Connectivity is changing demands of manufacturing systems about software. A decade ago, the top concern was how to control data. PLM’s vision of single point of truth came in the center of that demand. To organize data and put it under control was on the top of the list of IT and engineering management. It is still important, but I can hear an increased voice about how to connect data. To move from sync to link is one of the biggest challenges for enterprise manufacturing systems and implementations spending time and resources synchronizing data between PDM, PLM, ERP, Supply Chain and other systems. It is costly and inefficient.
Most of large manufacturing are accepting the idea of PLM and you can see some PLM development in every company. For all these companies, ERP is a cornerstone of manufacturing data holding Item Masters and related transactional production information. The integration between two is very challenging. The integration with supply chain is even more complicated. So above all enterprise systems, you can see a good number of spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets used in every corner of corporate life. A typical spreadsheet landscape in manufacturing company can look like the one on the picture below. IT is usually carefully watching enterprise systems of record. However, as I’ve seen in many implementations, “export to Excel” is one of the most demanded functions. Spreadsheets brings complexity and mistakes. Unfortunately, for many companies, spreadsheets is one of the most popular ways to connect across multi-company ecosystem. So, this is a reality of enterprise integration and connected databases.
But the future is belonging to a different type of systems and technologies. Connected machines and services can make design, manufacturing and supply chain smarter. It can lead to an increased agility in production services. Global Manufacturing article Industry 4.0: the urgency of data standardization is raising several very important questions about how to make it happen. Among them the challenge for total visibility across an entire manufacturing eco-system. Here is a passage I captured:
The challenge therefore lies in manufacturers’ ability to have total visibility across their entire ecosystem, at all levels. Only with such visibility in place can they prevent problems that may occur along their production chain and limit the number of errors, which are potentially increased by the growing complexity of the supply chain. Yet, too much information, not too little, is to blame for visibility problems today. Manufacturers must therefore learn to control and analyse this massive amount of data from across their entire ecosystem in order to make better, more strategic decisions and to manage alerts at appropriate times.
What is my conclusion? The vision of PLM is to connect companies and product lifecycle. However, a typical PLM system is a company database or several databases. To connect such database with other companies is a big deal and to keep such information synchronized is even more complex task. In such environment, to have total visibility across the entire product development ecosystem can be a big challenge. This is a note for PLM architects and strategists. And, of course, this is just my opinion and my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.