I’d like to discuss the relationship in the organization between two major classes of software – PLM (CAD, CAE, PDM) and ERP. I think that the integration of PLM and ERP is not a new topic. There are many blog posts, researches, products and implementations done in this space. So, before deciding to go and discuss my ideas about how we can improve this relationship, I’d like to ask a question in a slightly different way: Should Engineers take care of ERP? In my view, there are two major patterns happening today in the PLM-ERP world which I’d identify as follows:
Pattern 1: Close Space. Engineering Systems is a closed environment focused on their specific engineering tasks and limiting their communication with ERP space. These systems send/receive very essential information such as product design (CAD model, drawings) and identifications such as Part Numbers. What is typical for this pattern is that both these environments (PLM and ERP?) seems to have a status quo (an unwritten agreement) about not crossing borders and feel very comfortable with this agreement. It looks like the people responsible for both implementations are saying “don’t touch me and I will not touch you”. I’ve seen people defending this position by saying that enterprise organizations need to be managed by siloes. So, Engineering and ERP are different silos and need to be managed separately.
Pattern 2: Open Space. Engineering Systems see ERP as an essential part of their business relations in a very closed manner. It means that both system classes are focused on how to leverage information and processes between these two spaces. ERP can provide the engineering environment with business insight on how they need to design products – business and manufacturing information, customer info, logistic and supply chain data. On the opposite side, if engineering processes can introduce product to manufacturing already in the early stages of development, these can be greatly appreciated by manufacturing and their ability to optimize product design using manufacturing feedback.
In my view pattern 2 is something to which the future belongs. Engineers are the most important source of IP (Intellectual Property) in the company. They design products and create IP. Companies need to focus on how to get this IP out of engineering use it downstream. In addition, engineers need to take care and find a way to deliver the right ERP/Manufacturing data for CAD/PLM. In this way they will be able to optimize product design already in the early stages of development. In my opinion, PLM should take a leading role and engineers need to take care of ERP. I know it sounds strange, but only engineers know how to use information they create. Therefore, PLM needs to create a language and create tools and processes about how to take PLM IP downstream and integrate it with the manufacturing environment in your organization.
I’d be interested in discussing this topic and learn from your experience.