The year 2021 is finally here. I’ve been taking some time off, to think about what we learned in 2020 and to write a series of articles to reflect on PLM system architecture, PLM data architecture, and how to approach the PLM selection process in 2021.
As we move into the new year, there are 5 transformations I think will matter the most for manufacturing companies and vendors.
1- Remote Work Is Forever
Pandemic sent industries to work from home, accelerated e-business, and changed the processes – from engineering to sales. This is an irreversible change that will stay with us forever. The changes will impact manufacturing business processes, engineering work, and many processes. Manufacturing companies are discovering new sales processes and will be looking at how to support them. Just one example – car sales are switching to an online experience, but there are many others. PLM business and technologies will have to adapt and it will accelerate architecture, product, and technological changes.
2- Data And Intelligence Will Rule Everything
Manufacturing companies are sitting on goldmine data, but PLM vendors did very little until now to make this data work to the company’s advantage. The importance of data and the ability to manufacture companies to put this data to work. From the history of changes and impact of internal and external events to availability of materials, alternative designs, manufacturing locations, and customer demand – all these data points will be analyzed, processed, and turned into actionable intelligence.
3- Global Lifecycle and Supply Chain Resilience
Companies are becoming connected more than ever. This means that the lifecycle process and data need to be connected as well. The old fashion Excel/Email communication can hardly support new ways of work. The majority of PLM systems were developed to centralized the data in a single company and sometimes in the extended network of suppliers. The last ones were forced to use OEM’s central PLM database, which means logistic nightmares in the network of multiple OEMs and suppliers. How to make data transparent to make the lifecycle resilient? The answer to this question is on the top priority list for many companies.
4- SaaS And Network-Based Platforms
For the last few years, the PLM industry was flirting with cloud and SaaS models. As much as everyone was telling that the cloud is the future, for most of the vendors, it was a “future” that will be coming one day and was considered mostly as a technology to simplify IT processes to deploy, install and configure PLM systems. However, a new generation of SaaS products and network-based platforms bring new features and enable completely new types of processes. PLM vendors started the race towards SaaS – PTC acquisition of Arena Solutions for $715M is one of the best examples to show the importance of SaaS technologies for the industry.
5- Construction And Manufacturing Is Blending
For a very long time, manufacturing (PLM) and construction (AEC/BIM) were two separate business software groups. It is still so, but I can see changes coming. Construction and manufacturing companies are on the collision course. Buildings are very much manufacturing products these days. And construction companies are discovering and adopting an increased amount of manufacturing technologies. The result can be very interesting – the adoption of manufacturing software and technologies by construction companies and the blending of BIM and PLM platforms.
What is my conclusion?
The pandemic shakeout raised a lot of questions and accelerated many processes in manufacturing companies. Reaction to changes is one of the most important ones. While some manufacturing businesses were slowing down without contracts, some others were super stressed by increased demands and urgent orders. Some manufacturing companies left without strategic suppliers and some others found new businesses and expansions. Just a year ago, not many were able to predict what changes will bring in 2020. So, learning from the past, manufacturing companies will be looking at how to bring the intelligence to predict and adapt to changes together with the products allowing them to work in new conditions. Digital transformation is moving from vague terms and futuristic planning into specific business transformation, solution re-architecture, and technological development. It will be a very interesting and transformative year in the PLM industry. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.