I spent part of last week in Atlanta, at the PLM Innovation Americas conference. I typically go to company-sponsored events, where a single vendor showcases its wares at a user conference, investor or analyst event. PLM Innovation was different — lots of vendors, a much broader user base than I’m used to and some fascinating interaction.

We’re still cleaning up from hurricane/post-tropical cyclone Sandy so this has to be brief, but here are 5 quick thoughts:

  • The keynote presentation, by Kevin Fowler of The Boeing Company, was excellent. Mr. Fowler recapped Boeing’s decades-long experience with data management and spoke about how Boeing is striving to consistently do better at managing its massive volumes of plane-related data while bringing in new user types (like maintenance and partners). He spoke about the shortcomings of the solutions the company has tried, with significant losses in usability over recent years.
  • This is the presentation I gave at the event. I was trying to counter the impression that PLM is only for large companies with significant IT resources to throw at an implementation — that’s where PLM started, to be sure, but many solutions today have quick-start implementations, simpler install options and more friendly user interfaces to speed adoption. But the point I was trying to make to the audience is that any process you put in place is better than none, so starring with PDM (if that’s what you need) will yield significant benefits, even if a full-up PLM solution is out of reach. Comment away in the comments section.
  • The combination of the Boeing “big PLM” presentation and my “start somewhere” talk led to a lot of great conversations over the next day and a half, as many companies had teams at the event to look at their PLM options. The potential user base is by no means saturated.
  • We heard from fashion and personal care products companies, nuclear power plant operators, electronics contract manufacturing and many other industries, as well as industry pundits and consultants. There was no dominant use case or problem PLM was intended to solve, but the benefits of the implementations are real and measurable, even if that’s not obvious at the early stages.
  • I’m sorry to say that I missed seeing Chad Jackson in his Star Trek red shirt uniform, but Marc Lind of Aras posted this picture. It has something to do with Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity brushing his teeth with wasabi powder. Personally, I think Chad got the better end of that deal!

Earnings updates for Dassault Systèmes, FARO, Geometric and Hexagon are overdue, but now I need to go figure out what a post-tropical cyclone is. Sure looked like a hurricane to me. Unlike last year’s storm, though, this one didn’t bring a pile of snow so it looks like Halloween will go ahead as scheduled.