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If you’re like most manufacturers, you’re probably looking for ways to digitally transform your business. After all, the industrial sector is one of the last bastions of manual labor in an increasingly automated world. But where do you start? And more importantly, how can you be sure that any new…

190733739 s

If you’re like most manufacturers, you’re probably looking for ways to digitally transform your business. After all, the industrial sector is one of the last bastions of manual labor in an increasingly automated world. But where do you start? And more importantly, how can you be sure that any new technology initiatives will actually generate results?

A recent “new word” is iPaaS, as you can guess, stands for “integration Platform as a Service. It promises a lot of good things, such as allowing businesses to quickly connect disparate systems and applications together, leading to a more efficient and streamlined operation. Altogether it can take manufacturing companies to the next level and achieve a future state of the connected system.

My attention was caught by Lionell Grealou’s articles about iPaaS published at Engineering.com. Here are two links. Check them out.

Building Digital Threads with Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)

iPaaS Can Democratize PLM-ERP Integration and Business Analytics

It stays 10 benefits of iPaaS, but most of them can be easily applied to any integration platform or solution – integration stability, low-code/no-code, connecting modern platform and legacy sources, shift from p2p to service-based, integrated IT infrastructure, data connectivity reduction the need in hard to hire skills and even magic AI/MI promise to interpreter data through the transformation.

I agree with Lionel’s statement:

Having said that, iPaaS is for sure no silver bullet when it comes to making integration simpler and easier to maintain. Nevertheless, it provides opportunities for greater control and rationalization—pending a clear and consistent enterprise architecture coordination and governance between user-driven RPAs and enterprise-level platform integrations.

… and finally, the concluding passage:

Finally, enterprise platform vendors (PLM, ERP, MES, CRM, and more) can use iPaaS approaches as a positive selling point when positioning their competitive advantage to prospects. It is important for them to align to third-party iPaaS solutions and standards, making the necessary APIs available in the relevant format for effective integration (e.g., REST APIs, GraphQL, etc.). Software editors can also drive new opportunities in making their legacy applications compatible with such API advances to facilitate backward and upward integration, as well as enabling seamless data coexistence towards cloud-based platforms and building compelling digital threads.

As you can see in the article and Gartner MQ for iPaaS, many vendors there are “old new” names. If you’re in the integration and PLM business, you have probably heard about them once or twice.

Nevertheless, the article made me think about what iPaaS platforms can bring to the table that will make integrations different from everything we’ve seen before for the last 2-3 decades of integration technological innovation, starting from EAI tools, integration service buses, and other integration brokers.

Here are some of my thoughts that hopefully will help you identify the right platform for your future PLM integration projects.

Integration Abstraction Level

Integration is, first of all, ready-to-be-used connectivity with the systems you need to work with and specific business processes. While anyone can build integrations, supporting some business logic out of the box can make it really different. It is a combination of data models, API end-points, and templates that make it work seamlessly with many systems. Imagine your need to integrate with a financial platform. My hunch is that a scenario to connect between PLM system downstream to the financial system can be described in some formal way that can be reused no matter what PLM or ERP system you use. Such “templates” can be very helpful in tuning future integration platforms.

Flexible Data Models and Business Objects

Complex business processes in product lifecycle management, enterprise resource planning systems, and supply chain management requires data modeling that goes beyond passing a single value from one system to another. As a result, data needs to match business processes in existing ERP systems, product data management, and other systems. Integration flows are a complex process that requires matching data models to reflect business processes. Modern data management technologies provide a variety of mechanisms to model data, and having them at your fingertips is extremely important to make integration successful.

AI/ML and Self-Learning Capabilities

Data and integrations are very complex businesses. Therefore, suggesting how to recognize data and integration patterns can be a magic silver bullet to help develop integration processes much faster. iPaaS platforms potentially have access to the data that companies are holding in many legacy databases and enterprise systems, including SaaS solutions. Although it sounds like a dream, iPaaS can offer some data rationalization and gleaning of intelligence from existing data silos and integration processes. I like the idea of plug-in systems and letting iPaaS do a job. Sounds like a dream? But our navigation devices are capable to learn our driving habits. Why can iPaaS platforms not do the same after integrating hundreds and thousands of PLM and ERP systems together?

What Is My Conclusion?

Integration is a complex business process. It was the same 20 years ago when I started to work with EAI platforms such as BizTalk and IBM WBI, and it remains the same now with modern iPaaS solutions. What makes a difference is related to three main things: (1) speed to build integration solutions, (2) data intelligence, and (3) ability to connect to systems we need to integrate right away. So, follow these three principles when choosing your iPaaS for future integration between PLM and ERP systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Source: https://beyondplm.com/

Disclaimer: I am the author at PLM ECOSYSTEM, focusing on developing digital-thread platforms with capabilities across CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, ERP, and IT systems to manage the product data lifecycle and connect various industry networks. My opinions may be biased. Articles and thoughts on PLMES represent solely the author's views and not necessarily those of the company. Reviews and mentions do not imply endorsement or recommendations for purchase.

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