PLM Integration Solution, when used with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, helps make your supply chain strong, agile, and resilient in fast-changing markets and customer dynamics.
When you work with multiple software systems and platforms, one small error in the product’s lifecycle can cost you dearly. Getting the right information at the right time is crucial. Find out how you can integrate your CAD and PLM systems with Engineering Change Management (ECM) Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and Analytics for ECM.
In this recorded 30-minute webinar, To-Increase and Encore talk about:
- An overview of the CAD/PLM Integration Solution
- The principles of integration, framework, and functional flow
- How to create complex integrations with top CAD and PLM systems and simple integrations with Microsoft Excel
- Dos and Don’ts of the integration
Note: Even though most customers, commentators, and consultants still call it Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations or D365FO, Microsoft now technically licenses it as Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management.
Ziad: Hello and welcome everyone to our series, our next series. This is our second webinar of the series for our strategic partnership with To-Increase. Today’s webinar is going to be about how we can use supply chain and integrate that with Dynamics 365 F&O to create integrations of the CAD and PLM systems. My name is Ziad Paracha, and I am the partner alliances manager here at Encore, and today we’ve got a fairly sizable team both from Encore and To-Increase to present this webinar for us. Eric, next slide, please.
I’ll hand it off to Alfred here to do a quick introduction as well, but, like I said, I’ve been with Encore for five years now working on the partner channel. We’ve done immense amount of, you know, partner webinars and so on. We’ll do a little bit of housekeeping rules here as well. So, we will give a recording, I share the recording of this webinar as well as a follow-up email as well as the slide deck. So, and if there are any questions that come up, feel free to pose those questions on the questions chat, and I will be monitoring that, and posing the questions near the end of our webinar series as well. Alfred, over to you buddy.
Alfred: Wonderful, thanks Ziad. Thanks everyone for joining. We are really happy to be here with our partner To-Increase. This is the second webinar, as a series of webinars that we are doing, so we are really glad that you’re able to join us. I am Alfred Selvarajah. I’m an account executive on the Encore sales team, and have been within the Dynamics space for close to about 12 years now, helping customers select, evaluate a number of different Microsoft-based technologies. We’re really proud to be here, given our expertise in the PLM space, so we’re really excited to share some of our specialized knowledge and insights today. Thanks. I will allow Jim to do a quick intro.
Jim: Hi, Jim Schwab with To-Increase. I am an account executive handling our Dynamics F&O, ISV sales in the U.S. Good to be with you today.
Alfred: Wonderful. Let me ask Mike Lamb to do a quick intro.
Mike: Yes. Yeah, I’m Mike Lamb, the practice lead for D365 business applications here at Encore. So, I oversee the finance supply chain, and also the customer engagement teams here at Encore, which includes the customer service, sales, marketing, and field service, also on the delivery of those. And I’ve been with Encore about six years now, and then previously with another partner for another five years prior to that, that Encore bought out previously. We’re excited to partner up with To-Increase today on this webinar for PLM integration. Thank you.
Alfred: Wonderful. Thanks, Mike. Eric?
Eric: Yeah, my name is Eric Van Hofwegen. I’m with To-Increase. I’ve been at To-Increase 17 years. I’m a solution consultant there. I give the demonstrations, of course, but also help partners in more architect way of thinking, and also customers in that area as well. So, I give them the best possible solution. That’s me.
Alfred: Wonderful. Eric, if you can help move to the next slide. We’ll go through the agenda really quickly, so that we have a clear understanding of what we are going to cover. So, as I had mentioned, this is the second webinar out of a series of webinars that we have organized. In case you missed the first webinar, we’ll paste the link for you in the chat section that you can take a look at. The gist of what we’ve prepared for you today is the first webinar was generally a conceptual overview of the PLM integration, and how it works with your PLM systems, as well as finance and operations of finance and supply chain as it’s called now. Today will really be a deep dive, and we will cover the details of how that integration happens through various PLM systems, as well as different file types.
