In today’s fast-paced manufacturing landscape, the new norm is to constantly seek ways to optimize your operations, increase productivity, and reduce costs. The integration of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems is a proven strategy for achieving these goals. By aligning these two critical systems, you can unlock a world of opportunities to streamline processes, enhance collaboration, and drive success throughout the entire product lifecycle.
In this blog, you will uncover the benefits of integrating ERP and PLM systems. We’ll also provide you with a detailed breakdown of the ABCs of integration – which data should be integrated, where and how that data should be integrated, and when it’s best to start the integration process.
ERP vs PLM
Before diving into the integration process, it’s important to understand the functions and purposes of ERP and PLM systems.
Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP systems are designed to manage physical assets, encompassing activities such as financials, purchasing, HR, demand and order management, forecasting, production planning, inventory management, and logistics. These systems such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics ensure that products are produced according to demand, within schedule, and controlling costs.
As many have come to understand, the key to achieving success within your production process lies in adequately planning for the use of enterprise resources to meet customer demand and report financial results.
That’s why an ERP suite is designed with this goal in mind. It empowers your business with the tools and capabilities to effectively manage traditionally back-office resources, ensuring that operations align seamlessly with customer demand.
By harnessing the power of an ERP suite, you can optimize your planning processes, enhance operational efficiency, and deliver superior financial results to your constituents.
Product Lifecycle Management
On the other hand, PLM systems such as Arena, Agile, Teamcenter, Windchill and Autodesk are focused on managing the digital product definition. They are purpose-built to manage the digital product definition, encompassing anything that defines the form, fit, and function of a part, system, or vehicle.
PLM systems deliver comprehensive and robust data management capabilities, standardize and automate your product development business processes, and enable flexible and efficient collaboration with global teams across multiple departments and organizations.
As you can see, both of these systems have important functions for a smooth running production process, but they can often be disparate within a company. Understanding how to integrate these systems is the key to advancing the way you do business.
Integrating PLM and ERP
When it comes to integrating your ERP and PLM systems, understanding how to do that can feel overwhelming. There are three different levels of integration: one-way file push, API call, and a third-party integration platform. Understanding which level fits the needs of your company is vital for a successful integration. Let’s explore some key advantages:
Integration allows you to experience seamless data flow and improved collaboration between departments, eliminating redundant data entry and ensuring data accuracy. This streamlined workflow minimizes errors and delays, optimizing your productivity and reducing cycle times throughout the product lifecycle. You no longer have to manually enter BoM data into an ERP system and ensure that the data is correct in both systems.
Enhanced Data Visibility
By integrating ERP and PLM systems, you gain a holistic view of your product information. This integrated approach eliminates data silos and provides real-time visibility into critical data points, enabling you to make informed decisions and eliminating guesswork from your operations.
Improved Product Quality
This process empowers capture and link quality-related data at every stage of your product lifecycle. This comprehensive view of product quality enables you to detect issues early on and streamline processes for corrective actions, ultimately leading to improved product quality and increased customer satisfaction.
Integrating ERP and PLM systems eliminates the need for you to duplicate data entry and automates data exchange between systems. This saves you time, reduces errors, and minimizes your operational costs. Additionally, with better inventory management and production planning capabilities, you can optimize your resource allocation, minimizing wastage, and improving your cost efficiency.
Accelerated Time to Market
When you connect your engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain processes, your teams can seamlessly collaborate in real-time, enabling efficient communication and shortening your product development cycles. This collaborative approach gives your business a distinct competitive edge in the market, helping you achieve success.
Levels of Integration
When it comes to integrating your ERP and PLM systems, understanding how to do that can feel overwhelming. In the case you don’t know what level of integration would be best for your company’s needs, let’s explore the different levels below:
One-Way File Push
The first level is a simple one-way push. This means that your PLM system has the ability to create a data distribution packet (ex. BoM in a CVS, part file or PDF file format) that is released to the ERP system and then the info is stored in both systems.
