As a TECHNIA business consultant, it’s Samuli Sarasti’s job to match the technology to its users. He says the importance of people is often overlooked in a technologist’s world.

Samuli studied “mechanical engineering and product development in Aalto University” and is a “Master of Science in Technology.” He is also “educated in Scrum and SAFe methods.”

“I started the consulting side of my career at one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. On the one hand, I got a lot of experience from various industries in a very short time, both within PLM and around it. On the other, such big organizations naturally have rather heavy processes and bureaucracy reducing agility and room to innovate.”

Like coming home

Samuli’s academic expertise is matched by an impressive career: “I’ve been working with PLM for around seven years. I used to work at one of TECHNIA’s customers for five years, focused mainly on PLM development/implementation in various roles and Application Management Services (AMS).

Working for TECHNIA felt like a natural step for Samuli. He says, “having worked for one of our customers, I knew the company and most of the people from the local organization already. This made it easy for me to say ‘yes’ when our Finnish director called and offered me a job. It felt like I’d been invited back home, even though I hadn’t worked for TECHNIA before. The team here is amazing.”

Why PLM is necessary

When it was first introduced, PLM represented an enormous technological advantage. In an increasingly digitized environment, Samuli says it’s taken on a different role.

“As the world is going digital, PLM no longer stands for competitive advantage, but rather a necessity to be part of the race. It’s like building a house, you need good foundations first. In the same way, you need to digitize your core data and processes before you can fully leverage things like IoT, AR/VR etc.”

“My work with PLM helps our customers to stay in the global competition. And these healthy companies are a foundation to a healthy society, building a better future for the next generations.”

Why PLM is about people

Samuli is careful to point out that technology is the foundation, not the house.

“Technology usually takes a big role in our daily work, but PLM is always vastly about people. Even the technically most perfect solution can be a failure if the implementation is lacking on the people and processes side.“

“As a business consultant, my place is between the technical solution and the people. So being able to catch the root need from the people and transfer that into the solution is a key quality. Remembering that the solution always includes both processes and technology, both of which are changed during a PLM implementation.”

“Problem solving, technical understanding and people skills are all important. But in my experience, people skills are often underrated. “

Getting the flavour right

That means each PLM implementation is different – no matter how similar it appears. Samuli says, “customers’ typically see themselves and their business as something unique. To a degree that’s true, but still the best, mutually beneficial, solutions are often close to the best practice. So the core is the same; but the final touch, the flavouring, is customer-specific.”

And winning over stakeholders is half the battle: “Typical users say the best solution or system is the one they’re currently using. People are, by nature, reluctant to change. To tackle these challenges and sell the solution into the customer organization is the core of business consulting.”

Identifying the need

The start of any good implementation is understanding what people really need, rather than what they ask for. “It’s so important to find the actual need behind a customer’s request. Often, the solution looks totally different if it’s solved on its own, rather than with the bigger picture in mind.”

“There are really clever methods to find these needs – like the ‘5 Whys’ – which help you get started with this kind of thinking.”

The future of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)

For Samuli, flexibility is a “core value”, not least because CPG businesses need it to react to a changing environment.

“Consumers are rapidly becoming more aware of their consuming habits and the impact that products have on the world. This applies just as much to how healthy food is as it does to the environmental impact of a product or its packaging, and the list goes on. Politics is following the trend and introducing new legislation, taxes and other responsibilities for CPG companies, forcing them to provide new detailed evidence from their products.”

“Also, this new generation of consumers all want something different. So there is a rapidly increasing demand for more complex products, even allowing each customer to configure exactly what she wants, rather than buying something pre-defined.”

How PLM can help meet new legislation

Samuli sees PLM as key to responding to a more dynamic market: “Transparency and easy access to information are major benefits of a modern PLM solution. For example, in PLM, “ingredients” or packaging material are treated as individual data elements, referred to in various “recipes” or product packages.”

“Let’s say there is a sudden shortage of an ingredient, how do you know all the products that are impacted? If this information is scattered across the organization in various places and files, as is often the case with Excel-based recipe management, this is a rather laborious task that takes a lot of time.”

“In a PLM system, this information is immediately available. You can see which recipes refer to the ingredient.”

Finding the right balance

And so, we come to Samuli’s final lessons. Firstly, “think about the actual need behind what is stated” and secondly “it is important to be able to predict what is about to come, the possible next barrier. This allows better solution creation, which offers a lot better flexibility in the future.”

These two elements can be taken to balance “flexibility and existing solutions.” There must be enough give to respond to changing demands, but “on the other hand, we have the expertise and knowledge about proven solutions. It’s our responsibility to guide customers towards robust solutions.”

Samuli’s major insight is this: PLM is about balance. Between want and need. Technology and people. Using what works – and adapting to the future.

Find out more about our tailored Consumer Packaged Goods PLM Solutions.

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