So, really the essence of today’s session is to go a little bit deeper into how that works, and as part of our experience of having done this for many, many years, we also want to share some best practices by way of dos and don’ts that we’ve seen through, you know, different projects that we’ve done. So, we’d love to cover that as well. We want to start off with a really quick introduction with the respective organizations that are here today. So, Encore Business Solutions we’ve been in the Dynamics or Microsoft space now close to about 32 years. We are a systems integrator, and so, we implement a number of different Microsoft Dynamics-based solutions whether it’s Business Central, but we’re talking about finance and supply chain today. We do a number of things around the power platform as well as the customer engagement stack. And, you know, one of our key specialties is really bringing that cross-platform capabilities, which customers tend to enjoy. We’re 100% North American based, so we do a lot of work in Canada as well as the U.S. So, I want to keep the introduction short, and have Jim do a quick introduction of To-Increase, and then we’ll go from there.
Jim: Thanks, Alfred. So, To-Increase, all we do is make add-on solutions for Microsoft ERP. These days, of course, Dynamics, D365 F&O, we know how to get data into F&O, take data out of F&O. We really specialize in integrations, and of course, here today we’re talking about PLM integration, and many other solutions for EDI data quality as well. But and we’ve been doing that for 18-plus years, many hundreds of customers across the globe.
Next slide, Eric. So, from our first webinar, this is, series, this is our second one. We did talk about our out-of-box solution that we have. We’ve done so many PLM integrations that we’ve developed templates for Siemens Teamcenter, PTC Windchill, and 3DX Dassault, and we can configure integrations for really any PLM or CAD system. And looking forward to talking through those today. Slide. So, a lot of reasons to connect engineering in your organization to finance and operations, so mainly it creates automation. It reduces manual true-up of data between the systems. It improves quality and speed to market, collaboration across departments. You want your engineers working in the engineering solution that they understand, and you want your finance operations manufacturing supply chain folks working in F&O. And that’s where you get the efficiencies when the two systems are talking seamlessly to each other, and yet, but you have to have partners that know your business, know your business processes in order to implement those, and Encore does that for us.
Next slide, please. So, like I said, we have done this for over 18 years. We’re very deeply embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem. We have many referral customers, and many other solutions that we have in the marketplace, and we can, you know, just kind of move on to the next slide unless, Eric, you have anything to add here?
Eric: Well, this is about, actually, we had, you see the engineering change management module here that was Muhammed is referring to. That is one of our products that we had for 2012, and it was called product engineering. And we upgraded to Dynamics 365, and at a certain moment Microsoft this, said, “Okay, this is a really good product. We want to move it into the standard,” and that was happened, and now engineering change management is part of standard Dynamics 365.
Jim: Yeah. So, we have a very deep understanding of how to turn that on, turn that module on and F&O, configure it to receive the PLM data.
Eric: Yep, exactly. So, and then the next slide is about the overview that I’ve done in the other webinar, webinar number one. Again, Alfred mentioned it in the agenda. There’s the link that you can view as well what was demonstrated there how actually an [inaudible 00:09:14] took place, and if you look at it in a schema or a process, it will look something like this where, and that’s what we’re also doing is we, a PLM system or an engineer actually is finishing designing the product, and at a certain moment, at the end of the workflow, it’ll be then sent out to, yeah, as in file. It could be XML, it could be Excel like Alfred said. It’ll be sent out and made available for other system to pick up, and that is something that we are using. We will pick up that file, and like demonstrated before I will import it into staging area, and then it’ll be part of Dynamics 365. And that is the process that’s of course handled, and implemented the moment you will start using the solution. And how that’s set up, I will go into more details today.
The data that we’re sharing is the following. We have on the left side again, the PLM system could be all kinds of different ones, as Jim mentioned earlier, and that data that we can share, or can be shared is the following, and that can be then imported nicely into Dynamics 365. And the latest release also gives you the ability to import a process plan and in Dynamics 365, you call that [SP] a routing. So, that is also now available. And what was imported there, and how’s that handled is, yeah, the following, and I will give you a few, just to highlight what it looked like, that previous demo in webinar one. We are here in a staging area, and in that staging area, we would receive a file, and that file shows a lot of lines in the bill of material, and then also certain category types, that’s of course the engineering change management module.
