I get invited to a number of user conferences. I must admit I often feel I am intruding there on customer time with vendor executives. I much prefer smaller analyst summits and Plex has honed such summits to an art form. They always showcase something from their lab and they always take us to a live customer factory tour.
The summit last week was no different. The Edge corporation – their demo shop floor was supplemented this year with glimpses of early thinking around IoT on the shop floor (leveraging PTC’s ThingWorx), natural user interface (showing off RealWear’s HMT-1 Helmet which incorporate’s Kopin noise cancelling technology ), and Augmented Reality on the shop floor (with Microsoft HoloLens)
The live factory visit was at the St. Clair Shores plant of Fisher Dynamics. Fisher is a seating-systems and mechanisms company which will make 50 million seating assemblies this year. It is a fourth generation family owned, global manufacturer. Besides the tour it was good to hear about how seats will evolve in a world of autonomous cars. To me it is always educational to see customers walk you through nuances of their implementation of a vendor’s software.
But the biggest change this year was the summit was co-mingled with the periodic meeting of Plex’s customer advisory board. At dinner and through most of the day we sat next to CEOs, CIOs and operational execs from 15 Plex customers with revenues ranging from $25 million to over $3 billion. With refreshing transparency we heard Plex’s financial plans (Petri Oksanen from the lead investor, Francisco Partners led most of that discussion), product plans and customer feedback. In side conversations there was plenty of talk on likely changes to NAFTA, automation and jobs, lots of practical talk about what the Fourth Industrial Revolution means to the shop floor. The summit lived up to its billing as the Future of Manufacturing Roundtable. I hope the customer execs enjoyed it as much as the analysts did and hopefully we were not much of an intrusion.
On a personal note, I was invited to be part of the Plex all-company meeting which also coincided with the summit. It was exhilarating to be with over 300 excited, motivated Plex employees and tell them it is so nice to see an ERP vendor which actually focuses on gritty shop floors not just clean, white collar functions.
Plex keeps raising the bar for analyst summits. It is refreshing for industry analysts to be able to communicate directly with customers and investors. I reach out to them all the time for my books and blogs. But usually I do so on my own not proactively facilitated by a vendor. When a vendor facilitates that it is a sure sign of their confidence.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)