I had the chance to talk with … several ENOVIA SmarTeam customers during my recent research. I talked with them for my paper on how mid-sized manufacturers have leveraged product innovation and PLM to get through challenging economic times and come out better during the recovery. See my Research Rap: Small to Midsize Manufacturer in an Economic Downturn? Innovate! for an overview of the findings from the study (along with a link to the study if you are interested). The customers offered some very good perspective on the use of PLM by small to medium-sized business (SMB), which drives home a point that often gets lost in the grander discussion of enterprise PLM. Smaller companies need the basics of PLM, without the overhead of a large “enterprise transformation” sized implementation project.
What do they Offer?
I wrote about SmarTeam in my blog on Manufacturing Business Technology earlier this year, so I won’t reiterate the basics of their offerings. Instead, I would like to focus on the needs of smaller companies and what I learned from the manufacturers I spoke to for the study. It actually matches up nicely with a recent blog conversation on PLMtwine on PLM Action Plan for Dummies.
What does an SMB Look for in PLM? Controlling Data
In short, the companies I spoke with were looking to gain control of their product data. In the PLMtwine blog, Oleg lists that as step number 1. The driver for each of the manufacturers interviewed was different, but the need to find a way to quickly get their product data in control was key. For one lighting manufacturer, the business driver was a significantly depressed local economy and the need to move to a new market (both geographically, but also with a more sophisticated product set). For a manufacturer of ladders, the challenge was a significant financial setback in their business, the need to run very lean, and the extension of their business into a multi-site, global operation as they moved production to Mexico. Despite the driver, the need was a way to control the complexities of their product data in an easy way, and share product data across their organization.
What does an SMB Look for in PLM? Controlling Change
The next core capability that smaller companies were addressing was tightly aligned with controlling data, controlling engineering changes. I would normally say controlling “processes,” but in this case it was clear that engineering change (followed by release to manufacturing) was the big pain they were addressing with PLM (as opposed generic “process control.” Engineering change is a messy process in many businesses, and one that leads to manufacturing confusion and errors. Although I have been in recent conversations on the priority of developing a strong process versus applying technology to solve the problem, the truth is that both are very valuable. The companies interviewed all discussed the importance of the engineering change processes, and pointed to significant improvements through the use of PLM technology (ENOVIA SmarTeam in this case).
SMB Wish List for PLM
Smaller manufacturers have many of the same PLM needs as larger companies, but far fewer resources to achieve them. So what does an SMB look for in PLM? Based on my interview with the SmarTeam customers, they were looking for:
- Rapid Implementation
- Ease of Use
- Pre-populated Best Practices
- Pre-defined Templates and Data Models
- The Ability to Start Small (and add new capabilities when they are ready for them, what I call a “PLM Program” approach)
- Stability and Ease of Technical Implementation
- Integration with Product Designs (CAD, for the most part)
- Easy Integration to ERP
So that’s what I hear from SmarTeam’s customers, I hope you found it useful. What do you think? What else should I have asked them?