I recently attended PowerPlex, Plex Systems’ annual user conference, the largest in their history with over 1000 attendees. It was hosted in the biosphere that is the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville Tennessee; I think I have finally figured out how to navigate the vast property (anyone who has been there knows that the place is absolutely massive, over a beer I am happy to share a funny experience…it involves different shades of green and trying to enter the wrong room).
Enough about my issues with hotel lay outs, what was not confusing from my time spent in Nashville was the positive energy that was running throughout the event. The high level of enthusiasm as well as the positive attitude flowed through the event – Plex truly is living up to their goal of making their customers “happy ERP customers.”
Some highlights from the event:
- It is all about being the best manufacturer possible – Plex’s community of customers is truly touching a large part of the global economy. From main stage, CEO Jason Blessing, highlighted some impressive numbers of what Plex solutions are powering throughout their installed base:
- 6m items are being produced weekly.
- 41m quality checks are taking place per year.
- $25b worth of customer revenue generated annually.
- 945b pounds of materials handled on an annual basis.
Some impressive numbers indeed. The lesson to be drawn from these figures is that, as manufacturing remains a vital driver for the economy, Plex continues to play an important role in making this happen. Bottom line as Jerry Foster, VP of Research and Development, said, “Our job is to ensure manufacturers can manufacture more efficiently every day.” It was clear from main stage as well my hallway conversations that Plex remains true to this mantra. They are completely laser focused on how they can partner with their customers to be the best manufacturers possible.
- The core is solid, but now it is time to improve the edges – The core functionality for Plex is humming along, while Plex certainly is not resting on their laurels, there was discussion around the work Plex has been embarking on with complimentary aspects of their solution. One such area was an emphasis on a new and friendlier user interface, calling it Plex UX. This is not a minor challenge for a company like Plex and the customers they are servicing. Unlike other software providers, the Plex software is truly being leveraged from shop floor to top floor. Plex UX has to be adaptive to a shop floor, which contains many environmental challenges, as well as users who maybe interacting with the software while wearing gloves or other manufacturing gear. At the same time a head of manufacturing, CFO or COO needs to interact with the same software in an office environment. Not a simple design challenge. Look for this to be rolled out in Q4 of this year. The interface is also only as useful as the data and insights that are available, that is where their Plex Insight comes into play. This offering empowers Plex customers to extract the right data from their systems, truly giving a full understanding of data that is being processed. A third new offering is Plex Connect, a platform to connect the vast expanse of data generating parts of the Plex environment. This is most exciting, to this author, when it comes to tying the data being produced from IoT enabled parts of the manufacturing and supply chains. Potentially a real game changer for Plex. In addition to these new offerings, Plex spoke at length of their partnerships with Workday, Demandcaster and Salesforce. Highlighting their focus on bringing together enhanced cloud based offerings to their customer base.
- Lets get serious about some toys – Apple watch, Google glass, wired clothing, GoGlove and wristband technologies from the likes of Myo and Nymi were all highlighted as areas of continuing focus for Plex. Good. At Constellation Research we are constantly challenging our customers to think about and to be willing to explore areas of digital disruption that can and are impacting their industries. Plex’s continue efforts to explore how they can leverage new technologies and more importantly how they can work with their customers to utilize these new offerings will continue to pay dividends. Plex’s work in the wearables space is of particular interest. For example, they discussed working with clients on connected vests to make the shop floor safer. Environments where heavy machinery, such as forklifts, are constantly in motion, being able to have safety measures such as IoT enabled vests, which can alert drivers of workers on the floor – preventing accidents. The opportunity for Plex is to take some of these learning and offerings and push into areas they currently do not have a presence – think warehousing and even yard management. As IoT, wearables and even drones become more prevalent on shop floors, look for Plex to continue to explore how to make sure these allow companies to manufacture more efficiently.
As I wrote a few months ago after attending the Plex analyst day, the company continues to push towards some lofty heights. Based on the financials the executive team shared with us this growth is being reflected in the numbers, especially impressive is their average annual revenue per customer, which is trending upwards. It is clear that Jason and the executive team are also putting more wood behind the arrow as they are targeting another 100% increase in quota carrying sales executives by end of year. It was also evident in the customer stories from the likes of Accuride, Sanders Fine Chocolates, Fisher & Co, American Axle and Floracraft to name a few.
Of course the road ahead is not without challenges. The company is pushing up stream into larger accounts, which will start putting them head to head with a new batch of formidable competitors. There is also global expansion. While their solutions are being used in over 20 countries, at some point Plex will need to target and close business with manufacturers that are not headquartered in the United States. While they argue there remains plenty of business in the domestic market, for Plex to truly achieve some of the goals they have they will have to target some global geographies.
A good challenge for Jason and his team, one that will determine how far Plex can go. As long as they focus on making “happy ERP customers,” Plex will continue to have success.