This week I visited a company, which was very successful in what they were doing with their products – actually everyone is running to keep up the demand from their customers. I have seen this typical situation all around the world. People are too busy to implement new and more efficient ways of working (introducing PLM in the cases where I am involved) and hanging to their old ways of working. Companies went through their first (and second) ERP implementation and this became the dominant system where everyone has to connect to, trying to avoid another maybe painful implementation.  

Implementing PLM requires a different vision; it is not just connecting the CAD documents through a PDM system with ERP. It means that you need to start to think about company-wide processes, not optimization of a department. The biggest discussion often is around who owns the creation of an item number and its status. Companies have invested in the past in all kind of complex numbering systems to identify items by its number (as there was no IT system to support that). Then the ERP system became the source for item definition although the initial creation was done by engineers.

It is clear there is a change needed in the way companies connect their engineering environment with their production environment. Doing it the old way still requires many flExcels (as Excel is the most flexible tool to pass information) and people chasing, modifying and checking Excels before entering them in the ERP system.

ERP vendors tried to avoid this change by extending their systems with PLM functionality. As PLM and ERP are two complete different disciplines, would you go to a construction company to have your new house designed or would you hire an architect first.

Of course, ERP systems can become familiar with PLM, but if it is not your key activity, you will never get the 100 % feeling for it. For example, the company I visited tried to implement BlueStar, as this was a direct linked PLM system on top of Axapta. The reason the implementation failed was not a technical issue although there were some performance issues. Nevertheless, it is not hard to write the data in the right table even with some delay, but aligning the world of PLM and ERP together was the problem. Engineering works with revisions (major / minor) they work with statuses, which are not known in the ERP world.

Conclusion:

Let PLM systems do what they are design for and implement them through PLM specialists. Next, connect the PLM and ERP system for a streamlined company wide process. Look for the basics at the ENIAC SmarTeam Engineering Express.

In one of my next posts, I will address PLM-ERP integration best practices, but now I am going to pack my suitcase in order to be in Munich for an exciting ENOVIA Customer Conference

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