This type of push can be set up to be done either direction to maximize data sharing and a smooth process. This level of integration will log everything, but not provide error or checking feedback. This is a great level for companies looking to minimize issues of mismatched data.
The second level of integration is connecting your PLM system directly with other systems – Microstoft dynamics or other systems. This means that there is a rest service API call from the PLM system to release data directly into another system.
That being said, you will get error checking and logging from this level of integration, unlike the first level. A company might opt to do this level due to a need for logging and checking or because their ERP system doesn’t support importing data through files like the initial level would require.
Third Party Integration Platform
The third integration level piggy backs off of level two. Not only does it have logging and checking, but it performs a push and pull between the systems seamlessly. This level of integration works well for large companies with multiple systems to push and pull from. There are are third party integration tools like Tibco that integrate systems such as SAP and Oracle.
Ultimately, understanding the basics of ERP and PLM integration levels and the influencing factors such as cost, error checking, number of systems, company size and many more, is vital to understanding which level fits the needs of your company.
So, what are the next steps to finding that right integration and beginning your journey?
Next Steps of Integration
Integrating your ERP and PLM systems is a game-changer for your manufacturing business. By streamlining workflows, enhancing data visibility, improving product quality, optimizing costs, and accelerating time to market, this integration unlocks a world of opportunities for success.
While you may be hesitant to begin an integration like this because of data clean up still needed, EAC is here to provide services to clean up data to make sure the integration runs smoothly.
Finding a trustworthy partner to help with implementation can be difficult and daunting. Lucky for you, EAC has years of deep expertise in manufacturing processes to ensure a smooth integration journey. We work collaboratively with you to assess your requirements, design a tailored integration strategy, and seamlessly implement the solution that meets your specific business goals.
With EAC by your side, you can confidently embark on this transformative journey, knowing that our collaborative and solution-oriented approach will help you navigate the complexities and achieve your future state. Get in touch with EAC today and let us drive your success through integrated ERP and PLM systems.
If you’re wondering how to get effective and long-term PTC Windchill Support, look no further.
We partner with PTC and are a Top Solution Provider because our experts truly believe PTC products are the best in the industry for the Digital Thread and improving the complete product development process. Our company would like to address some of the pain points you may experience while using your Windchill PLM platform. As well as inform you about the steps we are taking to enhance your overall user experience and boost efficiency across your enterprise.
As with any complex software system, there can be a number of frustrations that users may experience when working with Windchill. Here are some common Windchill complaints that we hear in the industry:
- Complex User Interface especially for infrequent users
- Cumbersome Navigation
- Slow Performance & Speed
- Customization Limitations
- Limited Task Support & Access for departments outside of Engineering
- Lack of Workflow Synergy between multiple departments
Windchill Support: User Interface
We understand that the complexity of the PTC Windchill user interface can sometimes be overwhelming. Windchill’s user interface can often be cluttered and difficult to navigate. The system has a lot of options and features based on how complex an integrated product database must be. In response to this feedback, we created EAC Productivity Apps.
Our goal is to simplify and streamline the interface, making it more intuitive and user-friendly across teams and departments while keeping security high. By reducing clutter and improving navigation according to different job titles and roles, we aim to enhance your productivity and reduce the learning curve.
Quick Search App
For example, the Quick Search App provides a simplified way for users to enter a number or attribute into a single search bar to find the data results within the context of their job role. This removes the need for users to apply an understanding of how Windchill objects are related and eliminates unwanted, irrelevant data for the task at hand.
Report Viewer App
Our Report Viewer app gives individuals outside the engineering department the ability to view and run Windchill reports with ease. Within the Report Viewer app, you can easily:
- Run pre-configured reports and saved reports
- Save new reports
- Access pre-built report dashboards that utilize the Windchill search engine
Part Associations App
This app provides a “shortcut” for users (especially shop floor employees) to access critical CAD files and documentation, and it consolidates results onto a single screen. Quickly access drawings, parts, assemblies, and other documents associated with CAD and part data.
