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This week there was an interesting discussion on LinkedIn initiated by Alex Bruskin from Senticore Technologies. I have known Alex for over 20 years, starting from the SmarTeam days and later through encounters in the PLM space. Alex is a real techie on the outside but also a person with a very creative mind to connect technology to business.

You can see his LinkedIn featured posts here to get an impression.

 

Where is PLM @ Startups?

This time Alex shared an observation from an event organized by the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, where he spoke with several startups.

His point, and I quote Alex:

Then, I spoke to a number of presenters there, explaining Senticore capabilities and listening to their situation around engineering/ manufacturing.

– many startups offered an add-on to other platforms => an autonomous module for UAV/helicopter/Vehicle. Some offered robotic components or entire robots (robot-dog).

– all startups use #solidworks , and none use #catia or #nx

– none of them have a PLM system nor an MES. I am 90% certain none of them have ERP, either. They all are apparently using #excel for all these purposes.

– only a handful of them are considering getting a PLM system in the near future.

Read the full post here and the comments below to get a broader insight into the topic.

 

The PLM Doctor knows it all.

The point reminded me of an episode I did together with Helena Gutierrez from Share PLM last year. She asked the same question to the PLM Doctor.

Do you think PLM is only for big corporations or can startups also benefit from it?

You can see the conversation here:

 

Meanwhile, the PLM Doctor is unemployed due to the lack of incoming questions.

When looking at startups, I could see two paths. One is the traditional path based on historical mechanical PLM, and a second (potential) approach which is based on understanding the future complexity of the startup offering.

 

There are two paths – path #1

The first evolutionary path you might have seen a few times before in my blog post is the one depicted by Marc Halpern from Gartner in 2015. At that time, we started discussing Product Innovation Platforms and the new generation of PLM. You can see Marc’s slide below, which is still valid for most situations.

In the slide above, you see the startup company on the left side.

Often the main purpose of a startup company is to be visible on the market with their concept as fast as possible. Startups are often driven by a small group of multifunctional people developing a solution. In this approach, there is no place for people and reflection on processes as they are considered overhead.

Only when you target your solution in a strongly regulated environment, e.g., medical devices and aerospace, you need to focus on the process too.

Therefore it is logical that most startup companies focus on the tools to develop their solution. A logical path, as what could you do without tools? Next, the choice of the tools will be, most of the time, driven by the team’s experience and available skills in the market.

Again statistics show it is not likely that advanced tools like NX or CATIA will be chosen for the design part. More likely mid-market products like SolidWorks or Autodesk products. And for data management and reporting, the logical tools are the office tools, Excel, Word and Visio.

And don’t forget PowerPoint to sell the solution.

The role of investors is often also here to question investments that are not clearly understood or relevant at that time.

How a startup scales up very much depends on the choices they make for Repeatable business. This is the moment that a company starts to create its legacy. Processes and best practices need to be established and why you often see is that seasoned people join the company. These people have proven their skills in the past, and most likely, they are willing to repeat this.

And here comes the risk – experienced people come with a much better holistic overview of the product lifecycle aspects. They know what critical steps are needed to move the company to an Integrated business. These experiences are crucial; however, they should not become the new single standard.

Implementing the past is not a guarantee for success in a digital and connected future.

Implementing their past experiences would focus too much on creating a System of Record (PLM 1.0), which is crucial for configuration management, change management and compliance. However, it would also create a productivity dip for those developing the product or solution.

This is the same dilemma that very small and medium enterprises face. They function reasonably well in a Repeatable business. How much should they invest in an Integrated or Collaborating business approach?

Following the evolution path described by Marc Halpern always brings you to the point where technology changes from Coordinated to Connected. This is a challenging and immature topic, which I have discussed in my blog posts and during conferences.

See: The Challenges of a connected ecosystem for PLM or this full series of posts:  The road to model-based and connected PLM.

 

There are two paths – path #2

Another path that startups could follow is a more forward-looking path, understanding that you need a coordinated and connected approach in the long term. For the fastest execution, you would like to work in a multidisciplinary mode in real time, exactly the characteristic of a startup.

However, in path #2, the startup should have a longer-term vision. Instead of choosing the obvious tools, they should focus on their company’s most important value streams. They have the opportunity to select integrated domains that are based on a connected, often model-based approach. Some examples of these integrated domains:

  • An MBSE environment focusing on real-time interaction related to product architecture and solution components(RFLP)
  • A connected product design environment, where in real-time a virtual product can be created, analyzed, and optimized – connected software might be relevant here.
  • A connected product realization environment where product engineering and suppliers work together in real time.

All three examples are typical Systems of Engagement. The big difference with individual tools is that they already focus on multidisciplinary collaboration on a data-driven, model-based approach.

In addition, having these systems in place allows the startup company to invest separately in a System of Record(s) environment when scaling up. This could be a traditional PLM system combined with a Configuration Management System or an Asset Management System.

System of Record choices, of course, depends on the industry needs and the usage of the product in the field. We should not consider one system that serves all; it is an infrastructure.

In the image below, you see the concept of this approach described by Erik Herzog from SAAB Aeronautics during the recent PLM Roadmap / PDT Europe conference. You can read more details of this approach in this post: The Week after PLM Roadmap PDT Europe.

Note: SAAB is not a startup; therefore, they must deal with their legacy. They are now working on business sustainable concepts for the future: Heterogeneous and federated PLM.

My opinion: The heterogeneous and federated approach is the ultimate target for any enterprise. I already mentioned the importance of connected environments regarding digital twins and sustainability. Material properties, process environmental impacts and product behavior coming from the field will all work only efficiently if dealt with in a connected and federated manner.

 

Conclusion

The challenge for startups is that they often start without the knowledge and experience that multidisciplinary collaboration within a value stream is crucial for a connected future. This a topic that I would like to explore further with startups and peers in my ecosystem. What do you think? What are your questions? Join the conversation.

 

 

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  1. Jos, one could take the approach that there is an engineering transformation strategy that can be realized by implementing PLM…

  2. Jos, I agree we should break out from the monolithic approach as this typically means lock-in, risk and frustration. The…

  3. Jos, Thanks for these insights. I believe that the mature capabilities provided by advanced toolsets can also be of benefit…

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