Yesterday, I had chance to read the new paper by Jim Brown: Issue in Focus: The Integrated ERP-PLM Strategy. There are lots of things I agree with Jim. They are mostly in the area of strategic need for PLM-ERP as well as growing level of awareness about such need on the side of companies. However, the issue of integration cost is somewhat, I think, is a very critical. Unfortunately, because of complexity, manufacturers are facing the issue of PLM-ERP cost very late in the implementation process.
In my view PLM-ERP integration never comes as out-of-the-box product. The diversity of product development and manufacturing practices, product versions and many other factors are making PLM-ERP integration very complex and expensive project. I want to breakdown possible decision points related to PLM-ERP integration.
What data do you want to integrate?
It sounds obvious, but before you want to integrate systems, you need to understand what data you are going to integrate. It seems to me as an important topic is to break down data in both systems into very granular pieces and see how this data will be combined, transferred and integrated. Don’t move forward until you don’t understand what data assets do you have.
Where is data located and how it controlled?
The enterprise data management is a complex task. PLM and ERP systems are two the most complicated in the modern manufacturing. Data can be distributed in different locations, organization can use multiple ERP and, sometime, PLM systems. The ownership of enterprise systems and, in the end, control over the data assets can be very complicated. You need to see a full picture of data control by different people in the organization.
What processes influenced by integration?
There are lots of advantages in implementing PLM-ERP integration. However, such integration will introduce a change in the organization development and manufacturing process. As every change, it may bring some problems or simple additional cost in adjustment of work in the organization. You have to understand the influence from the different standpoint – people, software and processes. The cost of adjustment needs to be include into overall estimation related to your PLM-ERP integration project.
What API and development skills do you need?
It sounds like a completely technical. Nevertheless, it is very important. Your organizational systems can provide a different set of techniques and tools to develop integration. In most of the cases, enterprise systems are heavily customized. You need to understand and validate what tools and API you can use and how you PLM-ERP integration will be adjusted to all existing custom developments you have in place.
How to maintain your integration?
This one is last, but extremely important. Your PLM-ERP integration is not a single shot project you are doing once. Your organization becomes heavily dependent on this integration. PLM-ERP integrations are very often belonging to the class of “mission critical systems” in the organization. Therefore, you need to validate how you will be able to maintain this integration from all possible standpoints – people, technologies, system upgrades. The last one is also important. You obviously will manage upgrades of your ERP and PLM systems. You need to take into account that since you have PLM-ERP integration in place, this upgrade process will always be dependable on how you maintain your integration.
What is my conclusion today? PLM-ERP integration is a very expensive project. It can bring lots of benefits, but also drain a significant amount of resources. You need to understand how to make a right estimation of work and validate this project before it starts. I’m interested to discuss your experience and listen to your feedback.