How real is the case for Global Part Number System?

November 23, 2015


Last week at PI Congress in Boston, I attended the presentation – Utilizing Industrie 4.0, IoT and Related Platforms to Boost a More Interdisciplinary Approach to Product Lifecycle by Dr. Martin Eigner. Industry 4.0 is a trending topic together with IoT, but what caught my special attention is actually part of presentation speaking about interdisciplinary approach in PLM.

The complexity of products is growing and we need to expand a horizon of management information about product beyond current boundary. This is a main point behind future BoM – integrated and interdisciplinary.


The future system, according to Dr. Eigner, will have a capability to span wide between requirements planning down to the manufacturing resources and process.


I like the idea and think it very powerful vision. One of the thing Dr. Eigner mentioned in his presentation was related to the fact future belongs to global part numbers. It made me think more about Part Numbers, Identification and classification.

I wanted to bring my 2 years old blog first- The future of Part numbers and Global Identification. In a current manufacturing environment, product information is going beyond borders of your company and even beyond your stable supply chain. The diversity of manufacturers, suppliers, individual makers combined with increased amount of e-commerce is creating the need to use product identification more broadly and maybe in more synchronized and standard way.

I’ve been watching the development of Product schema as part of This is probably one of the most interesting publicly accepted product definition schema used online. Pay attention it uses GTIN.

On the opposite side of the world, enterprise systems – PDM, PLM and ERP are making a case for insignificant Part Numbers. My recent blog – Why to use significant part numbers in 21st century raised a wave of discussion online and offline.

The main point I captured in this discussion is related to database identifiers and product classification. It seems to me, most of people are missing these two things. The reality of all PDM / PLM systems today is RDBMS. In this database driven world, most of PLM systems are preferring not to expose identification outside and lose control of identification assignment. It simplifies logic especially when it comes to mapping of data between different systems and change management.

So, how systems are going to survive in the future manufacturing networks? In the future, data is going to be even more intertwined between domains and systems. It will be hard to survive without stable identification and it will make a case to create global part numbering schema for systems to rely on for future operation.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing is getting more complex, connected and dependent on multiple organizations and systems. In such environment, global part numbering system can provide a potential pain relief to integrated multiple systems in an organization (requirements, software configuration management, PDM, PLM, ERP) as well as to provide a foundation for future network of manufacturers and suppliers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture with PNs credit to eBay link



Will “cloud” change the way we integrate PLM and ERP?

October 29, 2015


Integration has a very important role in PLM implementations. PLM is intended to manage design and engineering aspects of product development. ERP is intended to manage manufacturing resources, process and inventory. Therefore PLM and ERP are complementary. Most of PLM implementations I’ve seen in my life, required PLM-ERP integration.

At the same time, PLM-ERP integration is often the most complicated part. There is high diversity in the ways manufacturing companies manage data about product, bill of materials, parts, inventory and manufacturing processes. Outcome is multiple BoMs, product and item records and the need to synchronize information.

Traditional PLM-ERP integration is complex and never done out-of-the-box. It requires detailed definitions, data mapping and variety of data synchronization techniques. The last one is usually code effort that done by service provider or IT programmers. In some situations PLM and ERP vendors are offering integration tools, but because of different reasons such as cost and complexity of these tools, integration often end up as SQL hacking into two databases of PLM and ERP. Software vendors are not appreciating this approach, but usually face the reality of large implementation complexity and just live with it. In most of these situations, vendors would not jeopardize PLM deal by preventing customers to access databases directly. The result is high cost of maintenance and problem during upgrades.

Cloud technologies are simplifying IT and deployment. But, at the same time, cloud can create an additional integration complexity. Traditional integration code, including SQL often not applicable without direct access to databases in web environment. But cloud environment is still very complex. It contains PLM, ERP and many other systems and services companies are using. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts about how to avoid cloud integration spaghetti. One of the biggest dangers is that closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud.

For the last few months, I’ve been learning about what cloud PLM companies are doing to simplify cloud PLM-ERP integration. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it

Autodesk PLM360

PLM Connect is a complete solution portfolio provided by PLM360 integrate business systems. First of all, it applies to PLM-ERP integration, but not only. Earlier this year, at PLM Accelerate 2015 conference in Boston, Autodesk promised to integrate PLM360 with everything. PLM360 is using Jitterbit middleware for integration.


