for big enterprises and that they just need PDM. This of course makes their sales beyond CAD easier, as touching cross-departmental processes requires different knowledge (which their resellers do not have), a different product (which they do not sell) and of course a longer sales cycle.

shout_right The same happens from the ERP side. ERP resellers consider what happens in the engineering department as a black box, where product data is generated and at the end a (configurable) Bill Of Materials. ERP vendors do not jump on PLM as extending the process to engineering requires different knowledge (which is not their domain) , a more extended product (which they do not have (yet))

Mid-market companies are of course influenced by these resellers of their core components and as mentioned before do not have the time and budget to take a strategic, holistic view where the company should be in 5 years. Usually their focus is on solving the pains they experience in their organization. For example we have too many databases and spreadsheets per department, let’s put them all in one central place – more an IT focus then a business focus.

So how to get the vision ?

Companies should ask themselves the following questions:

  • what is the success of my company ?
  • will I still be successful in 5 years from now if I keep on doing the same ?
  • how does globalization affect me ? Risks but also challenges.
  • how do I capture the knowledge of my (experienced) workforce before they retire ?

To answer these questions (and the above ones are only the most probing) it requires time and understanding to build a vision. Perhaps the economical downturn creates the opportunity or need to prepare for the future (survival).

And if you are working in a mid-market manufacturing company, chances are big that implementing PLM is a way to guarantee the company’s future and success. This has been proven in big enterprises and mid-market companies are not so different at the end.

Adapting business processes and connecting the whole product lifecycle are key activities. Beyond PDM and ERP it brings portfolio management (which product bring the real revenue) and innovation (New Product Introduction – how do we make sure we introduce a good product in the market).

Conclusion

listen PLM requires a company vision and strategy. Building the vision is something that PLM vendors, business consultants and others can assist you with. Each group has its own pro’s and con’s but at the end it is the vision that is needed before making the change – it requires first of all an investment in brain power – not in products

Interesting to read:

Stay with the business processes or change them ?

The gap between PLM and Mid-market companies

NPI and PLM

Economic Downturn – an option for success ?

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