Typical links between PLM and ERP match articles, parts lists and associated documents between the two systems. This is usually done by automatic background processes. But what if a designer wants to know, for example, the stock, price or procurement time for an article?
Our standard interfaces (e.g. for SAP) have long offered the option of retrieving specific data - either directly via an integrated web interface of the respective system into a CONTACT Elements solution such as CIM Database PLM or via an appropriately defined search mask.
This provides product developers with the basic information they need for their tasks - but that alone is no longer enough today.
Information on your fingertips
Digital transformation and networking is changing the way people work together. Interdisciplinary teams become the rule, responsibilities are increasingly delegated and distributed globally. In addition, new methods such as model-based systems engineering or agile proceedings are finding their way into product development.
Added to this is the development of new business models via the Internet of Things (IoT), for which - as in the case of predictive maintenance, for example - data from the ERP is also required, which may have to be restored in an updated form.
Users from development, production, sales or service need more and more information from more and more sources in all phases of product development and usage. Against this background, we have further developed CONTACT Catalyst: a flexibly configurable interface for CONTACT Elements based on modern web services, which now provides data from other enterprise applications simply, quickly and securely in addition to PLM/ERP synchronization. A big advantage for users: Instead of having to operate different IT systems, a single interface - here the web UI from the CONTACT Elements Design System - is available for direct online use of data from different sources.
For example, in the course of a technical change, a designer must first find out which plants manufacture the component concerned. Depending on the location, certain individual parts come from different suppliers. The designer is therefore faced with the task of comparing the plant-specific production BOMs and assessing whether the planned change may have consequences for procurement. Data of particular interest here are the list of production plants, their respective production parts lists, the suppliers for each item, the variants, the delivery times and prices, and, if applicable, the list of production lines in each plant.
A second example is an IoT scenario around the digital twin: The virtual counterpart of the physical product represents the current configuration of a running system, while a continuous evaluation of sensor data provides information about its status. This means that the need for spare parts, software updates or other maintenance measures can be identified at an early stage and can be planned in advance with appropriate information from the ERP system.
Catalyst: Universal services in CONTACT Elements
Catalyst combines those technologies from CONTACT Elements that simply connect our solutions with other enterprise applications. At its core are programming interfaces (APIs) that comply with the REST architecture principles for distributed systems and web services. By using a stateless protocol and standard operations, REST systems aim for fast performance and reliability.
Catalyst, combined with our open technology platform, provides interoperability and better user experience. With the new version CONTACT Elements 15.3 we have extended the Catalyst interface so that different scenarios can be realized very easily and flexibly via synchronized and external classes.
Synchronized classes serve the PLM/ERP standard scenario: They ensure that previously defined data objects in both systems are automatically adjusted. The external classes, on the other hand, refer to data in linked systems only accessed via configured navigation paths. With this new concept, the classes with their attributes and relationship structures can be modeled exactly as required by the professional users.
The starting point for a configuration are always anchor objects that exist both in CONTACT Elements and in the linked system. In the next step follows the relationship definition to an external class, for example a maintenance task with a digital twin as an anchor object. Associated data such as the order structure with documents can then be determined and retrieved from this data. Such associated objects can in turn serve as anchor objects. This enables the configuration of navigation paths of any size into the data structures of linked systems.
In the case of the change construction outlined above, such a relationship is defined to model navigation from a material master to its production plants. This relationship class may also contain the attributes material number and plant number. Users can display the plant numbers assigned to an article from the ERP via Catalyst. Finally, descriptive attributes for a plant (such as its location) can be modeled.
The following screen shots show the advantages of this solution with CONTACT Elements 3D Connect. The 3D model of an assembly allows designers to select components intuitively. This is particularly helpful in complex assemblies. After selecting a component, the user is shown all the required information step by step: