Don't Be Scared. It's Just PLM. Part IV: PLM vs. ERP, sub-assemblies & BOMs inside of BOMs inside of BOMs

Acuity Account Executive, Chris Trina sat down with our resident Teamcenter guru and Senior Application Engineer, Pat Kennedy recently for a little Q&A/Fireside Chat on the intrinsic value of a quality PLM system. It was a long conversation! I’ll be posting the highlights over the next few weeks. Here's Part IV.

Click here for Part I Part IIPart III & Part V.

PAT: An integral part of PLM, to me, is the funnel. When you're going through product development there’s a massive amount of data. Tons and tons and lots of different kinds of files. It all needs to be boiled down to some result, that final snapshot, so that release process has multiple purposes and functions and that's part of it and people sometimes ask, "Well you know we've got this ERP system, why can't it do PLM as well?"

First off, the ERP is about managing things like finances and making sure that you have your necessary inventory to do the next build of your product. So it's kind of taking care of all of these things that have to happen, and all of the dollars on all of the things that HAVE happened and so that's not really managing files.

CHRIS: Can you do inventory control for ERP?

PAT: That’s keeping track of quantities of stuff. It's really not keeping track of, for example, the images that are going to go on to the packaging or the images that are going to go out on to your blog posts or your website. I'm pointing out images because I'm saying PLM is a lot more than CAD management.

Even with an image there's multiple purposes. You also have to have the instructions on how to use the product that you are going to put inside the box. And you need the support website, so you can have your people who are doing support, be able to look up things and send the information to the customer. So actually, there could be many different images and ERP is not built to manage that. There's a very distinct and different reason to have PLM. It's to meet all of those particular needs that have nothing to do with actually building your product.

CHRIS: We have a customer with a flat management system and everyone works in different environments. They work in NX, Solid Works, PTC—four or five different softwares and it’s the same managing NX or any other design data because it fully integrates. They can work within SolidWorks and then there's an ‘add to Teamcenter’ button, right? Then it saves it into Teamcenter, and it is a part numbering system and it's all pretty self-explanatory. 


PAT: Yes, and not only is it putting all the Solid Works files into that central repository, but any time you build an assembly it's also creating its own BOM. Every single little assembly it has its own BOM. So that when you take this little motor or whatever, it is an assembly all its own. It has its own BOM. But then you use that motor in something else in some larger assembly which ultimately then gets used somewhere else in your product, right?

"There's a very distinct and different reason to have PLM. It's to meet all of those particular needs that have nothing to do with actually building your product."

Patrick Kennedy, Senior Application Engineer

PAT: So, there's different levels of assemblies. These different levels of BOMs actually get built into each other. So, when I have my motor, let’s say I'm going to put that with some other things, housings and bracketing and stuff, into this larger assembly, and that larger assembly may have some other, what we call sub-assemblies, that may be something totally different than the motor but necessary for your product, well each of those sub-assemblies have their own BOMs.  

When you're finally bringing that all together into your top-level assembly, that is your entire product. You’re not building your BOMs from scratch. You're pulling in all the sub-assemblies and with those are coming their own BOMs. The overall top-level BOM is really a collection of all those other BOMs. You are taking the information that the CAD system already knows about and you're putting it into a system that can then combine all those BOMs into a single product.

Doing the BOM management is another foundational portion of PLM. It's something that is critical to getting a product built because in an ERP system, it’s what you say is “THE BOM.” It’s not going to keep track of different revisions. In PLM we say our product 1.0 is actually "Motor 2.1" and “Bracket 3.2” and so on, and so forth and all of that is your product 1.0. Well, I’m sorry, ERP systems don't want to deal with all of those revisions. They just say give me “THE BOM.” Give me WHAT I’M GOING TO BUILD.

PLM manages all of that and hands over the ERP. And ERP doesn't have to worry about all of those revisions. It’s a huge foundational part of PLM.

You mentioned different CAD packages that are used by mechanical engineers. The products nowadays are more than that. There's a lot of electronics and firmware and software that goes into products every day and smart phones are a great example. There's hardware, both mechanical and electronic, and software. These days, you need to manage all of that and a good PLM system like Teamcenter can.

We have customers who do that all the time. Take a simple winch sitting on the front of somebody’s 4X4 or Jeep. It has
a microprocessor in the controller that has to have firmware, and they have electrical engineers who are managing all of that stuff. All of their work, the printed circuit board and all the components that go onto it on the printed circuit assembly, that’s
another sub-assembly they put into Teamcenter. When they're sending out their printed circuit assembly to their outside manufacturer to put together, they KNOW that they are sending the right information because it has been managed and people have done the
sign-offs to have the formal release. Everyone has looked at it and put their signature on there that yes, that’s what we are going to build. That’s
what PLM does.

It’s the same with software as well. We have customers who, part of their software is not even in the product; it's in the cloud. These IOT manufacturers, their product is not just the piece of hardware that someone buys like a Nest thermostat. A lot of their engineering is really going into what's in the cloud as well. That's part of their product and part of their product release. It has to go through that same development and release. It's all PLM.

Click here for Part I Part IIPart III & Part V.

Lindsay Trina

Siemens PLM