Improve organizational performance by the management of multiple Bill Of Materials

Improve organizational performance by the management of multiple Bill Of Materials

Organizations today are looking for ways to improve their performance. I think that the right tools (or right technologies) can help them. One of them is the technology to manage multiple Bill of Materials. Why do I think this is important? I tried to analyze how people in organizations work and discovered that their work is very sequential: design-engineering-manufacturing planning, etc. Each step depends on the previous one. On the other side, it is rare that using single steps from design to manufacturing can create final results as designers and engineers need to work in cycles. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many tools that can allow to these engineers and designers to work on the same content together. For each step, they need to release information early and move onto the next step and be able to co-edit – this is the only way to improve productivity. It also helps if you don’t lose time on communication and data translation.

 Management of multiple Bill of Materials can resolve the bottleneck typical in product development. What can we do practically? We need technologies that allow us to manage multiple structure of information – design, engineering, manufacturing –at the same time. If we can do this, users will be able to co-edit this data without waiting in line until each person in this design-to-manufacturing game finishes his or her work. Today, a lot of time is wasted while waiting for somebody else to finish his or her work.. The second part of this technology will be to eliminate the need for second and third manual data entry. The third and most important part will be the ability to work in cycles where changes are synchronized between multiple structures.

 One possible way (this is just to make our discussion more practical) is to create a model for multiple BOMs, will be a 3D matrix of data with the following dimensions:

 (1) Bill of Material (actual data structure);

(2) Bill of Material Type or Role (engineering, manufacturing etc.);

(3) Changes (represents level of maturity);

 These 3-dimensional data structure will allow you to link relevant information between design, engineering and other domains of data and manage changes simultaneously.multibom

 Efficient management of multiple BOMs will resolve bottlenecks and improve organizational performance. I think, the ability to manage these multiple Bill-Of-Materials will be a key capability of the next PLM systems. Although today there are systems that let you work with Bill of Materials, their main disadvantages is that they need people to invest their time into transforming one data structure into another.


Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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  • I am not sure what you are saying here. The nature of a PLM system and its change management allows all those needing to use and change BOMs to see the latest versions, and all pending changes. If three BOMs are needed, then they must be managed accordingly. Changes can be reflected in each BOM depending on how the ECO is managed. If you want to consider managing Multiple BOMs then also consider Variant BOMs where mutiple BOMs of similar contents can be more easily changed, using bulk change features or more simple ECOs due to the minimal variant change contents per variant.
    All in all, there will always be at least 3 types of BOMs as you describe, all will be in flux, and all can be managed as easily as possible right now. It is the engineer’s responsibility to review ALL where-used requirements and make changes appropriately!

  • Hello Wayne,
    Thanks for coming to discuss on my blog. My point is that straightforward system that manage multiple Bill of Materials is horrible. Such system can survive from need to synchronize and update lots of information and changes. You can, of course, to say – this is engineer responsibility to review ALL, but from my experience humans are very bad in managing complex tasks and, therefore, I’d like to discuss idea how possible to manage it without going to multiple Bill of Material structures. We can save lots of synchronization work in this case. – Does it make sense?
    Best -Oleg/

  • Ashok J

    Indeed BOM management is very complex and vary with industry segment we refer to. I concur with the idea of having multiple BOMs for an organization, specially i they are globally distributed. Here i am writing my openion of what multi-BOM is and how it should be implemented. Design BOM is closest to CAD structure (same as). Engineering BOM could be with Non-Modeled parts added to it. Both these BOMs define WHAT the Product is. Manufacturing BOM will be specific to a location of manufacturing and has to define HOW a product is manufactured. MBOM also suited ideally for effectivity control and Make Buy decision. The next piece could be Process BOM which could define HOW part to great detail & provide details on process instructions. As of today most of the PLM products do not address these issues. This is mainly due to the variability of business needs betwen any two organizations. Another important influencer is the role played by individuals in an org. Some engineers double as Product Engineer and Process Engineer and they do not see the benefit of splitting the BOM for better management. If you add service BOM and Product configurators the issue becomes more complex.
    I do beleive that such dicussions will bring out a solution for this complex problem over a period of time. N

  • Hi Ashok, I like your definition of design-engineering-manufacturing BOM approach. I think the biggest problem of this approach is to have all these BOMs (or views) to work together. Did you try any specific products to implement this approach? I will be happy to discuss more specific issues you discovered. Best- Oleg.

  • Ashok J

    Hi Oleg,

    As i said in my earlier blog post, the solution is not there at present. But i did work on creating EBOM and MBOM. Main advantages obtained were ability to add manufacturing parts(phantom parts), set Make Buy decisions, set effectivity dates to parts and have manufacturing change control. Restructuring of BOM was not acheived in our solution due to difficulties you mentioned. But i strongly beleive a roboust solution is possible as more discussions and trials take place. I operate out of Bangalore, India.

    Ashok Kumar J

  • Hello Ashok, I see advantages in separation of BOM, but at the same time difficulties on synchronization between engineering and manufacturing boms (as you mentioned in your case) will be very significant. So, I’m confident that conceptually multi-BOM is right solution to provide to organization, however implementation is pretty complex… -Oleg

  • John Sprenz

    You are right on. Multiple BOM’s are an absolute necessity. I do Manage Multiple BOM’s under a single Item Revision (EBOM MBOM SBOM PBOM) in my PDM/PLM system. Not only that I transfer these BOM’s and there individual elements to multiple cubes (in an AS 400 OS) in our ERP system.

    This is easily done in a quality PDM/PLM System. We use Teamcenter. In Teamcenter one has the oportunity to define different View Type (called BOM View Revisions or BVR’s) becasue the BOM is a seperate entity it can be placed multiple time under a single Item Revision or a sub assembly or an entire product. I know I am entering this discussion late but if you do receive this I would be glad to show you how we do it.

  • John, thank you for commenting and sharing your experience. Yes, the ability to have multiple views is popular in current generation of PDM/PLM systems. However, I’d be taking it a step forward and thinking how to manage a single, unified Bill of Material environment. Take a look on this. I’d be interested to get your opinion – Best, Oleg

  • I happened to see your discussion here. PTC’s Windchill handles exactly what you need. A EBOM can be created automatically when a CAD model is checked in, or manually, or uploaded via Excel, then MBOM, SBOM, etc can be created. If EBOM changes, the changes are propagated to the other BOMs. Also, PTC has an integrator that does downstream publishing, so these BOMs can be published in ERP.

  • Jennifer, thanks for coming to discuss to my blog! I think, most of PLM systems (and Windchill is part of them) are doing some type of multiple BOM stuff. However, it seems to me, the complication is very high. To set up all synchronization rules is not a trivial job. In addition, to figure out all rules is not straightforward as well. What is your take? Best, Oleg

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