Connecting your engineering and manufacturing business processes with a PLM-ERP integration solution is wise to ensure smooth communication and seamless operations. However, this process of integrating your PLM and ERP systems must be done correctly to avoid additional costs and effort for your company.
We at To-Increase, have been providing intuitive, easy-to-use PLM-ERP integration solutions for manufacturing companies for almost two decades. With a diverse global customer base and listening first-hand to the roadblocks companies face during PLM-ERP integration, we know of specific proactive measures you can execute when integrating your PLM and ERP.
In this article, we share some best practices during PLM-ERP integration. Every organization could have different business requirements depending on their data and integration needs. However, this article offers general best practices for successful PLM-ERP integration.
What are the best practices for a successful PLM-ERP integration for Dynamics 365?
1. Analyze your data
The core of PLM-ERP integration is to send data from your PLM system to the ERP. Before identifying the data you want to transfer, you must understand the location, complexity, type, format, and volume of your data.
Do a thorough analysis of your data in the PLM system and the data you need in the ERP system. Identify the import format of the files, the data structures to ensure accurate mapping, the bills of materials (BOMs) in the PLM, and any additional data to be transferred as ‘attributes.’
Sometimes, businesses might look for an integration solution while migrating to D365 ERP. Besides doing the integration, you should migrate your data to bring local data from the previous ERP system to D365 ERP, do the necessary data cleansing, and ensure your data is correct.
2. Define data ownership and scope
Once your data is analyzed, you need to define the scope of work. This means you must have a list of all the data you want to export from the PLM to the ERP. Define what kind of data you wish to update and control, so the PLM-ERP integration works per your requirements.
It’s vital to know what data you want to control in your PLM system and the data to be controlled locally (in the operational company) to maintain data ownership. You should understand the location of your master data and what data you want to release to the different legal entities.
3. Categorize your products
Work on categorizing your products wherein you create different buckets of your data to avoid any overlap among the data sets you want to export. You can create product categories, such as finished goods, raw materials, spare parts, and service parts, or add any other specific category depending on your data.
You can set up engineering product categories and assign them upon creating your items, which helps users identify the correct category of the data provided by the PLM system.
4. Decide the integration scenario
When integrating your PLM with D365 ERP, you must decide on the ‘type of integration scenario’ you want to implement. The PLM-ERP integration has two scenarios:
i) The import part scenario: Items are directly pushed to D365 ERP and released to the engineering company or legal entities.
ii) The import ECO scenario: You can work with engineering change orders (ECO) within the ERP and have the option to add additional data, check the data, etc., before it is released.
It’s best to decide on the integration scenario based on the output format of your PLM system.
5. Identify the right internal and external people
Assign roles within your internal company to the right people, such as engineers for pushing data from the PLM to the ERP, the master data specialist who uses the data from the ERP in the engineering company, data specialists who maintain data, etc.
At the same time, you should identify the right solution provider and the type of solution you want. As basic as this may sound, investing in a solution that isn’t compatible with your requirements can be detrimental.
There are various factors to consider when selecting a PLM-ERP integration solution and do your due diligence for all the vendor options before you finalize one. Look for an ISV with the right expertise and choose an integration solution that supports the input and output format of your ERP and PLM systems.
6. Follow a clear implementation process
Once you’ve selected the solution and finalized other necessary details, assessments, and proof of concept, the implementation begins. Follow a well-planned implementation methodology to accommodate scalability and ensure everyone is aligned.
Communicate any questions or requirements to your implementation partner and identify timelines so you are aware of any preparations you must make. You could rope in senior management and representatives from different departments of your business to ensure you have a 360-degree overview of the implementation project and stay ahead of any integration challenges.
Minimize repeated changes or alterations to the integration and get clarity on the data sets to reduce ad-hoc changes to your integration software.
Related reading: The 5-step implementation process we follow for PLM-ERP integration.
7. Facilitate change management
After implementing the integration solution, there will be a shift in product data ownership which must be communicated clearly to avoid confusion around what data is owned by which system.
Prepare your business users and internal team members for the change that an integrated environment will bring. Ensure all your stakeholders, staff, and third-party partners are briefed on the data change and how it positively impacts operations.
You could also consider hiring a change manager to ensure a smooth transition for employees.
8. Test the integration
After the deployment of the integration, you must test the quality and integrity of the integration. Ensure the output of the PLM system is correct and the ERP can read it. For instance, we offer each customer a workbook as a checkpoint to maintain all settings.
Do the user acceptance testing (UAT) and carry out the unit testing with your selected partners or consultants. Carry out a data quality check, test the integration to perform its function, inspect if the desired result is reflected in your Dynamics 365 ERP, and resolve any reported bugs in the integration.
9. Train all the end-users
Document the required training areas and ensure you communicate this to your implementation partner to cover all training needs. Train all the end-users involved in servicing, handling, and selling products, so they know how to read, translate, and use the data to carry out engineering and manufacturing activities.
The engineering team must know how data will automatically be pushed from PLM to ERP, and the logistics team should understand how data would appear in a fully integrated ERP environment. Training could be conducted in groups or using a train-the-trainer model for larger businesses.
Are you considering PLM-ERP integration for Dynamics 365?
You can explore more about our PLM-ERP integration solution by diving into this factsheet which shares:
- What the integration solution can do for your business
- Benefits of PLM-ERP integration
- Features of the integration solution