Posted on 4 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

It would be naive to say it was a coincidence, but it is certainly convenient for TM reporter Jane Gray that days before her attendance at the PTC Global Media and Analyst event in Florida, and just prior to the launch of MACH 2010 back in the UK, leading PLM provider, PTC, was able to announce impressive growth figures and a new vitality in the UK small and medium business market.

I’ve been looking for a handy intro to put some context around the next few days of tireless reporting on the significance of movements in the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) space and this fits the bill nicely!

For many large manufacturers with high product design and development demands PLM, the evolutionary consequence of CAD technology, will be a familiar IT cornerstone to their business sitting comfortably alongside supply chain, customer relationship and enterprise technology as business critical investments.

It would seem however that the benefits PLM can bring to organisations are starting to be realised in new areas, both in terms of company size and sector. Software provider PTC announced yesterday, 3 June, that small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) in the UK have contributed significantly to this year’s growth figures to date (30%), and they are not the only vendor to have noticed the trend. Speaking with Neil Dunsmuir, vice president EMEA Marketing at Siemens PLM I learnt that they have not only noticed a rise in SMB interest but are also experiencing new highs in the delivery of solutions to non-traditional markets such as the food and drink and FMCG sectors.

There are a number of forces involved in this development, not least of which is, of course, the recent economic meltdown. In an unfamiliar competitive environment organisations are seeking new ways to differentiate their offerings and are therefore willing to invest in a powerful product suite to improve development processes and position themselves to recover quickly as the upturn begins. However, where SMBs might previously have settled for an advanced CAD system alone, a new awareness customer fulfilment, service opportunities and the manufacturer’s engagement with their product from concept to end-of-life and recycling means that PLM is a more comprehensive proposition.

Gavin Quinlan, Managing Director, Concurrent Engineering, one of PTCs UK resellers explains how they are answering this need from their clients “The business climate is definitely improving. From concept to afterlife maintenance of a product every company we work with is interested in talking about the broader subject of product development, data control and the change management processes.”

“Our customer PowerPanels is a great example. This is a customer who primarily investigated our CAD solutions to replace their 2D processes with 3D,”but Quinlan continued “After understanding why the business was making this investment, we found that 3D CAD wasn’t everything they needed to optimize their product development strategy. They decided to implement Windchill ProductPoint for data management as well as Pro/ENGINEER for 3D CAD to achieve a strong ROI with the total business solution they need to maintain their competitive advantage.”

Other incentives for looking to PLM include pressure on SMB suppliers from large customers who are requiring ever clearer line of site through their supply chains. The ability to share integrated product design information for greater agility and reduction of rework has never been more critical. Dunsmuir at Siemens says “sometimes this means the leading customer or OEM will buy supplier licenses and grant access into their own systems, but sometimes the cost is pushed onto the supplier”, in an environment where survival relies on customer retention many companies have little choice but to invest.

Over the next week I will be talking with technologists and manufacturers both at PTCs Global Media and Analyst event and at MACH to try and discover what these developing market trends mean for manufacturers large and small and how providers are tailoring their solutions to meet the needs of today’s industrial climate.

Follow my blogs on the TM website to hear the latest on product capabilities and hear how they are being implemented by manufacturing peers.

Later in the year TM will be launching a new addition to its Connect event portfolio – PLM Connect. Look out for more news on this and our other events.