Debates about Part Revisions or PLM vs ERP View Of Lifecycle

Debates about Part Revisions or PLM vs ERP View Of Lifecycle

In the world of manufacturing, product development, product data management, supply chain management, project management and engineering software, one topic usually drives lot of attention and discussion- how to manage Part Revisions or, in other words, is Part Revision at all? The topic comes into discussion in different variations and stages of product lifecycle and process management. Here are some of my previous articles:

Interchangeability, Revision and New Part Number

Form, Fit, Function (FFF): Revisions and Interchangeability

What should trigger BOM revision?

Earlier last my attention was caught by the article Do Parts Have Revisions? The discussion got a good number of comments that confirmed to me the level of importance and confusion about the topic. If you’re interested in this topic, I also highly recommend you to read a book The Essential Guide to Part Re-Identification by Martijn Dullaart.

Today, I want to focus on this question of part revisioning process and how to answer this question correctly. I’d like to focus disambiguation of the word a “part” in this question. Because, once you do so, the answer this question is quite easy in my view.

Let’s start from two critical processes – (1) engineering or product development and (2) manufacturing resource planning and production process. These two processes are intertwined and cannot leave without each other. At the same time, they are separate and requires different set of data and different data modeling to handle it with all details.

From software system standpoint, these two processes are typically represented by two systems: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Both systems are essential for businesses, but they serve different purposes and have distinct viewpoints when it comes to managing part revisions. Another perspective I want to share with you is how part revisions needs to be managed in PLM and ERP systems.

Understanding the Basics

Before diving into the debates, let’s first understand the fundamental concepts of PLM and ERP:

1. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): PLM system and PLM solutions are comprehensive approach to managing a product’s entire lifecycle, from concept to retirement. It focuses on product design, engineering, collaboration, and data management. PLM systems are highly specialized for managing complex product data, including CAD files, bills of materials (BOMs), and revisions.

2. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): ERP systems are designed to manage the day-to-day operations of a business, such as finance, human resources, supply chain, and production planning. They provide a unified platform for managing business processes, including inventory management and order processing.

Usually these systems can give you a context for Part management. Depending on the lifecycle stage and the context Part Revision can be relevant or not.

Debates from the PLM Perspective

From a PLM perspective, part revisions are seen as an integral part of the product development process. Here are some key points that can be used to contextualize Part Revision:

1. Revision Control: PLM systems offer robust revision control mechanisms. Each change to a part is tracked, allowing for a detailed history of revisions. This level of control is crucial in different industries and industrial processes. stringent quality and regulatory requirements, such as aerospace and healthcare.

2. Collaboration: PLM systems emphasize collaboration among cross-functional teams, including design, engineering, and manufacturing. This ensures that everyone works with the most up-to-date part information, reducing errors and rework. And for that part, revision is crucial.

3. Change Management: PLM systems focus at managing change requests and approvals. For most of engineering and product development processes is absolutely necessarily to maintain the revision of each part (custom parts and assemblies). When a specific part or assembly change is approved, it usually requires a corresponded revision.

4. Integration with CAD: PLM systems seamlessly integrate with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, managing design (documents), enabling engineers to create and revise parts directly within the PLM environment. CAD design and drawings can provide an additional context and, make revision critical when it comes to the point of documentation approval.

To summarize the PLM view, revisions are absolutely critical to identify a part (custom part or assembly) during its product development process.

Debates from the ERP Perspective

ERP systems, on the other hand, approach part revisions from a different angle, often leading to some contrasting opinions:

1. Focus on Operations: ERP systems primarily focus on optimizing business operations, including manufacturing, procurement, and order fulfillment. They are more concerned with the practical aspects of part revisions, such as managing inventory and production schedules. Depending on the type of production, revision might be relevant (custom engineering), but in many situations in production, revision is another attribute of the part, which is identified solely by a part number.

2. Simplified Control: ERP systems may have simpler revision control mechanisms compared to PLM. They aim to strike a balance between control and efficiency to keep up with the pace of daily operations. A famous “blind man test” defines that Part loaded in a single bin can be identified by a blind man taking parts from a bin without looking at part number or revision.

3. Change Management: Although change management (like in PLM) might include revision control a typical approach taken by change processes in ERP are not assuming changes of revisions – only replacement of one Part Number by another. But, in many case, especially in custom engineering projects, revision change might be inevitable. Revision history can be maintained too, but just an attribute of a Part.

4. Interchangeable Revisions: An important context and topic when discussing production process is related to interchangeability of revisions. Two interchangeable parts might have the same Part Number and different revisions, while non-interchangeable parts required to have different part numbers.

Finding the Right Context

Ultimately, the debate between PLM and ERP perspectives on managing part revisions should not be seen as an either/or choice. Instead, businesses processes required to find the right context when discussing part revisioning process. Here are some key considerations:

1. Engineering: a part in engineering process usually has revision and it is needed to maintain product development process.

2. Production Planning: At the stage of planning, revision is absolutely needed. Without revision, the process of planning won’t work. Having a revision is needed.

3. Procurement: For ordering of Parts (OTS) or custom, revision is not needed. Procurement process works with released parts and therefore Part Number is a key element of Part identification.

4. Assembly : Depending on the industry and manufacturing processes, revision might or might not be needed. As much as close you’re to a custom assembly (engineering to order), you need in revisions will grow. However, for standard and mass production processes, revision is not needed and Part Number is sufficient to identify a component.

What is my conclusion?

The debates about part revisions from the perspectives of PLM and ERP are not about choosing one over the other but rather finding the right context and process to support. I think, the context is important. Part (in engineering) has revision, Part (in production planning) has revision, Part (in procurement and assembly) doesn’t have revision.

Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital-thread platform with cloud-native PDM & PLM capabilities to manage product data lifecycle and connect manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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