Posted by Gavin Davidson, Industry Lead, Manufacturing, NetSuite

For far too long, integration between ERP and product lifecycle management (PLM) software has been of the ‘swivel chair” variety. Enter data into the ERP system, swivel to the other side of your desk and enter it into PLM.

However, manufacturers that have found a better alternative are reaping the rewards. For example, Epec Engineered Technologies, a leading designer and manufacturer of custom products for the electronics industry is running PLM 360, a PLM solution from Autodesk, tightly integrated with its NetSuite ERP system, enabling the company to streamline and control complex build-to-order work. Integrated ERP and PLM has kept it busy at the 4,000-square-foot manufacturing space it built a year ago for production of custom battery packs and energy-efficient fans and motors serving customers like GE, Honeywell, Philips, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

ERP and PLM, Two Great Solutions That Work Great Together

As ERP automates the management of finances, customer processes, inventory, order management and other business processes, and provides analytics and reporting tools for getting insights into business trends, challenges and potential opportunities, the PLM system enables companies to manage the development and production of new products—to see how a product might be produced on a virtual assembly line with different materials and design strategies, for example.

Put simpler, an integrated system touches on CRM, which defines who the product is being made for; engineering solutions, which define what is being made; and ERP, which defines how to make it. It’s bringing the system of record for operations—together with the system of record for design—in a dynamic and synchronized manner.

The result is the ability for manufacturers to develop innovative products faster, with a more flexible supply chain and visibility into every aspect of operations and controlling costs.

Even Better in the Cloud

The value of integrated PLM and ERP gains even more advantages when it combines two solutions that were born in the cloud.

For example, processing intensive simulation and rendering can run faster, and in parallel, in the cloud. Meanwhile, cloud-based ERP software and PLM means no need for expensive hardware and lengthy implementations, enabling manufacturers to get up and running quickly with the elasticity to scale, while stay up to date on the latest features without committing extensive IT resources.

Combined cloud solutions reduce the sales cycle, minimize the work of IT and global purchasing, and increase the speed of innovation. It also provides the option of extending processes and functionality to partners. Epec extends NetSuite to four contract manufacturers in China, with third-party personnel updating work-in-progress information in NetSuite daily for visibility by headquarters.

We’ve really just scratched the surface of what’s possible with product, customer, financial and design data, brought together.

I’ll be discussing some of the other advantages during two sessions at Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Dec. 1-3. Join me there if you can.

In the meantime, read more about Epec Engineered Technologies and their experience with NetSuite.