I attended the Meridium Users Conference last week (21-24 April) in Orlando. While having covered Meridium as an analyst for almost 15 years it was the first time I attended one of its user conferences and I was impressed on many fronts. Meridium used the event to both review its history as well as introduce its user community to the next release of Meridium’s suite of Asset Performance Management (APM) solutions, Version 4.0. The conference also had a very high ratio of end user presentations concerning the use of Meridium solutions to solve asset reliability and performance issues. The first day after-lunch keynoter was Dr. Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School, who spoke about smart connected products. Meridium also provided a number of networking opportunities at social events and clients overwhelming were enthused about what they saw at the event. That is not to say the client base did not have wants and needs that Meridium has yet to fulfill, only that they seem to be very loyal and heavily invested in Meridium’s success.
Dr. Porter’s presentation focused on a theme I have raised many times in the blog before. The way the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Big Data and predictive analytics all combine to offer businesses the opportunity to recast themselves. His focus was on how mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global has used the IIoT and brought the data into Meridium’s products to perform analytics, which helped the company build the “Smart Mine.” He spent a lot of time discussing the way the convergence of the IIoT, Big Data, and predictive analytics have to be coupled together. He pointed out the IIoT itself is nothing more than the pipe or conduit for the data; it must be turned into information before it really becomes valuable and provides the game changing opportunities. Dr, Porter also talked a lot about how this provides the opportunity to sell “products as a service,” which LNS Research has framed as selling capacity instead of capital.
Meridium’s design philosophy for V4.0 was articulated as Cloud first but not Cloud only, Mobile first, not mobile only. This will play well with a larger market as opposed to an on-premise only or Cloud-only strategy as many large, asset intensive companies are not yet ready to move APM to the Cloud. At the same time many midsized companies prefer Cloud so having the option for either as well as a hybrid or mixed approach gives Meridium access to more companies. Existing clients that have on-premise implementations at their larger sites but have resisted deploying Meridium more broadly to smaller sites now have the option of an integrated on-premise system for their large facilities while leveraging a Cloud deployment supporting satellite or smaller locations.
In discussions with CEO Bonz Hart it became clear Meridium has committed itself to providing a comprehensive platform for the APM pillar in any pursuit of Operational Excellence. The company sees itself as the tool by which companies can manage their asset strategies, and its investments in usability, and connectivity--both with IIoT devices as well as front office systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and support for Cloud deployment--are part of that plan. The challenge Meridium recognizes it must face is how to establish value propositions that the executive suite will understand when it comes to Asset Performance Management and optimization. It also recognizes the need to create vertical industry use cases that show how APM can help companies in each industry meet the challenges, as these do vary by industry. We agree this is something Meridium needs to focus on in, as the value of APM varies by industry, and what's important to one industry may not be as important to another. Unless Meridium builds compelling vertical industry use cases is will find challenges from competitors that do.
LNS Research's Take
Meridium has made good use of the investment GE made in the company last year to enhance its products and improve its marketing. Additionally, it has refreshed its products to meet current user expectations for usability and deployment options. It was a pioneer in the APM field and offers leading functionality in the areas it covers having domain expertise developed over 23 years of working with some of the largest oil & gas and mining companies in the world. With the product refresh it remains a must-evaluate option for any asset intensive company; however, its intense focus on the asset intensive industry space means companies in other industries where APM is not as critical to Operational Excellence will find that new entrants into the APM space, like the ERP/EAM vendors and Cloud-only APM predictive analytics providers will offer alternatives they need to consider. None of these new competitors offers the depth and breadth that Meridium does when it comes to APM, but they may offer enough given the needs of those companies. Meridium will have to establish a value proposition that those companies can buy into.