Many hardware product companies depend on enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to help with project management, procurement, accounting, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

While ERP software provides all necessary features and functionality for manufacturing, a complementary product lifecycle management software (PLM) is critical to feed accurate product data to ERP. When ERP is connected with an integrated PLM tool, overall functionality is enhanced. Product development becomes more streamlined and business processes become more accurate.

In this article, we’ll show you five of the best PLM software options for one of the biggest cloud ERP platforms on the market: NetSuite.

What does product lifecycle management software do?

PLM helps companies manage the journey a new product takes from idea to development, release to manufacturing, on to the market and eventually into retirement. It provides a centralized place to store and update your Bill of Materials (BOM), sourcing data and design revisions and to streamline your change order approvals process. It’s critical in driving true business transformation, acting as the central data store where teams can manage their product development data.

PLM should be paired with an ERP platform, like NetSuite, to ensure accurate product information is transferred from engineering to manufacturing and procurement teams. Inaccurate product information in the ERP can lead to the risk of introducing mistakes or ordering the wrong parts, which can be costly.

Duro is an award-winning cloud-native Product Lifecycle Management platform that empowers engineers to get to production at the lowest cost and highest efficiency. Schedule a demo to see how Duro can help your team.

Essential PLM capabilities required to connect with NetSuite ERP

When you need to connect your PLM solution with an ERP system like NetSuite, there are certain capabilities that you should look for to enable a continuous digital bridge between the two systems, including:

Robust CAD integration(s)

Product design data needs to be accurately transferred from the computer-aided design (CAD) software (like SolidWorks, Onshape or Altium) to PLM prior to any ERP integration.

A PLM tool allows you to centralize designs from numerous CAD tools and manage design revisions. To preserve the original engineering product design integrity, CAD files combined with sourced content and their metadata, must be mapped to the appropriate fields in the ERP system via a PLM platform. The ERP solution inherits this whole-product information from the PLM platform to enable accurate purchasing of components and manufacturing.

Bill of materials (BOM) management

Another important feature to have in your PLM before integrating with NetSuite is Bill of Materials management. This refers to the list of raw materials and components required to manufacture a product. Your PLM should automatically generate and assign part numbers when BOM components are created. An accurate BOM is important for procurement to begin materials planning and inventory flow. Connecting PLM to ERP allows users to view exactly what’s needed to create a product and review profitability of each design.

Change management

Change management is the process of evaluating whether a change should or could be made, agreeing upon the change, and disseminating details of the change to all impacted stakeholders.

It’s through the change management process that the interface between PLM and ERP exists in most cases. The right PLM system will have a change management workflow that is simple, adaptable and configurable. This makes it easy for stakeholders to see what’s changed between revisions, and obtain approval from external team members. With these attributes, the change management system will experience wide adoption within the organization leading to constant alignment of design revisions and inter-team communication through the PLM and ERP systems.

Lifecycle status management

It’s also important to synchronize the status of each product across your PLM and ERP systems. Whether a product is in design, prototype, production, or is obsolete will impact component purchasing decisions and manufacturing timelines. Connecting your PLM to ERP will enable everyone to have the same information and ensure components are only purchased when needed.

Why connect your PLM to ERP?

Connecting a PLM solution to an ERP system ensures engineering, procurement and manufacturing departments remain in harmony. PLM solutions manage the engineering product design record, whereas ERP systems manage manufacturing tasks and resource planning.

When you connect the two systems, the engineering BOM (eBOM) is transferred to the ERP system to create a manufacturing BOM (mBOM). This incorporates work instructions with details about people, equipment, and timelines.

Without an accurate and up-to-date product record from the engineering team, there’s a risk of mistakes and product failures later on. Choosing the right PLM system to integrate with NetSuite is very important in ensuring data is transferred quickly and accurately to manufacturing.

Recommended solutions:

1) Duro

Duro is a cloud-native PLM solution that incorporates automated processes and out-of-the-box workflows for change orders. It gives hardware engineers real-time data enabling them to make timely design decisions and get products to market faster. Key features include:

  • Integrations to leading CAD tools (OnShape, SolidWorks and Altium)
  • Off-the-shelf integrations to parts distributors
  • BOM management and cost roll-ups
  • Streamlined change management processes

Because of its out-of-the-box functionality and pre-built workflows, expensive customization is unnecessary to implement Duro. Engineering teams can rely upon Duro’s embedded industry best practices and are typically up and running in less than a day.

