There has been a lot of discussion in the data management industry concerning the nature of Supply Chain Management, and the role that Product Lifecycle Management software should play. Whether or not PLM systems can be integrated into a SCM protocol seems to be a topic of considerable interest among manufacturers, software providers, and the prognosticators who hope to predict the future of the global supply chain.
For the most part, the consensus seems to be that, for PLM systems to continue to thrive, they must adapt to fill the Supply Chain Management needs of major manufacturers. Not only does PLM play a vital role in the development of supply chain transparency, but it is also a vital link in the data chain that keeps production moving.
In a recent blog post on SearchmanufacturingERP.com, writer Alan R. Earls says “There is a natural overlap between product lifecycle management (PLM) and supply chain management (SCM).”
He goes on to quote Noha Tohany, an analyst at AMR Research who says, “Increasingly, you must understand what your supply chain looks like when you are managing the design and development decisions.”
Elsewhere online, Mr. Earls quotes Joe Barkai, an analyst at Manufacturing Insights: “In point of fact, most of the information in a PLM system applies to design considerations, while most of the information in SCM applies to manufacturing. The PLM information becomes less important when you move into volume production — it is only relevant to the SCM side in development, or as you ramp up to production.”
PLM systems help manufacturers understand their needs at various points in the design, development and production of their products. Supply Chain Management requires a consistent flow of accurate, timely and usable information about raw materials, processes, partnerships, and contractors. PLM can play a vital role in managing that complex web of data.
Take a look at the flow chart above and you will see how PLM, along with other data management programs, can play a vital role in the overarching SCM project. From design, through distribution, PLM applications have a varying degree of importance to SCM.
The future success of any PLM vendor may soon depend on their ability to provide a PLM product which can be easily integrated with existing SCM software, ERP systems and other data management tools.
At some point, it may be possible for a single software solution to attend to all the data needs of manufacturers, but, until then, the various functions of oversight are compartmentalized into these various applications. For a company to truly attain that elusive “one version of the truth,” they will have to find ways to interface their SCM software and their PLM system. For PLM vendors the vital task now is to create products that make this integration as seamless, as invisible and as painless as possible.
By JW Yates
New York City