PLM – Make or Buy?

A group of PLM bloggers [including me] are having a discussion as to whether Tesla would create their own PLM software.

I am told that they created their own ERP software because of their ‘unique’ manufacturing requirements.

I have been working in the engineering document management before the terms PDM [product data management] and PLM [product lifecycle management] existed.  I started in sales.  So, you can imagine that I have seen many different kinds of prospects/customers.  In the early days, a make or buy decision was common.

Let’s examine how Windchill [a PLM product] has evolved over time.  Their initial idea of what Windchill would be is nowhere to be seen.  Their customers had concerns that needed to be addressed, so changes were made to the software.  Early user interfaces left something to be desired, so they have improved year by year.  Windchill has gone through 10 major releases with many minor ones to get where they are today.  I am sure that most PLM vendors have a similar story.

If I were the IT manager at Tesla, I would need to consider the following.

Our core competency is designing and building automobiles, not coding up PLM software.

I would want our PLM software to be able to manage our current environment in a short amount of time [less than a year].

Building the first car wasn’t easy.  As time has passed, Tesla has improved their processes.  They are doing a good job today, but they are still looking for improvements.

Writing PLM software goes through the same kind of maturation process.  The first release will not be good.  It will get better over time. They will want to make improvements over time.

If Tesla started with an existing PLM software package, they wouldn’t have to deal with the guts of the software.  They could just tweak it to meet their needs.  They wouldn’t have to hire a bunch of programmers and attempt to create a core competency of application software development.  They wouldn’t have to maintain software code.

Tesla chimed in to our discussion and said that they have chosen to start with existing PLM software.  I see this as a smart decision.

Your thoughts…

Did your company consider writing their own software?

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