In addition to that Autodesk seems to be inspired by IFTTT -like tools announced “evented web” integration for PLM360. Read more here.


From the side of Jitterbit, it looks similar to traditional middleware. The fact it runs on the cloud doesn’t change much. But it has nice UI for integration and mapping. Also, granularity of REST API and ease of code can potentially make PLM360 / Jitterbit environment more efficient. Evented-web integration style has advantages, but it is not clear to me how effectively it can be used to synchronize data between PLM and ERP environments.

Arena – Kenandy integration

I’ve been learning about Arena PLM integration with Kenandy ERP. My attention was caught by the following article and Arena-Kenandy partnership press release. You can get some details about the integration by navigating to the following data sheet.

I spent some time looking into specific ways integration is done. Arena and Kenandy is not using middleware style integration. At the same time, both are supporting modern web based APIs to code integration behavior. Which allows the both solution to leverage service APIs on both sides for efficient and granular data integration. Arena and Kenandy is synchornizing data by transferring XML documents.


Administration console can show you status of data synchronization.


In my view, Arena-Kenandy is a modern variant of point-to-point integration with realization using Web services API. It makes code easier, but still requires implementation of synchronization logic between systems.

Razorleaf – Clover Open Integration Platform

Companies doing implementation services for PLM usually have high sense of urgency to work on PLM-ERP integrations. It is part of their implementation schedules. My attention was caught by Razorleaf announcement yesterday about Clover Open Integration platform. Read more here – Razorleaf Introduces Clover™, a New Open Integration Platform that Supports Any-to-Any Endpoint Integration for PLM Applications. The following passage provides some high level explanation about what Clover does.

“The Clover platform is a result of our long-standing experience in creating CAD/CAM/PLM integration endpoints,” stated Eric Doubell, CEO of Razorleaf Corporation. “We now have created an industry standard application integration platform that has a flexible architecture and can scale easily based on its endpoint applications. This platform helps our customers retain the feature sets they have come to rely upon in their application investments and allow for a more controlled migration path forward when upgrading is a requirement. Making up-to-date data available across applications accelerates decision-making and process efficiency across the organization.”

Razorleaf is providing services for different cloud and on premise PLM environments. Learn more here. You can see on-premise and cloud systems including Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit. I’m still learning about Clover technology and platform. So, stay tuned for updates.

What is my conclusion? Cloud brings some limitations to integration techniques. Very often integration was done using direct SQL-code injections and batch processing. You cannot do it anymore in cloud-based / web environment. Web based APIs can compensate it, but it requires products to support granular REST APIs for specific operations. This is something you want to be sensitive to when choosing cloud PLM vendor. Web API can make cloud-based integration easy to code and implement. However, cloud integration patterns are still the same – middleware or point-to-point integration. Cloud didn’t bring anything new here. At least from the standpoint of systems I learned. Integration remains complex and requires planning and resources during PLM implementations. A note or PLM architects and strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM vendors are in risk to follow ERP dinosaurs

June 22, 2015


When it comes to PLM and ERP, you may always get some feeling of rivalry at the air. PLM and ERP domains are not competing. However, ERP and PLM vendors are clearly competing for customers strategic mindset. After all, it always comes to the competition for strategic budget allocation.

For many years ERP vendors came first to the corner office of CIO. These days some ERP dinosaurs are fighting for surviving in a new era of cloud computing and SaaS software. article – 6 Reasons Why The Dinosaurs of ERP Are About To Go Extinct provides an interesting perspective on what happens in ERP software domain and industries today. 6 reasons in the article is the answer why traditional on-prem software solutions provided by companies like PeopleSoft are eaten by rivalry of cloud newcomers.

The article made me think about trajectory of some implementations and vendors in PLM domain. I can clearly see some similarities. Do you think some 20-30 years old PLM vendors will follow the path of the dinosaurs of ERP? Here are some of my thoughts about PLM domain and on-prem / cloud trends.

