Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PLM and ERP: Can't We Be Friends?

Recently, Joe Cocker passed away. If you don’t know, he was an iconic front-man for several rock groups in the 70’s, and he sang with a unique style. He was best known for singing covers of other people’s songs including the Beatles. One of his best known covers was of the Beatle’s song “With a Little Help from My Friends”. I am thinking about PLM and ERP today, and wondering why they can’t be better friends.

PLM and ERP are both part of most major manufacturing companies. But, their relationship can often be rocky. Both are needed to create innovative, high quality products that delight customers. But, how they are deployed across the company is often a hotly contested topic.

I wrote a blog in 2013 titled: PLM and ERP: Can’t We All Just Get Along? In this blog I talked about the often rancorous relationship that PLM and ERP have at many companies. A harmonious relationship between PLM and ERP can help provide a more efficient product development process and get more innovative products out the door faster to paying customers. 

Below are a few things that I think are important when wondering how to balance the needs of PLM and ERP:

First, it is important to understand the definition of PLM and ERP. The simplest definitions I can think of are the following:

PLM – Creating, capturing, sharing, and managing product information that relates to the VIRTUAL PRODUCT.

ERP – Gathering, coordinating, organizing, and managing the information that relates to the REAL PRODUCT.

With these two definitions in mind, what can we do to make them work together more harmoniously?

First: Make sure you are creating, capturing, sharing, and managing your information in PLM consistently, proactively, and effectively so that design personnel can always find needed information. After all, PLM is where the product design begins. If you do a bad job gathering, tracking, and sharing information at the beginning of the design process, who thinks that you will suddenly do a good job once the product is being manufactured?

Anyone who needs information must be able to find it easily and directly without knowing multiple secret information locations that no one can find. Once information is found, it must be clear, concise, and valid in order to have a positive impact on product design. If you do a good job with information, passing it on to ERP will be much more successful, and any changes that require information to come back from ERP to PLM will be accurate.

Second: There must be a way for information to flow back from ERP to PLM when changes are made. Integration can allow this to happen easily, automatically, and consistently so there is no doubt about information accuracy. Often, information is thrown over the wall to ERP, and then nothing is returned to PLM when changes are made. This leads to re-work, and does not support design re-use, which can save time and money.

Third: Work hard on the cultural change aspects of PLM and ERP relationships. Our experience has shown that there is often a cultural disconnect between PLM organizations and ERP organizations. There is often a poor relationship between these two groups. The failure of PLM and ERP integration starts with integration of the two organizations.

There is much more to this topic. I am planning to have a free webinar to discuss these items along with several others coming up on January 28, 2015.  Please join me and learn more about how you can improve the relationship between PLM and ERP. A link to learn more about his free webinar is below:



Jim McKinney - CIMdata