The word “integration” is one of the most frequently used in PLM business. Naturally, PLM puts itself in the middle of other systems and processes, which naturally brings the question about integrations up in the list of priorities.
Among the topics on the list are traditional suspects such as PLM-ERP integrations, discussions about Integration middleware, and point-to-point integrations. Both are very traditional. At the same time, there are modern topics- integration with supply chain, engineering, and manufacturing BOM integrations.
I look forward to discussions tomorrow, but before that, I decided to refresh my memories with some previously written articles about integrations. Check some of my writing about PLM integrations before, Navigate to this link.
I can see 3 different aspects of integrations for PLM projects:
1- Integrations between different systems and data sources (PLM, ERP, CRM, etc.)
2- Integration between different companies (OEMs, contractors, suppliers, etc.)
3- Master data management, data aggregation, and consolidations, machine learning, and integration of data to build intelligence
Integrations are usually presented as a way to streamlining processes and data transformation. But in real life, integration is a hard thing to accomplish and it is often a custom-build process. The days of over-the-wall engineering are over and manufacturing companies are looking at how to make systems integrated into a single change from design to manufacturing. Read my Manufacturing Integration, PDM agnostic, and ERP friendly PLM tools.
One of the most fascinating topics for me in integration is how companies can switch from just moving data from A to B, to more holistic integration paradigms. The discussions about the new tools and integration methods have been around for a long time. Read my article The future of PLM integrations will go beyond just moving data from A to B.
In the early days of point-to-point integrations data was freely flowing from point A to point B. Then more centralization came into place and multiple EAI (enterprise application integration) options were introduced such as data hubs, integration middleware systems capable centralize the routing of data from A to B using mapping and other services. I think we are coming to the next level of integration demands where data can be efficiently shared and consumed by multiple services. New demands, new requirements, and potentially new technologies and providers.
For many years in PLM, integration was mostly focused on data extracted from CAD files and a variety of data transfers between databases. Web technologies bring a new way to integrate data. Check my Web and DIY future of PLM integrations.
As PLM companies fast moving towards SaaS, the question of cloud integrations or even multi-cloud integrations becomes extremely important. At the same time, it doesn’t change the fundamentals of integration business. But here are some new tools can change the trajectory of integration development – open source integration toolkits, automation cloud platforms, cloud-hosted integration platforms. There is also a risk in the way PLM vendors are moving their existing platforms to the cloud – PLM cloud washing, which can lead to massive introduction of cloud integration spaghetti.
What is my conclusion?
Integrations remain one of the most fascinating elements of the PLM business. For a broad number of small and medium-sized industrial companies, integration is push/pull data using Excels or other formats. Large OEMs and industrial companies can afford custom integration processes to build specific integrations tailored to their needs. There is a need for changes in the way PLM integrations can become easier and scalable. Network platforms will play a big role in future PLM integration improvements by allowing seamless data sharing, access controls, seamless data fusion, and ubiquitous REST API services. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.