Your Guide to Software Selection

Product Perfection: Why PLM and ERP Are a Perfect Match for Manufacturers

In recent years, the debate about product development software and its role in the modern business world has grown increasingly complex. It often seems like product management is defined more by what it is not than what it actually has to offer.

Many developers treat product managers as technical assets, which can result in a loss of perspective. When so much time is spent on tactical, technical processes, there’s less focus on the big picture.

One possible solution is a move towards more agile software. This is characterized by consistent and collaborative upgrades to software development strategies. There is a keen emphasis on interactions between customers and internal teams. Plus, the steady delivery of deployable code (in sprints) and the ability to regulate backlogs of user stories become more pressing priorities.

Yet, the truth is that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy for product lifecycles. All manufacturers have different needs, and a cookie cutter system just doesn’t cut it in a fast-paced digital world.

This is why your business has to do more than just invest in the right tools. It must also know how to implement them for maximum value. The beauty of PLM and ERP software, for example, is that they can easily be combined to form a kind of “super system.”

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Understanding the Links between ERP and PLM

PLM (product lifecycle management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) software have always been close bedfellows, but it’s only within the last decade that enterprises have begun to recognize the benefits of integrating the two.

While they may appear to serve different roles, the success of efficient, agile product lifecycles depends upon all-inclusive access. Each stage of the process requires a manufacturer to pull data from both the PLM and ERP systems.

This need for cross-channel access begins with the earliest design phase, but it continues to inform and strengthen workflows right up until the product lifecycle is complete. For instance, most manufacturers regulate design changes with the use of ECO administration tools. These processes are, technically, the responsibility of PLM software, but the reality is that nothing exists in a bubble.

This article explores the close relationship between supply chain management and enterprise resource planning. Just like PLM, supply chain management often touches upon the internal inventory of other in-house processes.

In the case of PLM and ERP, this makes integration a simple transition with a lot of advantages. The majority of design changes are tied to corresponding work orders, inventory edits, and supplier communications.

They depend upon information stored by ERP software, so both assets come into play. When they are aligned, they provide a clear and comprehensive perspective on engineering change orders (ECOs). However, this assumes the use of an advanced ERP system which includes provisions for Requirements Planning, Capacity Planning, Shop Floor Control, Master Production Schedule, and Project Management.

Your software should bring these responsibilities together as part of a common database. If you need advice on selecting the right ERP tools, read our guide to the key features which your business should not be without.    

The Death of Asynchronous Product Perspectives

It no longer makes sense for manufacturers to treat the two systems as asynchronous. While it’s still common to believe they serve entirely separate roles, contemporary product lifecycles don’t really fit this mold.

To ensure maximum productivity and profitability, your business should integrate its software. This makes it easier to guarantee the accuracy of ERP data and bring it into line with current product design changes. Check out this webinar from CIMData for more information on key integration points.   

As PLM and ERP processes create tighter workflows and artificial data margins, the need for collaborative and integrative tools increases. Software integrations offer the best way to gain a detailed perspective on complex product lifecycles.

By combining workflow processes and coalescing information from systems which would otherwise be isolated, you have the opportunity to boost process efficacy and precision. It also becomes easier to handle multifaceted resolutions without investing in more software. Product design strategies are streamlined, supply channels improve and you don’t need to collect surplus tools.

When combined, PLM and ERP form a holistic approach to product monitoring, regulation, and development. And don’t forget that closed-loop quality management processes rely on the successful integration of PLM and ERP software.

The Key to Investing in Less and Gaining More

In fact, PLM and ERP are defined by the constant transfer of information between the two systems. The efficiency of supplier communications, warranty regulations, and stock control is substantially increased when manufacturers construct fully transparent and supported product lifecycles.

Plus, some experts claim that PLM and ERP integration has the potential to positively influence DFM (design for manufacturing) processes.

While the assimilation of product development software is still a relatively new idea, it is already helping businesses obtain faster, more accurate feedback on the quality of manufacturing strategies.

This, in turn, makes it easier to fix weak areas as soon as they are identified. Therefore, you are strongly advised to take a close look at current approaches to development and management.

The aim is to identify any potential hazards or damages which may arise from information gaps and asynchronous software systems. Once you have a good knowledge of where your weaknesses lie, you can start to shape PLM and ERP integrations in a way that fills these vulnerabilities.

The big benefit is clarity. If you have a consistent and precise view of the entire product lifecycle, it is much easier to spot processes which are moving inefficiently.

Making Simplicity an Invaluable Asset

Consequently, making key decisions becomes a lot simpler for supply chain regulators, design strategists, and financial assessors. When you embrace agile development strategies, new concepts, planning methods, artifacts, roles, and relationships emerge. You’ll start to do everything in a slightly different way, while still being informed by familiar requirements. The goals and outcomes are the same, but the journey is substantially smoother.  

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenges along the way. Transitioning towards a more holistic system of management can be tricky at first. Most businesses are built upon isolated processes or, at least, the perception of software solutions working in isolation. Fortunately, there are plenty of ERP support services which can help you drive innovation and simplify enterprise application deployments.

Get our PLM & ERP Software Requirements Template

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