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PLM Enablement for Manufacturing’s Master Data Woes

Tom Gill
By Tom Gill Practice Manager, PLM Enterprise Value & Integration

Significant opportunities are emerging for engineering and manufacturing companies to update aging information-management toolsets—in particular, product-related master data—with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) enablement. PLM enablement offers a foolproof way to make critical product-related data accessible, accurate, current, and traceable throughout the enterprise.

Master data is an organization’s basic information needed to produce and deliver products. Master data began as lists of things, people, places, and concepts. Over the decades it grew into a repository of knowledge about products, processes and systems, personnel, customers, suppliers, regulators, guidelines, best practices, business partners, and other stakeholders. Master data provides baselines and reference points for manufacturing management to measure costs, margins and risks in new product development.

There is solid value, too, in the use of PLM enablement for financial people working with manufacturing. The gains will be found in accuracy, completeness, currency, and traceability of the product related master data. To manage budgets and spending and make reliable cost projections, finance needs concise definitions of what is to be made, including all product variants, and how each configuration is to be made.

Master data’s toolsets, known as Master Data Management (MDM), were designed to gather, clean and reformat essential (foundational) data and manage access and updates. However, MDM tools are often patched together with weak integration and limited connectivity with product data.

Amid the ongoing digitalization of business, exploding volumes of information and multiplying formats can overwhelm MDM toolsets. Even if these tools have been updated, rarely are they scalable, flexible or extensible. Hence they poorly support effective responses to today’s business pressures.

And now, master data itself is transforming from archival to transactional. Transactional data supports and tracks day-to-day operations and innovation. Archival data simply describes things and processes. Transactional data changes frequently and unpredictably; archival data does not. As a result, MDM users often struggle to support key decisions.

A further master data transformation is likely—moving beyond transactional to predictive, analytical and forward-looking, as in financial modeling.

The MDM enablement challenge is being taken up by CIMdata’s PLM Enterprise Value & Integration (PEVI) Knowledge Council. CIMdata, a leading worldwide independent provider of strategic management consulting for PLM, regularly encounters aging, siloed and even obsolete implementations of master data still in everyday use.

PLM is a strategy to meet everyday information needs in sourcing, contracting, manufacturing, sales, marketing, service and other areas. PLM solutions help users to be more productive and more empowered to make decisions. They are also easier for IT to support—especially compared to homegrown approaches and customizations.

PLM enablement is a cost-effective way to modernize tools and improve their business value. As an advanced form of information and process management, PLM enables legacy MDM tools with integration so that all product-related master data capture, formatting and updating are managed.

Finance is, of course, a core user of enterprise resource planning (ERP); PLM and ERP are complementary. Product data is dynamic and the history of product data evolution is very important—two big reasons for PLM enablement. PLM makes information status visible during its evolution, and then ensures traceability as to how data evolved to its current state—production ready, for example.

Because PLM is lifecycle focused, it can usually manage processes and capture decisions more clearly and with more detail than ERP. In regulated industries, this can be critical.

For manufacturing management, good master-data information helps reduce surprises, reassure top management, and provide leading indicators on cost estimates, time-to-market, revenue projections and risk assessments.

Integrating master data with PLM is a unique opportunity to get ahead of changing business demands. Unlike any other digital technology, PLM helps keep the enterprise humming and supports the company’s strategic vision.

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