And these then when would be posted with after some validation, and the result would be that the release products are here now present in Dynamics 365. That is typically what you see. Also in the integration, a user will not see a lot if an integration is working. It’s simply coming in, and of course, the user can be notified of new products or engineering change orders are being imported in the system. Now, the following step, let me explain a little bit to you how that is set up, and how that will work, and that is something that the principles of the integration, and how the framework is working. Mentioned before, we make use of engineering change management with all these different functions. And like Jim mentioned, if you wanna know more, we know a lot about it since we were actually a long time ago the builder and inventor of the solution.
Now, when we do an import, we do that through the framework, and that framework is highly configurable. So, you can configure certain areas of what is a setup, are the translations needed, things like that, and that is in our PLM framework. That framework is not only an integration tool picking up a file, no, it’s also some setup that is in Dynamics 365. And last sentence, very important, I highlighted it in webinar one as well. We can import products, but we can also import the reference, and the change already itself. So, somebody in production has an idea of what was changed in this new version, or maybe this new delivery of a product. That is something that you can see as well. The process itself will again look like this. We get a file, we move it into our framework, the framework, and then engineering change management will give us a lot of enriched data, so default data. Now, let me take you in the system on how this setup works, and how is the framework working actually. So, and this is my small demo of that. So, I will navigate to a different [inaudible 00:13:31] page, and I will then highlight the PLM system, which is part of the framework.
So, this is the systems that we’re using. This is my demonstration system, but you already see Windchill named. You see Teamcenter [inaudible 00:13:54] for the users that are using Teamcenter. They will recognize this, but PTC Windchill, Teamcenter, and other possibilities here as well. One of them is also a generic one. It’s called ECM PLM. That’s a more generic one, which we can utilize to connect all kinds of different PLM systems, maybe agile, maybe others. And that is something that we can do. We can also set up then more information in that framework in the system. We can, if needed, and if I scroll down a little bit, we can map attributes. So, we can have attribute values that are important or, yeah, this, the product information inside Dynamics 365, we can store that, and we can pick it up from the interface.
There are customers, I’ve talked to customers and they said, “Okay, typically we do about 5 to 10 attributes per product, per import. That is simply typically what we do.” You, of course, know in engineering change management you can also search based on attribute values to find a correct product. If you scroll down a little bit lower, then you see the possibility of mapping attribute values to actual field values in Dynamic 365. Can also be quite important this case is depth, but you can do width, length, and other fields. You can give them a value coming from the PLM system. Scrolling down a little bit more is the following around the state. If you are on a state, as you see here now, that what you have in the system, also in engineering change management, you can have a certain lifecycle status. In this case, it’s operational.
That means I can or I can’t do certain transactions with the solution. But probably the state itself is different or named different in the PLM system. So, what we need to do is also do a transformation setup that we say at the moment, the state comes in, and it’s released, then it should be the operational state in Dynamics 365, and that’s something that the [inaudible 00:16:03] we do here as a transformation.
Eric: And all the way in the bottom, we need to make sure what the correct engineering product category detail is. An engineering category deal in change management can help you with what attributes are available, what is the readiness checks that need to be done, for instance, that the user need to come in and check prices, and also based on the categories, what template product will I use during the import of this product. So, what default information will be set up? This can be based on, again, attribute values that come from the PLM system. In this case, if the product type is distinct, then I’m using this category. If the product type is variant, then I want to use another probably category. And these are more generic terms, but it could of course be that you say, I’m selling pumps or junction boxes or generators. And then if the product type have a certain code for a generator, then you have, of course, engineering product category detail for the generator. And of course, we can also work with the different variants. In this case, it’s a configuration, but we can also [inaudible 00:01:08] the colors [SP], the styles, or the product dimensions that you have inside Dynamics 365.
