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The Business Case for Integrating All Product Design Systems at Once

beach-meditationArena consultants have implemented product lifecycle management (PLM) systems at small and large companies alike. They have done implementations in careful stages; as well, they’ve done implementations with integrations of PLM with enterprise resource planning (ERP), mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD), electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) tools completed all at once — a big bang implementation resulting in PLM nirvana right out of the box.

The idea of implementing (and integrating) all your systems at once as a best practice may be a surprising revelation to some who have grown up believing that difficult implementations were always better done in phases. But whether a company goes for a one fell swoop or takes a methodical “walk before you run” phased integration can vary company to company with several influential factors.

Similar to last week’s blog “Why Attributes Are Critical to PLM Part Search“, the customer referenced in the blog below is a police composite compromised of several PLM-related questions Arena has consistently received regarding implementation best practices.

Customer: What do you believe is the best implementation practice: phases or nirvana out of the box?

Arena: In many cases it is actually better to put your MCAD, ECAD or ERP integrations into the same implementation project because your whole team is in sync. This is not only about technical solutions it is also about aligning business policies. You have everybody’s attention and they recognize this is a highly visible project from the steering committee.

Customer: If I spread implementations over a longer period of time, can I potentially lose continuity and focus?

Arena: In many cases it becomes much more difficult to implement in phases because you might consume the same resources for much longer periods of time. For instance, when you first implement PLM, you know your electrical part categories that you will be integrating into your ECAD component library; however, three or six months later, if you go back to implement another phase, you have to reinvest — refresh your memory and get back up to speed —to design the integration to your MCAD, ECAD or ERP system.

Customer: But isn’t it complicated to attempt to implement several systems at once?

Arena: In many cases MCAD and ECAD integrations are light integrations and easy to setup. In fact, an ERP system may be easy to implement at the same time. We have multiple customers that I’m working with that are successfully implementing PLM and ERP at the same time.

Customer: What is a situation where I definitely wouldn’t want to integrate at once but instead in phases?

Arena: We would recommend to not implement an ERP solution and PLM solution at the same time — when they are both moving targets. One should pretty much be baked. So, whether your PLM is the lead or the lag, you typically want one of those systems up and running before you start an implementation. And you can’t start the integration to ERP until your ERP implementation is near going live because a lot of things are changing on the ERP side, which makes it more difficult to setup and nail down what will be passed from PLM to ERP.

So in these situations where you’re usually utilizing resources for both implementations, it probably makes sense to use a phased approach.

A majority of the time we implement MCAD, ECAD and ERP in one phase because it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, but we also have implementations that we will roll out in phases. If it’s not possible to get it all done at once, we use a phased approach.

Stay tuned for more implementation thoughts in our next blog post. To learn more about Arena PLM implementations and how you can be up and running in days, click here.