It is not surprising that most of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers today from the manufacturing industry use a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system to design their products and manage the product lifecycle. For manufacturers, maintaining smooth and streamlined business operations gets extremely crucial to enhance your business efficiency. However, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and PLM are two entirely different systems with different functionalities.
Using them separately results in disconnected business processes that can lead to costly errors, inefficient supply chain, and unhappy customers. With the new ECM add-in Microsoft is bringing the ERP side closer to the PLM side as To-Increase has done with Product engineering before.Here are 5 pitfalls of not integrating PLM with ERP systems. Therefore, the right way forward is to perform a PLM-ERP integration to improve supply chain agility and reduce costs.
At To-Increase, we have been helping our customers achieve the best levels of integration for over a decade now, and we understand the significance of seamless integration between their PLM and ERP systems. Today, we see that the customer is not looking at whether or not they should be integrating—they consider it a necessity. The real questions they have are:
- How do we integrate and what tools do we use?
- How do we keep the integration up to date and robust?
- Where do we find a partner with the right focus and experience?
The answer to these questions is simple—a recognized out-of-the-box PLM integration! Why? It is the easiest and the most efficient way of achieving integration. We have seen that the out-of-the-box integration solutions can help you get started quickly and without any need for heavy, technical coding. Example: Siemens Teamcenter and PTC Windchill, the two commonly used PLM systems.
In this blog, I will help you understand how we are supporting our customers to integrate with Microsoft Dynamics 365 using our PLM integration framework.
How do we integrate?
PLM is different from ERP, and they both serve entirely different purposes. PLM focuses on the engineering aspects and supports the creation of product and related data. On the other hand, ERP focuses on logistics and finance, and mainly supports the production and procurement processes. In short, PLM is product-focused, and ERP is process-focused.
So, how do you integrate these two different worlds? This is where the PLM integration framework and the ECM add-in come into play.
The PLM integration framework is a configurable integration tool that runs inside Dynamics 365. The engine of this framework is the Business Integration Solutions (BIS). This is the de facto standard for configuring integrations between your Dynamics 365 and other systems. BIS will make sure that your data is automatically imported into staging tables.
When creating or updating product data from your staging tables, many decisions must be made, such as:
- Which data is already there, and how to interpret this data?
- How to create new product revisions and Bill of Materials (BOM)?
- How to update or overwrite existing item revisions and BOMs?
- How to automatically approve and update BOMs on PLM status change?
- How to handle local data (for example, local BOMs) within a multi-company environment?
The PLM integration framework helps you answer these questions by using an easy-to-configure setup. For Siemens Teamcenter and PTC Windchill, the PLM integration solution is out-of-the-box, which means it has already been setup. For other PLM, CAD or PDM systems we provide a generic pre-defined setup. This setup can easily be user-adjusted according to the needs of the individual customer.
What do we integrate?
The integration supports sharing data from PLM to Dynamics 365 which is capable to support the data due to the ECM add-in. This includes:
- Part data
- Revision data
- Product status
- Product structure data
- Product documents
- Engineering change information
More data will be included in the future.
What are the benefits of the PLM integration framework?
The use of a PLM system differs from one company to another. Therefore, its integration with Dynamics 365 must be very flexible to be able to meet their unique needs.
Keeping that in mind, we created a solution that:
- Is easily adaptable to integrate with different PLM, PDM, and CAD systems
- Requires no programming to map against a variety of input and output formats. Instead, a simple configuration is used
- Respects the Dynamics 365 business logic while allowing maximum flexibility to connect to different outside systems
- Is highly scalable, ranging from one-directional product export to process-based bi-directional integration
- fully supports engineering change processes from PLM to Dynamics 365
Which out-of-the-box integrations are available at To-Increase?
From our experience with many clients, we have created out-of-the-box integrations for PTC Windchill and Siemens Teamcenter using the PLM integration framework.
We follow the integration standards as set by PTC and Siemens. This means that we use the ERP connector for PTC Windchill and the Teamcenter Gateway for Enterprise Applications (T4EA) for Siemens Teamcenter. We are also working on offering more out-of-the-box integrations with other PLM systems in the future.
In addition, for integrating with systems other than PTC Windchill or Siemens Teamcenter, a generic integration has been created. This integration can be configured to meet the unique needs of customers.
Why not build the integration yourself?
It is clear, by now, that relying on a proven technology is the better way forward instead of reinventing the wheel yourself.
Here are some more short- and long-term disadvantages of building a custom integration:
- It takes many months and a team of developers to create a first workable integration
- It will delay your D365 project because a robust integration is key to the success of your D365 implementation
- Keeping up with Microsoft’s continuous update policy means revisiting, updating, testing, and adjusting your integration on a very regular basis
With over a decade’s experience in integrating PLM systems to Dynamics, we have been helping out customers achieve all their PLM integration goals. We have a dedicated team that continuously updates and improves the PLM integration framework and the out-of-the-box integrations. We understand the needs of our customers and work together with them to keep the framework up to date and offer the most suitable solution.