Data continuity and traceability is what this is about: how data flows to and from PLM, ERP and MES platforms. Others also refer to this as the Digital Thread, or multiple threads as they represent various data flows across the enterprise.
As soon as one refers to “platforms” e.g., mentioning PLM and ERP platforms, there is a focus on where data is authored and consumed along this thread. It concerns the “systems” underpinning these practices and more importantly master data ownership and enterprise processes that they enable, supported by the required interfaces to bridge these processes and systems together.
In this post, I elaborate on 3 high-level sets of use cases essential to PLM-ERP integration.
Detailed integration requirements will be different based on the maturity of the industry and the organization, they however always cover the same themes. There is often an assumption that “more integration is better”, though the system landscape can rapidly become complex, and it is not possible to manage all enterprise data in a single self-contained solution. Over-constraining processes can have challenging implications to operations and the ability to introduce future improvements. It is important to stick to learn interfaces, focusing on basic automation first to validate master data alignment and keep it simple (as much as possible).
“PLM and ERP [platforms] will overlap and intersect differently from one organization to another, however they are not interchangeable. PLM focuses on the up-stream virtual product creation, collaboration and innovation (…), ERP focused on the down-stream physical product accounting (…) and traceability.” (virtual+digital, 2015)
Considering platforms underpinning how product data is authored, consumed and managed, it is interesting to look at a number of basic ERP-PLM integration sets of use cases (non-exhaustive list, which could be decomposed into many sub-level use cases):
PLM to ERP data flows: BOM information, CAD and work instructions, manufacturing process and station allocation, calculated weight and other material information.
ERP to PLM data flows: supplier information, manufacturing process issue re-alignment, cost, actual weight, product quality and other data feedback loops.
Bi-directional data flows: two-way feedback loops with integrated engineering and manufacturing change management.
PLM to ERP data flows
Product information is authored and consumed across the enterprise in CAD and PLM platforms; this information is pushed to ERP platforms to cover:
The publication of part versions, categories, lifecycles, materials, weights and other attributes for downstream consumption in ERP and MES platforms, including supplier parts, CAD content (natively or in neutral formats, specifications, quality results, control parameters) and associated documents.
The creation and maintenance of EBOM, from 150% to 100% configured products, information which is restructured in a MBOM format to assess and reflect manufacturing and assembly implications; the configured in MBOM is pushed to ERP for MES consumption and extension to work orders.
The substitution of components and associated representations in BOMs are pushed to ERP for ongoing alignment.
The maintenance of assembly instructions, manufacturing and assembly process information which is consumed on the shopfloor or during product usage (e.g., service manuals).
ERP to PLM data flows
Product information feedback loops will contribute to consume in PLM a number of data sets authored on the ERP and MES side as item masters will further content carry upstream to complement data held in the PLM platform in order to enable:
Supplier related information held in ERP platforms is typically fed to PLM platforms for reference and alignment; this includes actual weights, cost information, approval list, tooling information).
Quality issues are shared upstream for assessment and resolution as required (NCR, FMEA, lead times, shopfloor instruction feedback, etc.).
Bi-directional data flows
Change management is typically integrated across PLM and ERP, including both engineering and manufacturing ECO / ECR. Based on the organization, these processes can be more or less integrated, driving changes, impact assessments and remediation actions from both directions.
There is probably a bigger picture discussion on how product and related information is integrated across PLM, ERP and MES, having or not the need for PLM to directly integrate with MES platforms…