For users who are in Windchill every day, we strongly suggest seeking out adequate training and support as a first step towards solving some of these frustrations. Even the most seasoned users may find tips and tricks that can simplify their workflows on a day-to-day basis.
BoM Compare App
Pro Tip: Did you know that Windchill BoM comparisons exist in Windchill?
They do! Now with our BoM Compare App, this feature is easier to find and leverage. View a side-by-side comparison of two Windchill bills of materials and select which attributes to compare, all with the click of a button.
Streamline PTC Windchill Navigation
Easy navigation is a huge factor that plays into workflow productivity. Windchill has many menus, screens, and options, making it difficult for users to navigate the system and find the information they need. This can be especially frustrating for infrequent users who are not familiar with the system.
Our EAC Apps are purposefully designed with easier navigation in mind. Instead of constant mouse clicks and multiple new windows opening across your screens, our developers created an ideal workflow. And significantly reduces how long it takes for you to get the info you need based on your job role.
Another challenge we hear from Windchill users is how long it takes to search for and find the data they need. We acknowledge that searching and finding documentation in Windchill can take way too long and cause a lot of frustration. This is especially true for people who only need to go into Windchill once in a blue moon. EAC Apps gets users to the data or drawings they need in just a few mouse clicks.
Below is a timetable that compares the number of mouse clicks it takes in the standard Windchill interface (a user with Windchill experience and skill) versus how many it takes using our productivity apps with little to no training needed.
Support Windchill Performance and Speed
Windchill can be slow to load, especially when working with large amounts of data or performing complex operations. This can lead to delays and frustration for users who need to work quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, optimizing the platform’s performance with maintenance on the back end is critical to ensure smoother operation, faster response times, and improved overall stability.
As a start, we highly recommend checking out the infographic, “6 Ways to Check and Maintain Your Windchill System” to support a healthy Windchill environment.
If your Windchill system continuously crashes or freezes, there is a serious issue that needs attention. For additional help, our managed services team is dedicated to resolving these issues and providing you with a more efficient and seamless experience. Our managed services, EAC Alliance, takes the heavy lifting off of your system admins so they can focus on their core responsibilities.
Learn more about the EAC Alliance program for Windchill. In regards to system crashing or freezing, that does NOT have to be your “normal”. In fact, 99.5% of our Alliance customers see a 100% in Windchill uptime and over 99% in availability. And 100% of our customers say they experience a significant improvement in speed and performance.
For most apps, you don’t even have to log into Windchill at all to get the info you need quickly and securely whether you’re a finance team member in your home office, or a builder on the manufacturing shop floor using your phone or tablet.
Quick Access App
More specifically, the Quick Access App eliminates the need to go into Windchill at all. Shop floor personnel can submit a problem report, a change request, or a new variance directly within the app. The Quick Access app improves user adoption and streamlines access to critical data sets.
The Quick Access app enables team members to quickly view a product’s structure, supporting information, and digital content. It also facilitates rapid issue capture to ensure quality and speed time to market.
Help with Effective Windchill Customizations
Another pain point that has been highlighted is the limited flexibility for customization within PTC Windchill. We understand that different organizations have unique requirements, and we are committed to empowering you with the ability to tailor the platform to your specific needs.
We are actively working on expanding the customization options and offering more flexibility to adapt PTC Windchill to your workflows and processes. Each EAC App allows for ample customization based on what your team or department wants or needs! We’ll set you up for success.
The best part is, even if you upgrade your Windchill version, you don’t have to start over with custom code like you do with ThingWorx! Our apps help administrators maintain the user portal after ThingWorx Navigate upgrade releases.
Windchill Security and Task Support
Need to give Purchasers access to only specific assets? Our EAC Apps allow you to share critical data securely with those who need it based on particular permissions and settings.
