Looking at the profile and size of engineering companies using PDM software, especially as advertised by mainstream PDM and PLM vendors, one might easily reach the conclusion that these systems are ideally suited for large organizations with sizable engineering teams designing complex, highly engineered products.
This perception may be reinforced by PLM and ERP vendors that every so often announce products aimed to serve the small- to mid-size businesses (SMBs) or “mid-market” only to abandoned them a couple of short years later, when revenue expectations aren’t met. SAP’s Business By Design is one notable example.
Part of the problem may be that large enterprise software vendors see SMBs through the same lens they use to design their flagship software. They think of SMBs as though they were just like large enterprises, only smaller. Reminds me of medieval paintings in which babies are depicted as tiny adults.
On the other hand, many small organizations that use CAD extensively appear to be content not using a centralized PDM system. In my research and consulting work I find that SMBs often think of PLM software as being unnecessarily complex and limiting flexibility. Indeed, the adoption of PDM tools by smaller engineering organizations isn’t as pervasive as by large manufacturing companies.
Nevertheless, setting aside for a second the Byzantine structure and “old” culture of some very large traditional product companies, many of them are undoubtedly innovative, efficient and resilient. And they use PLM to manage all their product data. In fact, you could make the case that these companies are successful, at least in part, because they use PLM tools effectively to manage innovation, design and manufacturing of successful products.
In this upcoming blog series I am going to explore some processes and best practices employed by large product design and engineering organizations, and how they use PDM to make better product related decisions. In particular, I’ll look at those practices that I believe smaller organizations will benefit from and should consider, some because they are simply good and effective ideas, others because they can benefits smaller organizations that sell to large product companies and brand owners.
A word about SMB. I don’t insist on a specific firmographic definition of SMB such as the number of employs or annual sales revenue. Throughout my career I worked in several “pure” startups, and was also involved in starting a new product division within a $400M medical imaging company, which had all the characteristics of a startup: a small enthusiastic engineering team, a shoestring budget, and scavenged lab equipment. So whether you are a small startup or an engineering group within a large organization trying to assess the value and viability of a PDM system, I hope this blog series will be helpful.
Here are some of the topics I am working on
- Check-in, check-out, check in, …. Why bother? I know where my files are….
- Take control over your engineering change process
- Effective collaboration (internally and with your client)
- Design reuse is critical
- Does PLM limits flexibility and kill creativity?
- Practices small organizations should consider abolishing (and others they should probably keep)
- Small engineering organizations and compliance
- If you are a small enterprise, you think you cannot afford a PLM system. The question you should ask yourself is: can I afford not to have a PLM system?
- I made up my mind (about PLM). Do I go with one of the “big guys” or would a small software vendor understand my culture and my needs better?
Let me know what you think. What other product development processes and best practices employed by the big guys would you like to see discussed?
More teams are using Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social tools to speed up product development. Independent analyst firm, Consilia Vektor, explains how this changes Product Data Management (PDM) as you know it and how this can help your team work smarter.