PLM/ERP Integration out of the Box
The title sounds tempting, but what does it mean really is following: Think out-of-the-box when it comes to the integration of two systems. Traditional methods with file exchange are slow, error-prone and sometimes maintenance-intensive. Modern integrations save the overhead by deeper integrations with database-to-database connections, the usage of web services and ad-hoc provision of data without double data storage. If you know this scenario from your integration or if you plan to do an integration of your environment... please go on reading.
The classic way
There are countless of ways to exchange data between different systems. The smallest common denominator for data is the text file. Usually the text file is a csv, which is optimally formatted according to the rfc4180 convention.
But this simplicity can be deceptive. If you are thinking like the „official three-turn“1 and build on csv, it is possible that you drag legacy technology from the last century with you.
It doesn't always have to be csv
Modern methods of integrations circumvent problems such as e.g. delays caused by polling intervals, the creation of semaphore files, which should prevent access to files at the same time, or data flow through large quantities of drawing or model files that are located in in the file system. Also, security loops which include e.g. computer accounts with shares can be undesirable side-effects of the classical method by file exchange.
What are the best ways to connect my systems?
This cannot be generally said, since it must again be a common denominator of the participating systems. If both databases run on the same platform (Oracle/MSSQL) or are at least odbc-capable, it is sometimes possible to integrate the systems at a relatively deeply-settled level. In the case of an optimum, this can be so far that data are no longer transferred from a database, e.g. PDM / PLM to another database, e.g. ERP, but that the ERP system reads the data requested by the client directly from the PLM database and makes it transparent to the user.
Direct database to database communication
With this strategy, PDSVision and asseco solutions AG realized a connection between PTC® Creo Elements/Direct Model Manager and APplus at the joint customer, Max Holder GmbH. The framework conditions are ideal for the manufacturer of special vehicles for use in municipalities and winegrowing since both systems are open and based on the same platform (MSSQL). The users have access to the relevant data including 2D and 3D viewing formats in the ERP system APplus. The data comes direct the Model Manager database (read) access - live and direct. Delays, as you know from file-based interfaces are thus not an issue. Using web-service technology, APplus provides the article number conversion to the CAD system Creo Elements/Direct Modeling when a part is created. Separate number ranges, which are assigned in the PLM system are thus no longer needed.
Webservices as open and easy interface
If a direct database to database communication is not the first choice, web services can be a viable method with low hurdles.
The communication takes place again live and without file-based transfer. For example, with Abas ERP at the Schröder Group - one of the leading suppliers of machines for bending, swiveling, cutting, crimping and round bending of sheet metal of all kinds – realized an integration that transfers data from abas to ModelManager via web services to give access to viewing formats for various 2D and 3D data (pdf, dxf, pvz, step) from abas via customized Model Manager web services. Also live and directly from the source system without redundant files.
Via web services, interoperability can be increased step by step, especially in heterogeneous systems. Each web service can be entrusted with an original task and, via this, also connect several requesting systems, e.g. In addition to ERP, the QMS or SLM system also requires access to data from the PLM system.
Have we aroused your interest? Please do not hesitate to contact us for a non-binding information.