Give your shop floor access to the latest drawings, and design changes with easy-to-find and digestible data without having to email busy engineering teams. By expanding access to users in multiple departments with just a few clicks supports your Windchill investment.
Task Management App
Meet the Task Management App. Task Management helps users complete multiple tasks within one window! Streamline your workflows, filter by team assignment, and finish your to-do list. This app will fuel your efficiency, user adoption, and time management.
The Task Management App was designed to enable stakeholders to review and act on assigned Windchill change tasks. It provides visibility into important open tasks and their status.
Additionally, we have a robust knowledge base, user mentoring, and tutorials to assist you in leveraging the full potential of PTC Windchill. Our training and mentoring team is always available to address your queries and provide timely assistance.
Support for Windchill Collaboration and Integration
Is your engineering team the only department accessing Windchill data? If so, your company is not maximizing your technology investment. Our experts stress the value of collaboration and integration with other tools and systems for seamless workflows and processes surrounding your current tools and technology environment.
Our intuitive role-based apps make it easy for stakeholders in other departments to get the data they need from Windchill in a matter of seconds – instead of constantly having to ask the engineering team for answers!
Each app can be tailored to a specific role in your organization. Plus our PLM Apps integrate with any 3rd party system and expand Windchill’s integration capabilities, allowing you to connect with a broader range of applications and enabling smoother collaboration across different teams and departments.
Windchill Support for BoM Reports
For example, a healthy manufacturing BoM report requires input from multiple departments including design, procurement, manufacturing, and sales, and even more stakeholders need access.
The BoM Reports App allows all departments across the enterprise to accurately see the BoM data they need in real-time in the context of their job role. Within the app, you can view lists of unreleased products, created or modified parts in real-time (Cheers to supporting the digital thread strategy!)
Windchill Support for Change Management
Furthermore, Change Management is a core operational asset that can make or break processes across the enterprise. Our Change Management App aims to automate the critical flow and hand-off of information between teams and departments.
Enable excellent project management with an app that provides graphical views of problem reports, change requests, change reports, change variances, promotion requests, and more. This app is highly customizable based on the department and role of each user for maximum efficiency.
Bonus PTC Windchill Support: Implementation & Upgrades
Without experts who have the adequate time and capacity to do so (it’s seriously a full-time job), Windchill may not always be implemented properly in a timely fashion. This leads to data inconsistencies and errors. Errors that almost all manufacturers just can’t afford to be making.
The right approach matters, especially with PLM. To mitigate risk and save your IT team from a heavy burden, check out our service offerings for advanced Windchill support including Windchill implementations, upgrades, installs, and migrations.
Why Windchill is Still Critical for Success
Your feedback and input have been invaluable in shaping the direction of our efforts to improve your experiences with the complex yet powerhouse that is Windchill. We want to assure you that we are committed to continuously enhancing the platform with EAC Apps to serve your needs better and exceed your expectations.
The amount of power and robust capabilities of Windchill is the best investment a company can make on its digital transformation journey and implementing the digital thread. Connecting your data is critical. Finding and accessing your data with user-friendly PLM apps expands Windchill usage and amplifies your Windchill investment.
EAC Apps is the practical solution for PTC Windchill support by increasing Windchill usage and user satisfaction across the enterprise.
If you have any further pain points or suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Your insights are vital in driving our ongoing improvements.
P.S. Did you hear? We released the latest version of EAC Apps 3.3.0! Check out the Compatibility Matrix and Release Notes here.
I’m sure at least once in your life you’ve heard the saying, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’ But what a cliche, right?! Well, for those of you managing your Bill of Materials (BOMs) in Excel, it’s time to step away from the cell block prison (pun intended).
In this article, we’re going to break down what it actually means to revitalize your BOM strategy with the Digital Thread to start seeing the results you want.
What Is The Digital Thread?
First of all, let’s start with the basics. The Digital Thread is a term used to describe the seamless flow of information throughout the manufacturing process. From design and engineering to production and after-sales support. It provides a way to connect all the data and information generated at different stages and from systems of the product lifecycle.
Generally, the Digital Thread provides value by enabling better visibility and control of any processes that require or produce product data. It enables manufacturers to collaborate more effectively, automate and optimize workflows, and quickly respond to changes. All while adjusting quickly to customer needs.
Bill of Materials (BOM)
Next, let’s break down the concept of a Bill of Materials. A complete Bill of Materials (BoM) list usually contains all of the parts and components needed to create or manufacture an end product. You might think of a BoM as a recipe ingredient list. The information about each part can include details such as part names, part numbers, quantity required, and cost per unit. Not to mention, BoMs contain other relevant part details such as material type, color, or size if applicable; supplier information; serial numbers, etc.
By consolidating and organizing all the pertinent information product information, the BoM becomes a centralized resource. A critical resource that facilitates the manufacturing processes of specified products.
Ultimately, the goal of the BoM is to help track inventory and verify missing parts during assembly. Equally as important, BoMs are critical to support a healthy supply chain, as well as help with purchasing decisions and more.
The Digital Thread and Bill of Materials Working Together
Balancing a plethora of product information – it’s no surprise, the best BoM management strategy used within the industry does not leverage solely Microsoft Excel. Nor does it rely upon one Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Instead it works to unite data from multiple systems into a single source of truth.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But, if you’re like most – your product data lives all over the place in different systems from different departments. This situation tends to create data siloes resulting in time-consuming manual tasks using outdated operational processes. Generally, these are some of the biggest problems that inhibit manufacturers from achieving their business initiatives.
Oftentimes, during our EAC Assessments, we hear multiple teams across the enterprise and different management levels are frustrated by broken processes. In short, there is a lack of key information employees need to do their jobs right, at the time they need it most.
Meanwhile, the digital thread uses advanced technology (such as product lifecycle management systems as well as the Internet of Things) to connect critical disparate processes. This, in turn, helps minimize manual tasks, and breaks down data siloes. Implementing the digital thread to your BoM strategy creates a major impact for all stakeholders involved. For instance, design teams, engineers, manufacturing, assembly, operations, finance, purchasing, and even marketing.
How The Digital Thread Supports Engineering
Furthermore, the Digital Thread plays a crucial role in supporting engineering and bill of materials (BOM) management by providing seamless connectivity and accessibility to relevant data throughout the product lifecycle. Here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Engineering Collaboration
Firstly, the digital thread allows engineers to collaborate effectively by providing a centralized platform for sharing and accessing engineering data. This facilitates cross-functional collaboration, enables real-time communication, and reduces errors or miscommunications during the design and development process.
2. Design Consistency
Secondly, the digital thread ensures design consistency by maintaining a single source of truth for engineering data. Changes made in the design phase are automatically propagated throughout the digital thread, ensuring that all related documents, models, and specifications remain synchronized.
3. BOM Accuracy and Visibility
The digital thread integrates BOM management, configuration management, and BoM transformation capabilities. This enables accurate and up-to-date BOMs, as the data will automatically reflect changes. Additionally, it provides real-time visibility into the BoM status, including component availability, sourcing information, and cost implications.
4. Change Management
Next, the digital thread streamlines change management processes. By automating change notifications, approvals, and tracking. Essentially, it ensures that engineering changes are effectively communicated, documented, and implemented across the relevant stages of the product lifecycle, minimizing errors and delays.
5. Manufacturing Process Optimization
By connecting engineering data with manufacturing process management, the digital thread enables better coordination and optimization of production processes. By in large, system and data integration allows for improved manufacturing planning, efficient resource allocation, and reduced lead times.
6. Enhanced Visualization and Analysis
Another example includes leveraging augmented reality (AR) design sharing to provide visual representations of designs. In detail, enabling stakeholders to view and analyze products in a virtual environment. It’s recommended to use AR to enhance design reviews, simplify communication, and facilitate better decision-making.
