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Connecting Enterprise Systems

Where to Begin

How do you connect your company’s enterprise systems? When companies decide to embark on the journey of enterprise data connectivity a well thought out blueprint is required. And even the most well intentioned projects can easily scale up in size and duration from simple scope creep, one requirement at a time. We are going to guide you through a successful connection of your systems. Our first recommendation? Start small.  Do the bare minimum to connect one system, learn from it, and scale.  

Connecting Data

The goal is to determine the minimum viable product of sending your data.  The most common scenario is sending a part from PLM into the ERP system.  Start by determining the least amount of information the ERP system needs to create a new part.  

Depending on your business scenario, this information typically includes a handful of values, part number, unit of measure (UOM), description and the make/buy.  While there may be more values you’d like to include up front, remember – the main goal here is to start simple.  The goal isn’t to have PLM feed every value that ERP needs, but for PLM to start the process by what engineering should provide, then let the rest of the data be set up by those who author the data within the ERP system.

Not Just Data

One of the misnomers of connecting systems is that it really isn’t about the data at all.  What you are really doing is connecting business processes. Take for example the need for sourcing of a new purchased part.  In this situation, an engineer is using PLM and the buyer is using ERP.  You want to ensure that the engineer does their job within the PLM system.  Upon some trigger, typically release of a part or drawing, that data then is sent to the ERP system.  Then the buyer can trigger a response to do something and complete the process.  What you don’t want is a situation where either person, the engineer or the buyer, must use both systems to get their job done.  

Drawing out your business process is a critical component that should go hand in hand with the data connectivity diagram.  This will enable you to map both how the systems are connected and how the business processes are orchestrated. 


What type of interface do you need? From middleware, cloud to cloud, on premise to on premise to some sort of hybrid model, this technology consideration needs to be prioritized when connecting the systems.  We recommend using the technology you already have in place and what your in-house team is familiar with.. Most ERP systems have their own middleware connectivity tools that can be used to broker the data.  On the PLM side there is an out of the box integration available, with or without a middleware component.  ERP typically uses some sort of data broker, like PI/PO which is packaged with SAP.  Use the existing integration modules offered by your software vendors instead of architecting something custom.  

Get Started

When it comes to connecting systems,  your best bet is to start small, start simple, do it fast, learn from it, and keep growing.  Instill continuous improvement, including a regular cadence of releasing new capabilities.  You can also connect systems in phases of functionality. For example, phase 1 could be part/bom publishing.  Phase 2 can add plant specific information.  Phase 3 could include costing parameters for manufactured parts.  

However you decided to get started, there are variables to consider and best practices for success. No matter where you are in this journey, Element Consulting can help you connect systems correctly, in a way that benefits your business. Connect with us to learn more.