In the world of enterprise software, there are a lot of solutions and even more acronyms. It can be difficult to determine which platforms will meet your organization’s needs – especially when they seem to have some overlapping functionality. You don’t want to pick the wrong solution and end up having to supplement, but you also don’t want to pay for a complicated platform when you won’t utilize all the available tools.

To help you determine which software platform is right for you we have broken down what each platform is and then compared them to each other to help you decide.

Manufacturing Software Platforms

PLM: Product Lifecycle Management

PLM solutions handle all aspects of product development and strategy from initial idea through retirement. Their strength lies in effectively managing the phase-in or phase-out of products and specific components. It helps companies ensure that products are delivered on time and on budget, with tools to support the design and project management.

PLM solutions are typically used in conjunction with CAD systems. The latest solutions even integrate with CAD to support design using 3D modeling and connected IoT products. This interconnectivity allows for rapid prototyping and optimized processes. Both solutions are essential for any industry that must constantly create and produce innovative products. The best platforms integrate with your ERP and MES to streamline all manufacturing.

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

ERP systems were originally introduced into manufacturing around the 1960s making them first systems of their kind. They mostly include accounting functions such as:

  • Resource management and planning
  • Inventory management and planning
  • General ledger tools

Depending on the specific solution it also includes some shop floor control functions if it designed for the manufacturing industry. The Bill of Materials (BoM) tools are used for short- and long-term planning, the issuing of materials to the shop floor, and maintaining the associated shop orders. ERPs may be essential for industries that require more long-term planning due to longer lead times or complex BoMs.

MES: Manufacturing Execution System

MES platforms add more function and sophistication to the traditional ERP systems. An MES typically offers more specific scheduling gradations down to the day, shift, and minute. However, these detailed scheduling capabilities make it a less fit solution for long-range planning, even though it may include some of this functionality. An MES is essential if you have complex production processes that are often strained due to:

  • Various bottlenecks
  • Limited capacity
  • Alternative routings

As Manufacturing Automation describes it:
PLM is the what
ERP is the why
MES is about the how-to.

Manufacturing Software Comparison

There are clearly plenty of manufacturing software solutions available. When it comes to PLM vs MES or PLM vs ERP, how do you know which one you should invest in?

PLM vs MES

Both solutions include:

  • ECN
  • BoM management
  • IoT integration
  • Specific scheduling tools

Could you use just MES in your organization? Probably not. MES really excels at shop floor management but doesn’t have the project management tools to handle product development before it gets to the shop floor. MES is usually only able to handle one BoM, although it is possible to use component substitutions when needed. It is a solution that is intended to optimize the shop floor in terms of management and resources. If you are looking for a solution that can do all of this, plus manage products while maximizing profitability and revenue (and who doesn’t) – you’re going to want to go with PLM.

PLM can help you manage your shop floor like MES, while also managing products and maximizing profitability and revenue.

PLM vs ERP

Both solutions including routing management and Bill of Materials tools – so couldn’t you cut down on costs and just use an ERP? Yes, you could, however, if you want your business to truly thrive you’re going to want to use PLM instead.

Trying to use an ERP to determine the best time to phase in a new product model without taking an inventory hit just isn’t what it is built for. Using an ERP for this work will have you looking at a complicated and manual offline process that could really only give a rough approximation.

PLM helps with exactly these types of problems. It can take in the larger picture production data to determine product development schedules. It is also essential if you are looking to get your products to market faster. The included rapid prototyping tools and ability to integrate with other connected processes like IoT, digital twins, 3D printing, and other advanced technologies makes PLM the better choice.

PLM provides the detailed scheduling and advanced management tools required to handle connected and complicated products.

Align Manufacturing Solutions with Business Strategies

So, which is the best solution to help you improve your business? We wish there was a clear answer, but the truth is you should pick the solution that aligns best with your unique strategies.

In an ideal situation, companies would have the budget and resources to have all three solutions. There would be no PLM vs ERP or PLM vs MES, instead, all the solutions would integrate and work together to provide optimized process throughout your organization.

However, every company is faced with the daunting prospect of needing constant product innovation. With that, organizations must also be able to maximize profits from existing products and introduce products in a way that you aren’t left with a pile of obsolete inventory. When organizations take a step back at which areas have the biggest impact on profitability then you will see that PLM is the essential solution you need.

Ready to start finding the PLM solution that’s right for you? Check out our software comparisons for the leading solutions:

Or if you have specific questions about PLM, just contact us.