So, this is part of the setup. And this setup, this system is also connected to something that’s called a Project. And talking about the project, that’s something that I want to use as a next topic. So, I will go back to my slides, and then in my slides, I want to explain you something because also the title says, how can we create those integrations with all kinds of different file types and make it simple? Because XML looks a little bit different than Microsoft Excel, right? So, how can we do that? And the integration engine that we’re using is called Connectivity Studio. And all integrations are based on certain setup, and this is that setup. In the integration, we have a Connector and a Document. In the Connector, I will describe, okay, where do I get the file from? And typically what you see in our implementations, that the PLM system, after the workflow is done, the engineer’s ready, it’ll deliver the file into a certain folder. And the connector then, in that case, points to that folder, and takes a look at if there’s a file available. And of course, if you run an automated run, it’ll pick up the file, and put that into Dynamics 365. So, that is something that you set up where to look.
Then in the Document, I describe what is the file type. Could be XML, could be Excel, and others. And let me show you that in a moment. And then of course, in the Target, that would be Dynamics 365. You can decide what will be my engineering company, or which company will I release to. That’s also a connector, and also the structure, how you want to set it up. This structure, of course, is pre-built already in messages that we have, but if you want to do changes, let me show you in that message how easy a change can be done. And that is something that for my next part of the demonstration. So, let me switch back to Dynamics 365. And I highlighted already that project here. It says Demo ECMPLM project.
So, if I go to another dashboard or another tab, then you see here the Business Integration Design dashboard. And in this dashboard, in the left top corner, you will see that now there’s a project, and that’s a demo project, and in that project, I will see something called a message. In that message, has that all that mapping. Remember, source connector, source document, and target [inaudible 00:03:44], target documents. If I take a look here, on the details of that message, it’ll show you in a moment. Yep, it’ll show you an entire mapping. So here, you see a fully configurable integration. And I can quite easily make changes if I want. If I want to select something else for a file name field, then I can select here, and I can choose, for instance, for my list. So, if you want to have other information coming from the PLM system, you want to store that somewhere, it is, yeah, file configuration. You don’t need a developer at that time, you can do it this way, and you can just configure that yourself, or have a partner do that for you.
The document, it says, “This is my source document XML.” If I take a look here, to that document, it describes… Takes a moment. Now you see it. It’ll describe the structure of the XML file as you see here. So, in my record, in the top note, you will see these are the fields available in that note. If there are other fields, for instance, on the Item note, then you see other fields. If your XML, of course, is a little bit different, that coming from the system, we can still change it quite quickly because if it’s now Item, I can also make it into Item ID or something, or another name. That is something that you can do. And again, fully configurable. If, however, you don’t have an XML file, what can you do then? Well, then the document type needs to be changed, and that is something that you will see here. You have print document types available, and that would be XML, that could be Excel, that could be a fixed text, separated list. You saw also the integration engine is used for other functionality, but if you focus on PLM, the common parts we will see a fixed X, Excel, XML, and sometimes we can also use JSON, so, a web service.
So, there are different parts. And the only thing, actually, what you need to do is change the document up in its slice because there’s also an its slice field. In its slice, the fields and the records that are in the document, and then of course, map it in the message to the correct endpoint or the target. So, that’s how it’s…can be easily configured. Let me now get to my demo slide again. Here we go. And what’s next actually is some experience that you want to share with you, with the do’s and don’ts. And I will give to Mike to… Mike, now…
Mike: Great. Thank you, Eric.
Eric: You’re welcome.
Mike: And if we could go to the next slide in there.
Eric: Oh, [crosstalk 00:06:52]
Mike: Do’s and don’ts.
Eric: Yeah, it’s coming. I [inaudible 00:06:56]
Mike: All right.
Eric: Absolutely. Yep, here we go.