1- Old platforms need to retire

For the last 15-20 years, manufacturing companies adopted 2-3 generations of PLM software. For some of them (especially very large companies), the process of adoption was long and expensive. It took time to align processes and systems together. At the same time, technology is moving forward. To move forward, many customers need to drop old products and move to support new operational systems, hardware, devices, internet browsers, etc. It is obviously raises a question of how to retire old platforms. But this is a very painful question for many companies.

2- IT managers and upgrades

Upgrades are painful and IT is the department that traditionally spending a lot of resources and cost to upgrade all systems for a company. Cloud systems are going to change it. Since data centers and cloud infrastructure are owned by software vendors, they are also taking responsibilities for the upgrade. Some innovative PLM vendors such as Aras is including upgrades into their subscription also on on-prem installations.

3- Mobile and site independence

Our working environment is changing. 10-15 years ago, out work was mostly on site. These days the workforce is distributed. People don’t need to be at their desk to do a job. Multiple locations is a reality even for small companies. Mobile devices are in everyone pocket. To have a system that capable to work in such environment is an imperative for every company.

4- How to get small customers on board

PLM vendors made multiple attempt to provide a solution for smaller companies. It never worked. I can list number of products that were announced, retired and discontinued. However, the importance of smaller companies will only increase. New technologies and online market communities are making smaller manufacturing more competitive. It will bring an additional need for cloud PLM systems.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are slow in their adoption of new technologies. PLM never been a first place to innovate for cloud companies. But the reality of the outside world and online business are bringing manufacturing companies to the point that they will need to have a competitive software for product development and manufacturing. Old systems won’t survive and will have to retire. It is a time for PLM vendors to think about innovation and new platforms. Otherwise, it might to be too late to build and too expensive to buy. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM + ERP = cloud… what?

June 9, 2015


Enterprise resource planning is well established domain for many years. ERP in manufacturing made a very long history of transformation from early days of MRP and MRP II and it is usually a suite of integrated applications used to store data from multiple activities – inventory, product planning, manufacturing, service delivery, sales, etc. For many manufacturing companies, ERP is a fundamental element company use to manage business on daily basis.

Product lifecycle management originally came out engineering activities and management of engineering data – CAD files, engineering bill of materials and later on focused on product development processes and product innovation.

The relationships between PLM and ERP aren’t simple. While both PLM and ERP systems are complementary as a vision, in practice both are very competitive when it comes to customer budgets and controlling specific element of customer information – parts, bill of materials, etc. You might remember my very old blog post – The ugly truth about PLM and ERP monkey volleyball. PLM and ERP are clearly separated by a common bill of materials. BoM is a centerpiece of product development and manufacturing data and it sits accurately between PLM and ERP occupying minds of sales and consulting providers and advisers from both domains.

The increased complexity of products combined with even more increased complexity of manufacturing processes and business relationships often put both ERP and PLM on the line for streamlining business processes, simplifying data integration and optimizing product cost. In my view, the future of manufacturing will depends on solving old PLM / ERP integration problems. Old siloed enterprise models used data ownership as one of the fundamental models. To own data and allow access in a silo (such as PLM, ERP or MES) was one of the first priorities. Today and tomorrow the speed of communication will be more important. To make collaboration and communication fast will be a criteria for future models to survive.

Cloud technologies are restructuring existing software domains and changing established business relationships. It happened in many industries. Will cloud become a force to change an established status quo between PLM and ERP businesses?

Diginomica article – Autodesk, NetSuite – chaos theory in action? put some lights on a trajectory of business between NetSuite – a leading cloud ERP vendor and PLM360 new cloud PLM product business established by Autodesk few years ago. The article has a some marketing and promotion flavor speaking about expanding of Autodesk PLM business. Also, author disclosed that Diginomica is a premier NetSuite service provider. However, NetSuite and PLM360 can give you an interesting perspective on new relationships between PLM and ERP in the cloud.

One of the imponderables about working with any cloud delivered service is just what it might add to an established business that could not have been predicted or foreseen. The combination of an established business, with well-defined product families, can still find itself having new business opportunities thrust upon it in a quite chaotic manner by its association with a cloud services provider.

