Successful business process integration via a digital transformation

Successful business process integration via a digital transformation

Successful business process integration via a digital transformation

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Successful business process integration via a digital transformation

Companies have to respond to changing markets, increased product complexity and increased process complexity faster than ever before if they want to survive and stay ahead of the competition. To help companies respond to these new challenges, the answer to overcoming these challenges lies in digital transformation strategies based on:

  • Digitalization and the integration of product and production models;
  • Digitalization of enterprise processes; and,
  • Closed loops between the enterprise’s processes.

This digital transformation will cause companies to rethink their business processes as well as their supporting IT landscape. These processes have typically developed separately with the main focus on enterprise resource planning or ERP. ERP can be a valuable inclusion in any business, but its drawback in being the monolithic and transaction-oriented sole system is that most ERP systems are not capable of managing connected digital product data.

To undergo a digital transformation, companies will need to consider a digital enterprise platform that includes more specific functionality for digital data and processes than ERP. Companies need to create a digital enterprise that allows product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) as the major components to be integrated with ERP.

PLM and ERP both manage master data, bill of materials information, documents, and routings. They’re typically integrated into one direction, which means PLM “feeds” ERP with released data, depending on the product maturity in release steps.

MES and ERP are often integrated. MES manages the real-time process and data flow toward the machines, devices, and the shop floor. MES is important to ensure “as-build” product information and provide traceability; it also has master data, bill of materials data and routings. MES and PLM use the same basic data, but exchanging data between both is not very common.

Today’s core enterprise systems — PLM, ERP, and MES — are often distinct and separately used in different organizational functions. But, we see that they also have complementary and overlapping roles in IT support along the value chain. These complimentary, overlapping roles are the key to completing this digital transformation.

For more efficient business processes, PLM, ERP, and MES have to be integrated with each other tightly in a closed-loop. The integration of each component has to be aligned to the specific industries and their processes, so a clear positioning of mastering the data is important, particularly because the roles all systems will have in the future will be different than today. Closing the loop between these systems is basically driven by the integration of digital product data with digital production data. Once this business process integration and the transition is done, closed loops for learning organizations can be established to provide valuable business information.

Today, specific IT tools are in place to support different industry-specific processes in companies. PLM and MES are the core systems, and they will have a much more important, strategic role in the future than they have today. In the future, companies will need a digital enterprise platform to manage digital models for product and production and to establish the digital twin, which is how these companies can use the digital representation of their products in a new way: companies can test and use their products in a combined virtual and physical world.

Every company will need a digital enterprise platform to connect and integrate the top floor to the shop floor. This platform will have to contain all information related to the product, such as mechanical, electrical, software design, equipment, manufacturing or automation systems and simulation data for validation and virtual commissioning.

Everyone in the company could have access to the actual product information, but not everybody will access the information directly from the digital enterprise platform. Some information will be available by authoring systems like CAD; other information will be distributed and shared with ERP or integrated with other legacy systems.

To achieve this goal, the separation of PLM, ERP, and MES can no longer happen. Integrating MES, PLM and ERP are essential to creating a digital enterprise, and this is something Siemens PLM knows well. We have the solutions to help companies weave the digital thread they need in all phases of their products’ lifecycle so they can become more productive and have more optimized products.

Let’s explore how companies can move forward with this business process integration and how Siemens PLM helps companies complete this digital transformation.

This concludes part one of our series on creating a closed-loop PLM, MES, and ERP process to complete a total digital transformation. In part two, Matthias Schmich discusses why it’s important for companies to see these three systems as part of a much bigger whole rather than three individuals pieces. 

Tell us: How do you think a digital twin would improve your business processes? 

By the Author – Matthias Schmich

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