Mike: Through working with our customers in a lot of manufacturing production arena, we’ve had a lot of lessons learned along the way. Customers have had run into various scenarios, and with their, you know, finance supply chain, and then a CAD system, and it sounds easy and harmless enough, but it is a big deal. Very important the CAD systems hold all the PLM information, and getting that in the ERP side of the house. Finance supply chain management is very critical. We have all the product info, the bomb details all that stuff for the manufacturing process, and it is a large animal. So, on the do’s, best practice for PLM integration is really involving the SMEs early, and to capture all the requirements. And the SMEs, really in this case are not just the core, you know, accounting, finance, and supply chain folks, but also those that are using the CAD system, the engineering team, make sure they’re involved right from the beginning of your F&O deployment. That’s what success has looked like in the past, is having those folks, at least one of them on the team. Right from the analysis stage, they can have their input or see, you know, what their business process flow needs to be, and get the requirements down there early on in the system. So, it is truly integrated with that. Later on, we got to deploy it.
Analyze your product data for readiness for the integration. So, another thing is just the data quality, ensuring the information coming from your PLM system is, you know, of good quality, and preparing for that because it’s gonna need some good structure data coming over into F&O. And then also just going back to one of the, you know, training users on the benefits. So, that just goes back to having the engineering…some representation early on as they start seeing the benefits, and the entire team sees the overall efficiencies, automation. And you could see during Eric’s demo there, the company as a whole, one person may have a little extra work, but the entirety of the solution, you can gain economies of scale. And especially, a lot of our folks, the reason why they’re doing these types of projects with finance supply chain, integrating with their CAD system, PLM, is their business, you know, growth. Either their volumes is really high to start with, or most customers, you know, they’re in this growth phase right now, and really wanna double to do more without hiring 10 more resources along the way. So, it helps streamline that.
Some of the don’t is building it yourself. It sounds harmless enough that you could just build an integration between finance and supply chain in your CAD system, PLM system. We definitely recommend against that. This is a industry best practice pattern of using a pre-built integration. They’re already out there, they’re very complex. You could see what Eric was showing is, you know, all the product data, the [inaudible 00:10:33] materials, all those things, and then what happens when, you know, taking advantage of engineering change management, you know, the product changes along the way, and that always happens and releases, and factoring all that in there. It could become a very expensive and complicated endeavor if you try to build it on your own.
Ignoring a data migration. So, cleaning up your data, again, going back to… I can’t stress this enough about the data quality. You know, looking at the data coming from the PLM early on, and making sure it’s gonna map out, and it’s cleaned up instead of waiting till your leader of your ERP finance supply chain deployment. You don’t wanna get to UAT, and then figure out you gotta kind of data cleanup you need to do. And then also adding repeated customization. So, that again is capturing the requirements, the process with the engineering team in the early stages of the project when it’s getting kicked off in the analysis stage, not waiting till you’re down the road, F&O is well under its way, you’re good…or you have the solution pretty well defined, and then coming up with all these customizations. I mean, it’s very painful later on. So, it’s a lot better to get those upfront.
So, with that, I’ll hand it back over to Eric.
Eric: Well, I think we have some time for question and answers. We have two minutes left. So, actually, I want to ask Ziad, are there any questions?
Ziad: There is a question that came in regarding the PLM integration. They’re asking, can you do a PLM integration without actually doing the engineering change management piece?
Eric: I can take that definitely, for sure. We use the engineering change management piece for functionality and defaults. If you want to do an integration without engineering change manage, actually it’s best to use the Connectivity Studio module, that configure module that we have, and then we can definitely import products and build materials without the use of engineering change management.
Jim: But, Eric, you lose version control, correct?
Eric: You lose version control because that is not part of…that you don’t have that without engineering change management.
Mike: Typically, all of our customers would utilize engineering change management. That’s one of the core ones they actually want to, and then it drives the PLM integration discussion typically.
Ziad: Thank you, Eric and team. There’s another one that’s popped in here around why we should do the implementation out of the box versus the custom integration piece that’s there that you mentioned.
