Products do belong in an ERP system. Or do they?
If you ask a given business where their products live, "in the ERP system" will often be the response. In many cases this makes sense, but for many companies, there is an advantage to a sandbox, where they can care for their products until they are mature enough to move into the ERP system.
That sandbox is a PIM system designed to handle all types of product information. The reason for letting the product life cycle start here is that it helps keep the ERP system as simple as possible.
Start the product life cycle in PIM
This applies to wholesalers, for example. Wholesalers often have a very large number of products in their catalogues, but not all products actually end up being sold to customers. It is therefore unnecessarily cumbersome to create products in an ERP system before there is a customer to buy it, and the product has to be be handled by someone other than marketing.
When a PIM system is used as a sandbox, the entire product array can reside there until a given product is sold and can then be transferred to the ERP system.
Other businesses might need a sandbox where it is possible to work with products and enrich them with data early in their life cycle before they are ready to be put into the ERP system. In this way, you avoid “contaminating" the ERP system with unfinished products.
Tight integration means more options
All of the above argues in favor of tight PIM/ERP integration. All PIM systems naturally integrate with ERP systems, but there are differences in how they do so. In some cases, there is only data exchange from ERP to PIM, while others offer closer integration and data exchange in both directions between the two systems.
Close integration provides a range of possibilities; you must assess whether you will get value from them.
- Should ERP data – e.g., prices and inventory status – be visible in PIM?
- Do you need to be able to maintain PIM data in ERP without opening PIM?
- Do you need to generate data sheets, etc. in ERP?
In any case, one thing is for sure. The more of the above questions you can answer yes to, the closer integration you need between PIM and ERP.
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Integration into ERP is just one of the things you have to take into account to find the best way to manage product data.
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