Last week was a week of transition. As I wrote in my previous post, I finalized a traditional PLM 1.0 project ( I will come back on this term ‘traditional’ PLM 1.0) and now probably because of the sunny days and some interesting articles I read (each word goes to a different article), I am reflecting what it means to think about the new trends: WEB 2.0 or even PLM 2.0
In this post I will try to explain the developments I have seen so far in the mid-market and from there project what might happen.
In the 80’s there was no PDM or PLM in the mid-market. This was the time most companies were moving away from the drawing board towards CAD. Most of the CAD was 2D and at that time in the mid-market AutoCAD was the dominant CAD software.
At that time I was working for the biggest AutoCAD distributor in the Netherlands (picture on the left). This was the golden age for hardware and software resellers – margins were high and there was little or none IT-knowledge inside mid-market companies. In order to keep the high margin we provided a free helpdesk for our customers to differentiate from others. It was an interesting time. Prospects came to our demo room to plot a drawing of A0 format and to discuss the quality of the lines and the hatching as compared to handmade drawings. There was always the discussion if CAD was more productive and must of us agreed that benefits only came when rework or changes were needed. In parallel we offered a training course for the heads of a design department how they learned to understand if their designers were productive. They were used to observe the behavior of the draftsman and the minor bar on the drawing board and from there they understood if someone was productive. We were talking about the new digital generation that would replace the people at the drawing board.
Are there still drawing boards ? Is there still free support as the margins are high ? This was 20 years ago.
Then slowly 3D CAD was introduced for the mid-market, initially only on Unix boxes, but with the introduction of Microsoft Windows it became achievable – SolidWorks for sure was leading in this area. Hardware became already more a commodity so the customer relation changed from free support to paid support, which required quality and knowledge. At that time in my company, we also saw the first demands for what customers called an “engineering database”. In the 2D world it was all about drawing management, now with 3D the focus was on managing the whole product. Initially called EDM (Engineering Data Management), later evolving in Product Data Management. The term PDM was not known at that time and I remember one of our customers visiting us with a sample of 13 reports – drawing list, spare part list, manufacturing BOM, etc. He told us: “I need a system that can generate these reports for me at anytime”. The solution: we implemented a PDM system for this customer. At the end of the nineties 3D was introduced in the mid-market combined with PDM. We were talking about the new generation of people that thinks in 3D which would replace the people who still worked in 2D
Are we still working with 2D ? Do we still look for support on hard- and software ? This was 10 years ago.
Then came the era of connectivity, initially through the first internet wave, leading to terms as cPDM and ultimately PLM. Instead of focusing on productivity in a single department, the intention was to focus on collaboration between departments, development teams and to address the whole product lifecycle. Specially Dassault Systems extended this concept by focusing on the process and virtualization: test and build your product virtually before you spend any money on prototypes. Autodesk does the same in different words, they call it Digital Prototyping and they try to avoid talking about the processes as here we touch the most sensitive point in mid-market companies: touching or changing processes – ‘classical PLM 1.0. And this is also what I read between the lines of Jim Brown’s post Is innovation or product pipeline killing profitability ? As long as we do not change our product development process but focus still on doing the same with better tools, the real innovation will not come. We are now talking about the global collaboration generation that has to learn to work together and replaces the people who are not changing their processes.
Are we still solving our departmental problems only ? Can we survive keep on doing the same ? This is now !
And meanwhile mid-market companies are learning to understand and digest the above, we already see the new wave coming. WEB 2.0 – social networking – social collaboration – PLM 2.0 – communities and more. Instead of companies working on their own data, the future is to work in communities, live data, cross-company with employees, who are focused as a team to bring a result, we do not send so much emails anymore, we chat, we twitter, we …….. and more. In addition as we will see the trend that teams have members from all around the world, the question comes up: What is the standard communication language ? German (past) , English (present), Chinese (future) ? Here I am a big fan and believer of the Dassault vision that 3D becomes the global language for communication as the people participating do not come from the same educational background anymore – so it easier to see what you mean. Meanwhile the futurists are all the time talking about the aging workforce (a lot of people plan to retire), but if you read back, you will notice every ten years we are talking about an aging workforce. Every time there was a new generation picking up the new capabilities and challenging the next generation.
Are we in 2020 a global, 3D twittering world ? What is each individual’s added value ? What are companies doing to anticipate to the above trends ? It looks like it is going to happen and the current economical downturn allows us to anticipate even earlier till the next pit stop.
A thought I take with me on the summer holidays.
(Yes, in Europe we still have holidays that are so long you have time to think about work –
you can find me on the island below in August)