Additionally, Duro integrates with NetSuite in minutes — without the need for any developers or consultants. You can transfer all product BOM and design changes to NetSuite upon executing an approved change order in Duro. All supporting component metadata from Duro is mapped directly into NetSuite ERP.

NetSuite users are typically procurement, production, financial analysts and program managers, while the primary users of Duro PLM are engineers. The tight coupling of Duro and NetSuite creates a closed-loop for alignment and feedback.

Benefits of the Duro NetSuite integration

Duro and NetSuite are both cloud-native solutions. This means that the User Experience (UX) is intuitive and familiar. Mapping data tables between systems is easier, allowing data from Duro to easily be synchronized with NetSuite. Without the need for lengthy integrations, the IT overhead is small, and the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the platforms is much lower.

With Duro, NetSuite users have access to engineering data early providing insights into product development status. The partnership helps connect the worlds of engineering and manufacturing.

Learn more about Duro plans and pricing here.

2) OpenBOM

OpenBOM is a BOM management tool that helps hardware organizations to manage their engineering BOMs. It offers workgroup collaboration and Product Data Management capabilities to track components, eBOMs, and associated documents.

Benefits of the OpenBOM NetSuite integration

OpenBOM enables the transfer of eBOM data into NetSuite using NetSuite’s API to map data into fields in NetSuite. There are a few manual steps to do this, but once in NetSuite, multi-level structured eBOM data containing component numbers, documents, images and attachments, can be enriched for manufacturing purposes and synchronized with NetSuite.

3) Arena PLM

Arena PLM is a legacy first-generation cloud tool which usually requires significant customization to automate design processes specifically for each customer. It has many features to support customization, which can help companies that are high volume manufacturers of mechatronics and hardware products. However, the user experience is dated and the platform is not as intuitive as some of the newer PLM options.

Benefits of the Arena PLM NetSuite integration

Arena PLM is suitable for NetSuite customers with large and diverse product portfolios that require customization. The integration allows you to automatically transfer product data to NetSuite whenever an engineering change order (ECO) is triggered in Arena.

4) Oracle Agile PLM

Oracle Agile PLM helps you track complex product information as well as product cost and profitability throughout its lifecycle. Oracle entered the PLM industry in 2007 by acquiring two commercial PLM systems. However, Oracle hasn’t invested adequately to maintain parity with leading PLM solutions available today. Oracle has indicated that as of May 2023, Oracle Agile PLM releases will no longer be fully supported.

Benefits of the Oracle Agile PLM NetSuite integration

Oracle Agile PLM and NetSuite are both Oracle applications, so they integrate easily to transfer information between Engineering and Manufacturing. Oracle’s PLM solution is the best fit for large enterprise manufacturers that have bought into Oracle’s suite of enterprise business solutions.

5) Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain

Autodesk acquired Upchain PLM in 2021, and has since repositioned the platform as primarily a PDM solution. Now called Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain (360 Manage), the platform is best suited for mechanical engineering processes — including managing design revisions and BOMs. Autodesk is well known for its CAD tools and, naturally, integrations between Autodesk CAD and 360 Manage are comprehensive. However, because the platform was engineered for enterprise PLM prior to the acquisition, its UX has not been updated and can seem unnecessarily complex.

Benefits of the Autodesk NetSuite integration

Autodesk has steadily transitioned its CAD customers from perpetual licensing to cloud, making a natural synergy with NetSuite. Product design data, items, documents and engineering BOMs are released from 360 Manage into NetSuite to create Manufacturing BOMs. Demand forecasting data in NetSuite may be updated into 360 Manage to ensure a closed-loop between design and procurement teams.

Integrate Duro with NetSuite swiftly and seamlessly

Enhancing NetSuite ERP with data directly from a PLM platform brings greater access to engineering product information. This benefit acts as a “heads up” to allow manufacturing and procurement teams to start focusing on long lead-time items before the product design is finished.

When PLM and ERP are seamlessly and digitally coupled, process errors are reduced because the connections — all being digital — are repeatable, more reliable, and faster than the manual processes they replace.

To learn more about Duro’s integration to NetSuite, visit our website and discover all the possibilities that Duro PLM can offer.