Overall, the digital thread improves engineering and BoM management. Markedly, by streamlining processes, enhancing collaboration, ensuring data consistency, and providing visibility across the product lifecycle. It promotes efficiency, accuracy, and agility in engineering and BoM-related activities. Leading to improved product quality and faster time to market in the long run.
How A Digital Thread BoM Strategy Streamlines Manufacturing
Simultaneously, the digital thread plays a significant role in enhancing the bill of materials (BoM) management for manufacturing, assembly, and quality control processes. In sum, here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Manufacturing and Assembly Planning
The digital thread enables seamless integration between the BoM and manufacturing planning systems. It provides real-time visibility into the BoM, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for manufacturing and assembly operations. This allows for efficient production planning, optimized resource allocation, and improved scheduling in all.
2. Supply Chain Integration
By connecting the BoM with supply chain management systems, the digital thread enhances supply chain visibility and collaboration. It enables better coordination with suppliers, accurate tracking of component availability, and improved procurement processes. As a result, it minimizes the risk of production delays and ensures timely delivery of materials.
3. Work Instructions and Assembly Guidance
Thirdly, the digital thread facilitates the creation and dissemination of detailed work instructions and assembly guidance based on the BoM data. This ensures that assembly operators have access to accurate and step-by-step instructions, reducing errors and improving productivity on the shop floor.
4. Quality Control and Traceability
The digital thread enables better quality control and traceability throughout the manufacturing process. By integrating the BoM with quality management systems, it ensures that quality requirements and specifications are adhered to during production. It also enables traceability of components and materials, making it easier to identify and address any quality issues or recalls.
5. Continuous Improvement and Feedback Loop
Additionally, the digital thread supports continuous improvement initiatives by capturing data and feedback from manufacturing and quality control processes. It enables the analysis of production data, identifies areas for improvement, and facilitates data-driven decision-making to enhance manufacturing efficiency and product quality.
6. Post-Market Monitoring
Finally, the digital thread extends beyond the manufacturing phase to support post-market monitoring and quality assurance. Integrating BoM data with field service management systems and customer feedback enables organizations to identify and address product issues, initiate product improvements, and provide timely support and maintenance.
All in all, the digital thread enhances BoM management for manufacturing and assembly processes by ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, facilitating supply chain integration, enabling effective work instructions, improving quality control, supporting continuous improvement efforts, and enabling post-market monitoring. Concurrently, it streamlines operations, improves product quality, and enhances customer satisfaction.
The Polaris Story
Polaris utilized PTC Windchill, an advanced product lifecycle management system, to transform their Bill of Materials into a reliable new business model backbone. As a result, it allowed them to create a connected enterprise.
Windchill PLM combines the digital thread framework with a maximized BoM and change management strategy. This powerful product lifecycle management platform organizes all information associated with the development of its products, allowing every stakeholder to access the latest up-to-date information in a dynamic format.
Once it was clear to Polaris that they had outgrown certain tools and processes, they coordinated and synchronized a digital thread of data throughout the enterprise by leveraging PTC Windchill.
As of today, Polaris’ Windchill PLM system enables them to manage and organize the bill of materials (BoM) and implemented configuration management practices. This helped transform their BoMs as needed, effectively managing changes, overseeing manufacturing processes, and utilizing augmented reality (AR) design-sharing capabilities.
By orchestrating these elements, the digital thread ensured seamless connectivity and flow of information across different stages and departments within Polaris. This enabled improved collaboration, streamlined workflows, effective change control, and enhanced manufacturing processes. On top of giving the ability to share and visualize designs using AR technology.
To sum it up, it’s time to put Excel away and start working smarter, not harder. Successful BoM management derives from a single source of truth throughout the enterprise in regard to all the data contained in the Bill of Materials. The Digital Thread allows for the seamless automated flow of the BoM information to create a truly connected enterprise, working in sync along every step of the manufacturing process.