The connection between PLM systems and ERP systems has kept many companies busy for many years. As both systems manage items in their system, all kind of battles are fought on ownership, redundancy of data and more. Last week I was involved in four different cases, which demonstrates this topic is very actual, and as most of the companies involved were in the mid-market, it shows also these companies are no in the phase of implementing and extending PLM within the organization.

In the first case, which I will comment here, it was a big enterprise using ENOVIA SmarTeam and SAP. As SAP has their own PLM module, the initial push was of course to use SAP all over, however the company considered the SAP PLM module not powerful and flexible enough for their engineering environment. For that reason the battle around the items and mainly the BOM for Manufacturing started.

The manufacturing BOM is usually the start point for production and the source for the ERP system to start production (and planning). For that reason, ERP systems claim ownership for this BOM, although the definition of the BOM is all based on engineering information within the PLM system.  As ERP systems are already established for many years, companies are familiar with defining the manufacturing BOM in their system, often a labor-intensive job as data needs to be collected from the engineering department, often in the form of spreadsheets.

PLM systems are designed to manage the manufacturing BOM , connecting all information within the system. This requires however, a change in the way people and a company is working. Engineers have more responsibility to enter complete data – there is no one to review and complete the data afterwards and combined with the lack of flexibility that people had before with Excel this lead to a cultural refusal from the floor.

If the management realizes that managing the manufacturing BOM in the PLM system will lead to less errors, a shorter time to production and less labor cost, they will push this approach top-down. This happened in many big PLM centric enterprises.  In smaller companies, this value is not visible for the management as often users, the IT department or the ERP team will pinpoint that the PLM system does not suit their needs, as it requires a change in working (their best practices).

Culture change will only come in the mid-market when PLM concepts become a commodity for companies too. The change will come, driven by ENOVIA SmarTeam with their mid market solutions. But we all know changes take time.

I will talk in my next posts in more details on PLM-ERP issues. FYI the customer mentioned in the beginning decided to keep the manufacturing BOM definition in SAP as this is what they understood and people decided not to take the risk with PLM.  

Culture change takes time ….