Product Lifecycle Management Blogs by SAP
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In my previous blog (Blog 1), I gave you some background information on 3D Printing and that it can transform the operational processes of organizations with logistics supply chains – from planning, to contracting and sourcing decisions, to vendor collaboration, inventories, and manufacturing. So, let’s look at which areas of an ERP are typically impacted. These areas include master data as well as bills of materials, product lifecycle management and product data management, which I’m writing about in this blog, as well as procurement, and material requirements planning, which I’m writing about in my third blog, together with some other considerations.


Not every type of material should be printed, and there are reasons for this. Lack of agreement with spare parts vendors who own the intellectual property, lack of product quality that can be achieved, lack of a business case, or complexity might prevent an organization from printing certain parts.

The material master record must identify which parts can be printed, should be printed, and must not be printed. It is also necessary to establish a separate material master record for the printed version when core characteristics differentiate the printed part from the original part provided by the OEM or vendor. This material master record should be linked to the original part. As this process matures, at least one bill of materials must exist that identifies the raw materials and quantities needed to print the part.

Other master data to be maintained relates to the intellectual property and licenses from the OEM to print certain parts. Quantity could possibly be specified as well as royalties to be paid to the OEM if the part gets printed.

Serialization of parts produced by 3D printers and tracking the number of parts printed under a license agreement with the OEM can be handled by a blockchain solution. Blockchain provides a way to ensure traceability and auditability and provides a layer of trust. Unique QR codes can also be printed on these parts. The SAP® Leonardo portfolio and the SAP Distributed Manufacturing application support both blockchain and licensing requirements. In my fourth blog, I’ll be writing a bit more about the Blockchain.


3D printing relies on digital source data that comes either from an electronic data source or a 3D model. If not externally acquired from the OEM, the data can be gathered internally through a 3D scanner or a manual drawing. To avoid reinventing the wheel, save time, and conserve raw materials, it is essential to manage and provide digital source data. A product lifecycle management (PLM) and product data management (PDM) solution can provide these features and integrate them with the ERP system(s). It would also allow better integration of the ERP system(s) with OEMs if the organization relies on larger amounts of data from OEMs. Implementation of a distributed manufacturing solution would also be worth consideration.

The SAP Product Lifecycle Management (SAP PLM) application provides 360-degree support for all product-related processes. It covers the entire range of activities, from initial product idea to manufacturing and product services. SAP PLM is part of SAP Business Suite software, which gives organizations the unique ability to perform their essential

business processes supported by modular software designed to work with both SAP and non-SAP software. When moved to SAP S/4HANA®, SAP PLM and the SAP ERP application use the same database and share the same data model to tighten integration and reduce costs.

In this context, collaboration with vendors and partners (for example, printer companies), feasibility and viability assessments of the printing of certain parts, the handling of intellectual property, and analytics must all be considered. SAP Distributed Manufacturing covers the key requirements. It is integrated with SAP ERP as well as with SAP S/4HANA. It has an open API to PLM software both from SAP and third parties (for example, PTC Windchill software from PTC). SAP Distributed Manufacturing offers a secure platform for collaboration with third parties. In addition, it handles collaboration with authorities such as the FAA when approval of certain parts is necessary to fulfill airworthiness requirements.

The next blog (blog 3) covers the impact on procurement, and material requirements planning, as well as other considerations.