There is, of course, an obvious complementary fit between a CAD toolset and an ERP system – one manages the design of something and the other manages its appearance as a reality. So Autodesk had spent some time talking to other ERP vendors about potential partnerships. But the company had realized that none of them were the right fit.

The company realized that what they were looking for was a cloud component and it was Netsuite’s cloud focus that fitted them best. According to Locklin the fit was good enough from the onset that the two companies were soon talking about a close alliance rather than just a loose relationship.

Traditionally, integration between PLM and ERP is a very painful process. One of the aspects of complexity can be attributed to differences between PLM and ERP technologies and APIs. Cloud cannot solve the complexity of PLM/ERP integration – it is still hard to make it happen. But, cloud technologies can simplify the integration process by establishing common technological grounds for companies creating business on top of PLM-ERP integrations. Jitterbit a company both NetSuite and Autodesk are partnering to integrate PLM360 and NetSuite. Jitterbit is a software outfit built specifically to integrate cloud applications.

Having worked with it as a core part of the Autodesk partnership, the relationship has now spread to NetSuite, which has also formed its own partnership with Jitterbit. It is now being used to provide NetSuite users with connections to over 250 applications. This was formally launched at the recent SuiteWorld conference in San Jose.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is changing businesses and product boundaries. The traditional boundaries of CAD, PDM, PLM and ERP business suites were created by many years of selling on premise products using established partner channels. Cloud removes barriers between applications makes it more transparent. What about business? Will cloud remove barriers between PLM and ERP? Will it create a more granular set of applications provided by multiple software vendors and orchestrated by ERP service providers? The time is to change a traditional marriage relationships between PLM and ERP that I can see conflicting in many ways. Are we going to see Cloud (PLM+ERP) product offering soon? I’m not sure about that, but changes are clearly coming to manufacturing domain. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Bill of Materials (BOM) and product lifecycle open loops

May 19, 2015


It is hard overestimate the importance of Bill of Materials for product development. In my keynote at ProSTEP iViP symposium in Stuttgart earlier this month I’ve been sharing my thoughts why developing of single BOM across multiple disciplines in critical for organization. I wanted to bring few examples that can demonstrate why having a single BOM strategy can bring benefits to product development and manufacturing organization.

Earlier today, at Siemens PLM connection event in Dallas, I captured the following slide demonstrating an integrated approach in design, manufacturing, planning and production. What is really interesting is how as-design, as-planned and as-build views in PLM are integrated with design, manufacturing, planning and production.


Few days ago, I the following article by 3D CAD World article caught my attention – Progress in closing the product lifecycle’s loops  by Peter Bilello, president of CIMdata. The article speaks about the importance of collaboration across diverse enterprise groups.

For many years, the PLM industry has greatly benefited from a steady stream of improvements in collaboration among ever more diverse enterprise groups—in data interoperability, for example, and in the transparency of workflows and processes. The development, manufacture and support of globally competitive new products are, however, still hamstrung by the remaining open loops new and old.

Later in the article it came to the topic I was looking for – Bill of Materials. According to article, BOM is a biggest remaining challenge to make integration running smooth. Here is the passage, which explains that.

Between engineering, manufacturing and finance, a big remaining challenge is the bill of materials (BOM) in its many forms—the as-designed BOM, the as-engineered BOM, the as-manufactured BOM, and so on. Generated and managed with PLM and often executed by enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, BOMs themselves are loop closers. PLM-ERP connectivity and interoperability are steadily improving, but some open-loop issues are resolved only after time consuming face-to-face meetings.

What is my conclusion? Single BOM could be a great thing if vendors will figure out how to implement that. As you can learn from Biello’s article, PLM-ERP has open-loop issue and BOM is a tool to close that. However, companies are concerned about bringing single BOM strategy since it can raise lot of organizational challenges for them. At the same time, the demand for better integration and collaboration can put companies in front of decision to bring single BOM to close open loops between engineering, manufacturing and production anyway. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


PLM and ERP: Separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM)

May 6, 2015


Yesterday, I had a privilege to share my thoughts about Bill of Materials and BOM management during my keynote at ProSTEP iViP Symposium in Stuttgart. That was my first time at ProSTEP conference. The first day is over. I will be publishing  updates in my live blog here.