Eric: Jim, will you wanna take that one?
Jim: It broke up for me, sorry.
Ziad: Out of the box versus custom integration.
Jim: Oh, yeah. We talked about that a bit in the do’s and don’ts, but, you know, having an embedded solution from an ISB Microsoft community-approved vendor like us, we get, you know, the updates from Microsoft three or four weeks before, you know, the general market does. So, when you have our standard out-of-the-box implementation installed, we handle the upgrades for you. We test those. We have, you know, proven methodology, and along with Encore, our partners, deep knowledge in what to do with the data once it’s in F&O, so… And not to even mention the cost. Cost of initial build is at least 3x, and then maintenance over time as well. Risk of updates causing more maintenance and downtime. Those are things we find are, you know, the major points, and, you know, going with a standard solution versus manual.
Ziad: Thank you, Jim. I think we have one more question that’s coming here around our… It says, how long is a typical implementation? And what’s our estimation process or experience around the implementation cycle?
Jim: I can take that, too. Well, and Encore team, too, you know, there’s setting up and configuring the ECM module to receive the PLM data. There’s making sure that we get the output from the PLM system in the right XML format or Excel. Typically, we’re looking at around 150 hours. That could be over the course of two months or three months, depending on the availability of the end customer. So, that’s the short answer.
Ziad: And, Mike, can you take on maybe the Dynamics 365 implementation side of that question?
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, sure. Just an overview there, I think we have a slide on our implementation methodology. If we could bring that up real quick.
Eric: Definitely. Bear with me, I need to get the slide in.
Mike: Go for it. Yeah, so while we’re waiting…
Eric: Okay, here we go. Here we go.
Mike: All right, awesome. Thank you. So, we worked very closely with Microsoft FastTrack on larger enterprise projects with finance supply chain management. The customer already gets a FastTrack architect with pro-dedicated to the project, but we’ve adopted FastTrack’s, you know, best practice methodology success by design, and our methodology is really kind of this Agile, but waterfall to start with analysis. So, we kind of go through on the analysis side, capture the business, make sure we have the business process defined with the customer and requirements. So, the more the customer has that ready to go, that’s, you know, quicker the implementation, obviously, the project can go. So, a customer already has really good, well-defined business processes across the board, and requirements capture those.
And then from there, we’ll develop our estimate for actual deployment solution modeling in GoLive there, and give the customer a really good accurate timeline of what it’ll take to deploy the solution, including any third-party products, something, like To-Increase, the PLM integration, factoring right in there. And then from there on solution modeling…or run basically in kind of a sprint Agile methodology, and continuous working with the subject matter experts on everything from teaching ’em how to, you know, work with the system, training ’em, ensuring the process requirements, any gaps run across there, mitigating those gaps with the customer, and then enrolling into UAT, and then deployment in GoLive.
So, as far as timeline goes, a typical project could run anywhere from a year from a full net-new finance supply chain deployment with To-Increase PLM CAD integration, farther out just depending on the customer’s timeline. Oftentimes, customers have other projects, other priorities. It really depends on if the customer, you have your resources, subject matter experts backfilled. If they could become, you know, 100% available for this project, then the timeline shrinks up. If they can’t, which is normally because everybody needs to run their business, right? So, then the timeline will adjust accordingly to work with the customer on the project.
Ziad: Thank you. That’s all the questions that I see in the chat now, but if there are any questions that you guys have, feel free to reach out to us. I know we’ve got… You know, you’ll have contact information from all of us on the call here today, so feel free to reach out. And again, thank you very much for the presenters and the audience, and everyone that attend today. You will get a recording of this as I mentioned earlier, as well as the SlideShare as well. So, stay connected, and looking forward for you guys joining our next webinar in this series as well.
Alfred: Thank you.
Mike: Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate you [inaudible 00:19:46].
Ziad: Thanks, everyone.
"We met our three project goals of 100% completion of critical business requirements at Go Live, completed with 90% Best Practices or better, and GO Live done in a timely manner."