Pitfalls of Selecting PLM For Order to Manufacturing

In today’s consumer oriented environment order to manufacturing systems becomes more and more popular. I see growing number of customers are interesting in the organization of “order to manufacturing” processes. Looking on exiting PLM systems, I’d like to discuss what are potential pitfalls in selecting PLM for such as “order to manufacturing” organizations.

Pitfall #1 Product Configuration Modeling
A typical order to manufacturing system need to be “configuration oriented” in front of potential customers or sale persons in the field. The first and the most important for such as the situation is to organize support for handling of configurations in multiple systems – sales, manufacturing, design and product management. This is not an easy task. Most of the systems have a very specific way to support configuration and because of difference between these implementations engineering, manufacturing and sales systems may not fit.

Pitfall #2 MRP synchronization
In order to handle smooth processes of orders and manufacturing, be able to synchronize data between CAD/PLM and ERP/MRP systems is crucial. So, to think about bi-directional data integration and synchronization between PLM and ERP must in your checklist.

Pitfall #3 Cross System ECO management
Because of cross-system organization, ECO organization needs to be fully supported in the same way in all systems and automated. Manual and half-manual ECO processes and monitoring probably will not be enough.

Pitfall #4 Support Organization
Because of very diverse product organization, you will need to be able to get up-to-order/configuration product information for support organization. It will require global information access between multiple systems in different organization departments.

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I’m confident, future of manufacturing will be even more customer-oriented and to manage order to manufacturing processes will become even more important. What is your opinion on that? Do you face similar problems in your organizations? What type of the solutions you found as an efficient to handle that.

Best, Oleg


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  • Hi Oleg,

    I totally agree with when you say the PLM solutions manage in different way the configuration. There is most of the time also a mix done between the management of configuration, of variant, of alternative, of options, of design variants and revisions, etc.

    Recently, I work with a customer that use a PLM solution for managing the configuration, that was synchronised with an other PLM solution that manages the geometrical representation. Between both : OpenPDM is used to synchronize part of the data.

    I agree when you say integration between system is not an easy task, but most of the time, the problem does not come from technical issues, but from the specification of the synchronization : customer ofen want to retrieve the whole information in both system on the same form.

    Sorry if I could not really speak about the future of manufacturing and its tools, but the firsts points you raised are common to other thema

  • Martijn Dullaart

    One of our major challenges is still the incorporation of Engineering Changes into Manufacturing. Simply because the order in which Engineering creates changes is not always the order in which manufacturing will implement the changes in production (high priority ECO or still having stock of certain materials).

    First of all this requires a process in which ECOs are managed cross departments (not only cross systems). For instance we have ECO1, ECO2 and ECO3 (all released) in Engineering. Current status is that ECO1 is implemented in production. Now manufacturing chooses to first incorporate/implement ECO3 instead of ECO2, which will result in a structure that does not exist in Engineering. In my view Engineering should review that structure to validate it (not if you replace a sticker, but if you replace key components it should be done).

  • Loic, Thanks for sharing your experience. The definition of specification is a challenge because this is a result of complex organizational process. However, enterprise systems (and probably PLM is #1 in this list) need to think about how to support this process. Today’s answers are custom development in most cases… right? Best, Oleg

  • Martijn, ECO is the major enterprise process actually happens in every organization (independent on how it implemented). The implementation of this process, in my view, is very fragmented and this is core of synchronization problems. Thanks for commenting! Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    Moving from a totally manual system to a semi-manual system can still offer big gains. This is particularly true if one design is feeding more than one manufacturing system, including contract manufacturers. Achieving a single master record is a very big deal! It eliminates duplicate data entry with all the associated problems.

    The configuration part is more problematic since both systems would have to support a similar configurator structure. This area is not well established compared to the traditional BOM. Currently we put the configurator BOM (all options) in PLM and a representation of the rule set in a spreadsheet but the configurator in the order entry system is programmed manually.

    Even the management of effectivity of ECOs in the traditional BOM can be problematic as there are multiple ways to implement this (for example, line item effectivity vs. whole parts list). In this regard a lot has to do with the facilities in the manufacturing system software.

  • Cam, thanks for your comment! In my view, you just confirmed that most of Order to Manufacturing support or ETO-like implementations are end up with huge amount of customization around multiple systems. How do you see achieving of single master record? It looks like ERP, PLM, MDM and other enterprise “M”s are trying to fight “I’m in the center” game for long time with something I’d call average success. What do you think? Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    I think the norm is for the PLM system to be the home of the product record. In our case we have metadata fields that determine which manufacturing system(s) get a copy of the item master and bom data when we release an ECO in PLM. This data is automatically populated or updated in these manufacturing systems. PLM controls a defined subset of the information. Local manufacturing people are responsible for populating additional fields that do not exist in PLM like planner codes, make/buy, costs, prices, etc.

    There is clearly a desire to automate some of this set up to reduce the effort in introducing a new product. We partly cover this through a system of templates but there is always some data that must be filled in by planners, manufacturing engineering, cost accounting.

    Related to this is the issue of routings. We do not have routings in PLM so this must be added after items and assemblies are released from PLM.

  • Cam, thanks… you put, what I called, traditional approach to place PLM as a home of product information. In my view, this is obvious for companies see themselves implementation “PLM vision”. However, I do believe, many others can still be uncomfortable with such approach. With regards to synchronization – in my view, synchronization kills. I’d be trying to reduce it, but at the same time there is no visible and practical way to do so today. Best, Oleg