This is my first post in english since I’ve announced I would alternatively write articles in french and english. This article is following the comment I recently made on Oleg’s blog about PLM and ERP integration. There is a lot of debates on this integration as you can save a lot of time and get more productive with such integration at least when you think about the data each sides needs from the other. The problem is, none of these solution as been made to be integrated with the other. ERP editors have not think about how would they integrate their system with a PLM solution just like PLM editors, they just fixed this need by creating translators, connectors, and some other kind of integration. And that’s why i think most of the debates on PLM and ERP integration are just a waste of time and money as the real solution will come from an editors who will rethink from the basics the whole integration strategy.
“PLM, ERP, whatever the name, it may not be the only software to need a single dataset, you just handle it differently”
This is my personnal point of view on PLM and ERP integration. I don’t think these systems should own the data. The software is not made to own a data, the data should be most of the time a representation of a real thing. Software mainly virtualise items to enable business rules to be applied to them. Let’s take a car. It has history, design information, actual cost, production plan, etc… The data is the car and all its related information. What PLM and ERP will provide are business rules to manage evolution of some property and attributes of the car. Tools like Master Data Management should be the unique software to own data. PLM, ERP and other solution will just impact the adequat data. So, in fact there should be no need of PLM and ERP integration it should just be a part of the whole information systems where PLM and ERP interact with the same datasets.
Build a system easy to integrate, use standards !!!
That’s where we could accelerate things in companies’ informations systems and stop wasting time on software integration. Using standards for data management. I like the example of XML as it is widely used is the base of different standard like GML for example. The need is to address and structure a data that is easy to understand and in which some part can be controlled by different systems. Here is a short XML example of what I’m trying to explain where some data should be addressed by ERP, some by PLM and maybe we could add some data managed by both.
<Item type="Produced Good"> <properties> <property name="serial_number"></property> <-- this would be filled by ERP <property name="production_date"></property> <-- this would be filled by ERP </properties> <relationships> <relationship> <Item type="ProduceGoodDefinitions"> <-- this whole section would be updated by PLM <related_item> <Item type="Part"> <property name="name">car</property> <relationship> <Item type="Part subPart"> <property name="quantity">4</property> <related_item> <Item type="Part"> <property name="name">wheel</property> </Item> </related_item> </Item> </relationship> </Item> </related_item> </Item> </relationship> </relationships> </Item>
My point in this example is just to show that on one extract which could be read with usefull information for anyone in the company, there will be data updated by the ERP and some other data managed by the PLM. So, there shouldn’t be any connector between ERP and PLM, just both applictaion should affect some part of the same dataset.
Is Master Data Management the answer?
I’m not a specialist of MDM but from the different description I’ve been reading and the few hours I’ve started to work on such tools, it clearly seems to correspond to the needs I discribe. My point is that the added-value of such tool should be mainly database management. And from what I’ve been able to see most of the effort is focused on data conversion management for data to go both ways between specific application and master database. If both, MDM and specific application were using standard format, on each side we could concentrate on our added-value.
Yes these points are obvious but we’re still spending too much time talking about non-sens integration costing a lot of development time. Instead of that we should push more the editors to use standards data-exchange formats in order to have people working on datastorage performance and other people working on business rules integration. Does that make sens? Are the MDM editors the next target for PLM companies?