With a platform-agnostic configuration solution, your data can float across systems and be used in any consuming application. And because you are not tied to any one enterprise system, you can create a single source of truth across the organization.

Modern Manufacturing Needs a Platform-agnostic Configuration Solution

Henrik Hulgaard, Chief Technology Officer | Configit

Many enterprise platforms limit users to working within the boundaries of their own systems, preventing them from re-using data in other applications. This leads to disconnected data silos and time-consuming manual processes to move data from one system to another. For product configuration data, the result is error-prone, intensive rework. 

With a platform-agnostic configuration solution, your data can float across systems and be used in any consuming application. And because you are not tied to any one enterprise system, you can create a single source of truth across the organization that enables you to collaborate and innovate faster, with less risk of errors. 

 

Examining the challenges 

In the manufacturing sector, it’s quite common for customers to have several systems that they work with. They may have large enterprise systems such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) for engineering teams. Sales teams will use another set of systems, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Configure Price Quote (CPQ) systems for managing the customer and sales processes, as well as manufacturing systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

On top of that, there will also often be a number of homegrown legacy systems that each solves a need in some specific part of the organization. Because these systems all have their own configuration logic, the challenge then becomes getting information that is aligned. A platform-agnostic configuration solution can help resolve these issues by enabling organizations to bring data together from multiple sources within the enterprise to provide a single source of truth with respect to configuration across all functions. 

 

What is a platform-agnostic configuration solution?

The term agnostic refers to something that is generalized so that it is interoperable among various systems. Therefore, when we think of platform-agnostic solutions, it means a solution that can align various functions across the organization. 

For an industry like manufacturing, an alignment between engineering and sales teams is preferable so that customers can get a fully transparent set of data – from customer needs, down to how you are going to manufacture and deliver the products. 

 

Why platform-agnostic? 

Among all these systems involved across the organization, you have technical engineering rules, commercial rules and logistics and manufacturing rules. You need to bring them together to ensure they “speak” to each other with a common, consistent definition of the valid product variants. With Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM), you can create a single source of data truth. 

Agnostic cross-functional configuration platforms can help your organization improve productivity and achieve economies of scale by aligning your configuration data across functions to that source of truth. 

 

A real-world example

Let’s put this concept to the test by examining a real-world example. Consider a large automotive manufacturer, with thousands of employees worldwide and supporting many more people through dealerships, suppliers and local businesses. Imagine this company is selling hundreds of thousands of vehicles around the world each year.

Understandably, a manufacturer of this size and reputation has innumerable options and packages available to car buyers. It has an ever-growing number of models to choose from, as well. This creates a tremendous challenge for configuration management. 

This company needed a better solution than their combination of highly restrictive product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and a convoluted history of IT integrations from various acquisitions. Although their PLM and ERP systems had some built-in product modeling and configuration features, the depth and scope were constrained. The ability to author rules was limited to truth maintenance systems, which made it challenging to support complex modeling constructs.

Configuration capabilities were similarly constrained and inadequate to satisfy the lifecycle configuration requirements of complex products from inception to run-out, employing a single version of configuration truth. The manufacturer came to the conclusion that no PLM or ERP system already in use could provide the capability required for a lifecycle approach to product configuration. 

As a result of implementing a platform-agnostic configuration management solution, the company gains: 

  • Accurate and reliable configuration data across the board

  • A modeling environment that is effective, adaptable, user-friendly and scalable

  • Assistance with concurrent modeling, thorough testing and controlled release procedures

  • Replacement of aging system while maintaining support for various downstream systems

  • A foundation for upcoming business endeavors, including international websites, bill of materials validation and more

 

The power of platform-agnostic

Many enterprise platforms limit users to working within the boundaries of their own systems, preventing companies from re-using their data in other applications. This leads to disconnected data silos and time-consuming manual processes to move data from one system to another. For product configuration data, this creates unnecessary duplication of effort that’s also prone to error. An agnostic configuration platform enables manufacturers to aggregate data into a single source of truth. This creates a more accurate, streamlined process for creating complex, customizable products.

 
 
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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