back on the PLM limits discussion

Posted on June 27, 2013

This is once again a post about the endless discussion “what is the limit of PLM?” and I don’t think the discussion will end today mainly because I don’t have a scientific formula which would have, as an input, your requirements, and would output a boolean which would say: true this is PLM or False it’s not! So I’m trying here to just discussed what may not be the real frontier of PLM and what information may be considered instead.

Data management processes more than company departments

Every time PLM limits are discussed, the frontier are based on companies department. One of the most recurring question is “should this department get to use our PLM software?”. And this maintains the strong separations between these departments. Also between business/engineering fields. Get into an R&D department packed with mechanical CAD designers, everyone will know about PLM. Get inside another R&D department in an Electronic & High tech company. I’m not so sure that so many people would know about PLM. In many cases with Aras Innovator we don’t start with parts & BOMs. We manage other stuff, tests, change, projects, deliverables, sometimes just processes and yes we still believe we are delivering a solution for PLM. And yes I turn this sentence this way on purpose because Aras Innovator allows us to provide a solution for each company’s product lifecycle management.

Capitalizing an IP

This is always one of the first item that comes to my mind when I discuss PLM limits with others. Very often it is to differentiate the difference between ERP and PLM. To me the fundamental difference is that the ERP should track the execution of things in the company with almost always an accounting equivalent to every movement/consumption. Whereas the PLM intends to build value, to capitalize the IP that exist in the product definition, changes, experiences,etc.


This is another aspect of PLM solutions and it is one of the best selling point when you have a technology that allows you to be flexible with it. Companies want to standardize and automate some decision process in the product management area. And on this topic we can have the same communication as a BPM solution editor would provide. Many PLM solutions are containing a BPM engine in order to produce workflows and lifecycles. On this one I wouldn’t put any limit between ERP and PLM. I think BPM, is a tool that can be common to both tools.

data & integration

I think the limits between ERP and PLM are maintained by editors and customers. Potentially today, you have one interface for PLM and another for ERP. Why don’t you have just one interface which send data to both systems if they need to have separated back-ends? To me, with the enhancement of integration solutions like most ETL, we may start having more integration between systems and the limit between PLM and ERP, will just be a data management issue for IT departments and not for the users. If you have been on our former Minerva France website, we had a drawing representing modules of ERP and PLM where some modules could be common to both. here it is: (sorry I will update this post when I’ll have it in English)


PLM and ERP interactions

Yoann Maingon

Yoann Maingon is an Entrepreneur and a PLM enthousiast. He is our main blogger at Minerva as he has been publishing articles about General PLM concepts and Aras Innovator for more than three years.

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  • I think the distinction to make is that both PLM and ERP are business visions, and not the specific software manifestations thereof. Too often we erect the limits based on what available software does (or is marketed as), ignoring the concept behind the software.

    There is eternal confusion on this for a couple of reasons:

    · The ERP and PLM visions originated from different parts of the enterprise and have different foci, however there is significant overlap both thematically and functionally.

    · The software providers on both sides, secure in their expertise in the core of each vision, are now competing for the same dollars in the middle, and redefining the limits is an artifact of this ongoing turf war.

    In a perfect world, there would be one system managing enterprise data with multiple interfaces depending on whether the user is more PLM centric or ERP centric – making the distinction largely meaningless. Of course it’s not a perfect world, and there’s not one product or architecture that can handle it all elegantly, so we compromise with a heterogeneous mix of federated systems.

    • I agree on most of it. Except for the one single solution. For example, I’ve attended recently a training for the Neo4J graph database. And I could understand that for an ecommerce website you could have a classic SQL database to list transaction but you would also have a graph database to have a very powerful social analysis. It’s required to have both because they are good at doing different things. I think we have somehow the same thing between ERP and PLM, not at database level but more on the upper layer for which ERP is really fixed and PLM is made to be flexible.
      Thx for your insight !

      • The single solution is a wild idea I admit – but not one that should be totally discarded, since the PLM/ERP digital divide is an arbitrary one largely handled by clunky custom bridges or more robust yet complicated ESB’s. Notice I said one system and not one database, imagine a federated or hybrid combination of relational DB’s and key/value stores optimized and aligned with specific enterprise tasks. I would love to see some interesting concepts that don’t treat the PLM/ERP as two segregated islands with traffic in-between, but rather a truly unified digital backbone. Sometimes we have to think a little crazy to get the innovation going.

        • You’re right, that’s the vision I’d like editors to have. A single solution for the companies but made of multiple technologies to answer specific performance and features needs. Today I think this vision is already somehow used by some IT managers. ERP/PLM split is still strong but we can see some systems emerging to replace existing Access databases and Excel files. And we realise that by replacing these we end up with on system containing data that could be in ERP and PLM. I really think that these platform can do a lot. Their main asset is flexibility. It’s still not easy to build highly flexible softwares.

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