The discussion about Bill of Materials is always interesting and entertaining. BOM is a centerpiece of every engineering solution. As an organization you have to manage different aspects of Bill of Materials during design, engineering, manufacturing and support stages. These days, as companies are moving from selling products into services, support and maintenance BOM is getting more into the focus of discussions. After all, Bill of Materials is complex topic. On the following picture you can see multiple dimensions of BOM complexity:


In every organization, Bill of Materials has two notions  – technical and political. The first one is absolutely important. The following three characteristics are absolutely important if you think about reliable BOM management solution: 1/ ability to manage multi-disciplinary data; 2/ scalability; 3/ user acceptance. User acceptance is a tricky thing. The demands of people in an organization about BOM are different. Engineering, manufacturing, support, supply chain, sales – these organizations have want to see BOM differently.


However, regardless on the role of a person in organization, the following demands are absolutely critical: 1/ No errors (each mistake in BOM is painful and can lead to significant problems in an organization ; 2/ No painful date re-entry (nobody wants to enter information into BOM multiple times); 3/ No painful synchronization of data between PLM, ERP and other systems.


Below you can find a full deck of my presentation:

PLM and ERP: Separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM) from Oleg Shilovitsky

What is my conclusion? Bill of Materials and BOM is a very interesting topic. My hunch, it is getting even more in the focus of people as products are getting more complex. These days every single product is a combination of mechanical, electronics and software. Manufacturing companies are selling it as a services. Customers are demanding configurability, high quality and low cost. How to manage all these things together? The following three questions are absolutely important when you think about BOM management – 1/ How to support connected processes in an organization? 2/ How to stop synchronizing BOM between silos (PLM, ERP and others)? 3/ How PLM and ERP can support a concept of “single BOM”? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PS. If you want to discuss more about BOM management, please feel free to contact me directly.


How to prevent cloud PLM integration mistakes

February 2, 2015


Cloud is huge enabler for collaboration between people. It makes your data and processes accessible everywhere from a browser. It can help you to collaborate between engineers and suppliers. It can help you to integrate systems and people across enterprise.

Let me speak about the last one. The integration topic is actually tricky. I’ve been sharing some of my thoughts about cloud integration challenges – Integration is holding back PLM cloud adoption few months ago. Last week, I had a chance to attend two webinars about PLM and integration.

Become a Connected Manufacturing Enterprise with Agile Integration by Jitterbit. The following picture gives you a perspective on a problem of “connected manufacturing” and architecture solutions like Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit are solving this problem.


Here is the view that shows you the reality of mixed (cloud and on-premise) integrations.


Another webinar by CIMdata – “PLM & ERP: What’s the Difference, and Why Should you Care?” is providing another perspective on integration challenges between engineering an manufacturing.



Companies are moving into mixed cloud and on premise environment. This is a reality and we cannot avoid it. So, for a foreseeable future, we will have to deal with integration of multiple systems – some of them will continue to run on premises and some of them will be elsewhere (public cloud). It made me think about potential mistakes you can run into while integrating systems.

1- Lost data semantics

Most of integration scenarios are about how to send data back and forth between systems. It is hard to keep semantics of data and not to loose it when exchanging information. So, define what data means and keep an overall integration data schema. Otherwise, the result can be messy.

2- Data transfer limitation

Although some of integration infrastructure can allow you to implement data exchange quickly, you can underestimate the bandwidth requirements. Sending large packets of data can cause significant latency and create runtime errors and problems. Check what monitoring tools are available to handle such situations.

3- Transaction management

Most of manufacturing systems are sensitive to transactions. To manage distributed transactions can be tricky and require some fine tuning. Pay attention on how you handle error processing when integrating transaction system managing ordering, lifecycle and bill of materials.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of integration is growing. Cloud systems are bringing many advantages, but will create additional challenges to IT and professional services. Most of integrations are not working out of the box. New tools running from the cloud can help you to integrate it faster, but it will require good coordination with IT and planning upfront to prevent potential mistakes. Data integration is hard and requires experience and familiarity with manufacturing systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: freefotouk via photopin cc


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