PLM+ERP+MES+CRM: The Four Cornerstones​ of Manufacturing

Lionel Grealou CRM ERP MES PLM 2 minutes

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) applications are often referred as a ‘single system of record’ for product data across the product creation lifecycle. As maturity increases, product and process information flows from PLM to downstream systems, namely Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). As the product matures throughout its lifecycle, the need for close-loop integration increases.

PLM-ERP-MES can be referred as the ‘holy trinity’ of manufacturing, as they provide the creation, strategy alignment and operational backbone of the enterprise. Regulatory compliance and data traceability requires an effective level of integration across the 3 platforms as they serve different purposes. This includes the need for traceability and integration of customer information (‘voice of the customer’) which is typically managed in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.

Customer data starts with product order configuration

This can be illustrated by looking at how enterprise configuration data is managed across PLM, ERP and CRM:

  • Product configuration – which is engineering-driven supports the way that products are designed and engineered
  • Manufacturing configuration – which relates to how product variants and components is produced or assembled
  • Sales configuration – which links to orders placed by customers, aligning with marketing and business requirements

The above example is typically referred (in the automotive industry) as the ‘kitting validation’ process, emphasising on the importance of data configuration validation across the enterprise to ensure that ordered products can be manufactured and assembled, while designed products can be manufactured, and product to be manufactured have been virtually and digitally validated upfront by the engineering teams.

Customer data feeds into product development requirements

Similarly, enterprise requirements are driven across PLM, ERP, MES and CRM in terms of:

  • Customer requirements – how they feed into product development, in terms of product and process quality
  • Strategic and competitive requirements – how the corporate objectives are derived in strategic requirements
  • Product development requirements – how product attributes drive the new product introduction process
  • Manufacturing requirements – how the product is manufactured and / or assembled

Representing the customer view, CRM is the fourth cornerstone of manufacturing organisations. The PLM-CRM integration enables a single view of customer, product and quality information.

Broadly speaking, PLM knows “what” (technical requirements), ERP knows “why” (strategic requirements), MES knows “how to” (operational requirements), while CRM knows “who” (customer requirements)

There is an important need to align customer information which drive how products are ordered and delivered. Product-driven organisations must effectively manage quality and service matter while aligning with market and legislation requirements (such as regulatory compliance) and enabling current and future customer requirements.

Customer data flows from CRM to PLM, from ERP to PLM and MES

Customer information is not restricted to end-customer requirements, but ranges from internal requirement to external customer order data. When customers place orders, they use marketing configuration views to select the key features that will constitute the purchases product. The more complex the product, the more integration of product configuration lifecycle is required. The need for alignment within the enterprise ranges then from marketing configuration to product and manufacturing configuration: can the product ordered be produced / assembled, is the manufactured product aligned with the digital twin that was engineered and digitally validated in the first place.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 22 February 2017.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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