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SCM PLM integration gives manufacturers greater supply chain perspective

Manufacturers are seeing the connection between supply chain management (SCM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) software. Through SCM PLM integration, problems in the supply chain can be address -- and solved -- with greater ease.

There is a natural overlap between product lifecycle management (PLM) and supply chain management (SCM). In the...

past, the two areas have rarely been integrated. But today, many organizations are deciding that the two perspectives cannot be kept entirely separate any longer and are turning to SCM PLM integration. 

"Increasingly, you must understand what your supply chain looks like when you are managing the design and development decisions," said Noha Tohany, an analyst at AMR Research. "It is a matter of being cognizant of the limitations and knowing what you are looking for when you design the product and when you select suppliers."

In other words, a company like Motorola may want to know how they will design their supply chain network not only to support product development and design, but also to make sure they can serve emerging markets and be the fastest to market.

In the past, this integrated thinking was often missing, said Joe Barkai, an analyst at Manufacturing Insights. The result was that companies were surprised when problems surfaced in manufacturing -- problems like cost, reliability and manufacturability -- that were then expensive to fix.

Today there still isn't much integration between SCM and PLM software products, according to Barkai. But he says the more crucial issue is process integration -- making sure the people talk even if the applications don't.

"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," Barkai said. "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."

The bottom line is that companies need to focus on integrated thinking rather than integrating software, although that can have a role. In other words, it is not so much about tight integration of tools as it is about being able to access data across SCM and PLM. That way you can maintain a single version of truth and decision makers can make use of either perspective.

About the author:
Alan Earls had his first exposure to computer programming on one of Digital Equipment Corp.'s PDP-8 minicomputers. He went on to serve as editor of the newspaper Mass High Tech and is the author of the book Route 128 and the Birth of the Age of High Tech, a photographic essay on a key part of Massachusetts economic history. He currently is a freelance writer, covering many aspects of IT technology and writing regularly for SearchManufacturingERP.com.

This was last published in December 2009

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