The aim of PLM is to improve product development processes and lifecycle. One of the biggest challenges to make it happen is to deal with disparate enterprise applications and tools. The cost of system integration is high and many companies are not ready to make an investment in integration projects that will have a questionable ROI.
PLM-ERP integration is probably one of the best examples of integration projects with complex software, technologies, business dependencies and corporate politics. PLM and ERP vendors are often locking customer data and control access. It prevents customers to make a right decision to integration PLM and ERP. Few years ago, I covered it in my blog – The ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. I don’t think the situation is better since I posted it back in 2010. PLM-ERP integration projects are messy combination of requirements, technologies, tools and specific customer-oriented services. It usually ends up with a number of Excel and XML files flying around between PLM, ERP and other systems (including email). No surprise, companies are not read to move fast and engage into PLM-ERP integration projects.
I’ve been thinking how to change a trend of complex PLM-ERP implementation with slow ROI. Maybe to focus on transferring data between systems is not a first priority (even if it looks like the obvious one)? What can be done these days differently, so it will allow to come with a new definition of PLM-ERP integration value and maybe faster ROI from these projects? Here is the idea I wanted to share – analytics.
I have to admit, talks about data analytics are everywhere these days. It is hard to undervalue the importance and opportunity of big data. However, I want to take it beyond traditional technological level. Think about PLM and ERP applications. With significant functional overlap, companies are often see a high level of competitiveness between them. What if we can bring new capability of capturing data and making analytics into two sources of information – product lifecycle data and ERP. Can we change a trend of data competitiveness into trend of value of analytics?
Here are couple of scenarios that in my view can produce some useful analytic use cases by mixing data coming from PLM and ERP. Let me call it – lifecycle analytics. Think about NPD (new product development), but it can apply to existing products as well. Forecasting is an important step in every project, especially when it comes to a new product design and development. I can see multiple aspects of forecasting. What if I can create a forecast for entire lifecycle cost of the product. Another emerging need today is compliance forecasting. With growing number of regulation requirements to forecast compliance cost for a new product can be a challenging task. Related to that comes the need for recycle cost.
My hunch data for analytics and forecasting is available in both PLM and ERP system. It is on the crossroad between, sales, manufacturing and product engineering. To get data out of these systems and create an appropriate analytics can be an interesting, but challenging process. I think, the number of companies doing it as mainstream activity is very low, but demand should be huge.
What is my conclusion? To switch from data ownership debates into data analytics can be a way for both PLM and ERP vendors to come out of clash and competition. Enterprise databases (PLM and ERP are good examples to that) are holding a very valuable data that can be used to support decision making and provide a way to optimize product development processes. The potential for lifecycle analytics using data from both PLM and ERP systems can be significant. The development of specific analytical application can be an interesting task for existing vendors and new companies. Just my thoughts…