A PLM-ERP integration solution enables businesses to bring their engineering and manufacturing worlds together. Offering a multitude of benefits, it enhances communication across departments while having complete visibility of your product’s lifecycle and production. However, without knowing what to look for in a PLM-ERP integration solution you may end up putting your money into a solution that might not be the perfect fit for your business. In such a situation, you would have wasted time and budget for an unfit solution, and you’ll have to invest in another one that better fits your business requirements, costing you additional time and effort.
Wouldn't it be great to know which PLM-ERP integration solution to select so you are sure of your purchasing decision?
At To-Increase, we come across various manufacturing companies who have been in a dilemma on what to look for while selecting a PLM-ERP integration solution. With our experience of offering industry-specific solutions embedded in Dynamics 365 ERP for over 17 years and multiple customer interactions, we believe it would be helpful to share what a manufacturing company should look for while trying to integrate their PLM and ERP systems.
What factors should you consider when selecting a PLM-ERP integration solution?
1. Functional requirements
Probably the most basic yet crucial factor to consider is the functional requirements of your PLM-ERP integration solution. Make a list of the features you’re looking for in the integration solution. Some questions you can ask yourself:
- What are the technical requirements the integration offers?
- How much coding would I need to do — do I prefer a low-code or out-of-the-box solution?
- Is the solution compatible with my PLM and ERP systems?
- Does the integration need to support cloud-based or on-premises PLM and ERP systems?
- Does the integration solution take care of product versioning, compliance management, and software updates?
- What type of integration do I require — is it unidirectional or bidirectional data movement?
- Do I want a single integration by connecting only two systems (for instance, a PLM-ERP integration), or am I looking to integrate my ERP with multiple systems such as MDM, PDM, CAD, etc.?
All these collectively make up the functional requirements of the solution, and it is a good place to filter out the different options you have available.
The scope of budget you have marked out for integrating your PLM and ERP is another significant factor based on which you’ll make your decision. The ideal solution would offer all the functional requirements you’re seeking within the allocated budget, but companies seldom get them both right. One way to determine if you’re getting your buck’s worth is to have a budget in mind while shortlisting solution providers.
Look at the return on investment (ROI) you will gain and the total cost of ownership (TCO). There could be a solution that appears to be of a higher cost at face value but is more cost-efficient for your business in the long term.
For instance, when it comes to building or buying a PLM-ERP integration solution, a simple import-export code using data entities could technically carry out data transfer, but when considering other factors such as data governance, data quality, data ownership, maintenance, and scalability, buying a solution from an independent software vendor (ISV) could be a better choice.
3. Implementation process and duration
Many a time, we’ve seen companies skip the question on the implementation process with the solution provider and only bring it up after a choice has been finalized. While you don’t require a detailed understanding of the implementation process, it’s always good to have a brief overview of how the PLM-ERP integration will be implemented. This enables you to evaluate if there is any external technical support you’d require, the ownership of the different implementation tasks, and if there is a capacity to accommodate customizations.
The duration of implementation is also vital to consider as a quick and smooth implementation ensures minimal disruption to production and current processes. It depends upon how quickly you want to go live, streamline your operations and communications, and have the integration solution up and running.
At To-Increase, PLM-ERP integration is implemented by following a 5-step process.
The user-friendliness and intuitiveness of the PLM-ERP integration can be a key differentiating component when selecting the right software solution. While examining the solution's offerings, check for its usability and how easy it is to learn and operate.
A user-friendly PLM-ERP integration allows the end-users to quickly and effortlessly begin utilizing its features with minimum training. A smooth, intuitive user interface simplifies collaboration and reduces the overall training effort.
For instance, we’ve experienced that manufacturing enterprises usually opt for plug-and-play PLM-ERP integrations without too much customization, as it offers a better user experience and user interface. This further reduces manual activities and errors, and you can achieve file transfer with minimal configuration.
5. Data transfer requirements
While data transfer requirements can be covered under the functional requirements of your PLM-ERP integration, we thought it’s best this has a point of its own! You would be owning a certain amount of data depending on your current PLM and ERP systems. When analyzing which solution is right for you, it’s important to define the data type, format, and volume you have and check whether the solution provider can support the transfer of your data sets. For instance, the data from PLM to ERP can be integrated using formats such as XML, Excel, or web services.
Your data could be simple or complex if you have an individual bill of materials (BOMs) for each line item, product part, spare parts, and so on, simultaneously increasing the data volume. You could have single-level or multi-level BOMs to deal with a single entity or operate in a multi-company environment. You may need to migrate your data and clean it up, depending on the output format of your PLM system and the integration solution you opt for.
6. ISV experience
It’s worth mentioning that an ISV with the right experience can make or break your entire process of connecting the PLM and ERP systems. While this could be subjective for different companies, it’s not always the amount of experience or number of customers that matter, but the quality of experience the ISV holds.
Examine whether the areas of expertise and successful integrations executed by the ISV resonate with your enterprise. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Is the software vendor taking care of the implementation process?
- Does the ISV offer additional support if required?
- Can I easily scale up and innovate with the chosen vendor?
For instance, anyone exploring PLM-ERP integrations for Dynamics 365 ERP should look for ISVs in the Microsoft ecosystem and in close partnership with Microsoft’s strategy and solutions.
How can we help you integrate PLM and ERP?
We offer PLM-ERP integration solutions embedded in Microsoft Dynamics 365. The solution leverages the capabilities of (ECM), a module within Dynamics 365 F&SCM responsible for controlling and managing product versions and releases.
Our solution can support integrations for all PLM systems with the ERP Dynamics 365 F&SCM or Dynamics AX 2012. There is an out-of-the-box solution available for and . We have experience in PLM-ERP integrations with and other PLM systems through a configurable and adaptable . Furthermore, we are involved in integrating Dynamics 365 ERP with other PDM, MDM, and CAD systems.
Being part of the Microsoft inner circle and having a rich experience of successful integrations, we can guide you on how to streamline your operations with the right PLM-ERP integration.
Our Microsoft-certified solutions follow the monthly upgrade cadence of Microsoft, guaranteeing that your software system will always run on the latest version. We can provide you with a hassle-free, low-code, intuitive solution that can be implemented in-person or remotely with an average duration of 3 to 7 days depending upon your PLM system.
Additionally, our PLM-ERP integration solution ensures data quality with advanced mapping capabilities, accurate BOM analysis, an automated process of data transfer, and well-maintained data ownership in both systems.
Ready to decide on a PLM-ERP integration solution that’s right for you?
As a manufacturing enterprise, you can begin your consideration journey with the above-discussed factors, but also look beyond them based on what would be relevant for your specific business case. A well-planned PLM-ERP integration, covering your short-term and long-term goals, is a good place to start.
The next steps you can take are:
1. Evaluate your shortlisted options against the 6 factors and filter them accordingly.
2. Look for a PLM-ERP integration solution that you can implement out-of-the-box with an ISV having proven expertise in integrating PLM, PDM, or CAD systems to ERP.
3. Begin gathering and analyzing your data, so it’s ready to be communicated to the different software vendors you’re considering.
4. Prepare for change and stay ahead of any possible challenges during the integration process.
Feel free to reach out to us for any further questions. You could also explore how our PLM-ERP integration can address your business needs by checking out our factsheet, which shares information on:
- What the integration solution can do for your business
- Benefits of PLM-ERP integration
- Features of a standard integration solution