Do we need multi-faceted BOM compare?

Do we need multi-faceted BOM compare?

bom-compareThe following blog article by Anurag Batra drove my attention today – “Comparing BOM Structures: a multi-faceted need”. Author is asking if “BOM comparison” is needed function in PLM system and especially interested about “multi-faceted” Bill of Material comparison. He is asking these questions in context of enhancements made in new Agile 9.3. He wrote – “Most PDM, PLM and ERP systems offer the ability to compare Bills of Material structures side by side. Agile have had a BOM Comparison report for many years – it allowed for comparison of multiple BOM structures side by side. With 9.3, we’ve enhanced the report greatly – focusing on the use case of deep multi-level comparison between two BOM structures”. Later in this article Anurag explains new features, how possible to compare multiple levels of multiple release changes etc. According to him Agile 9.3 version provides excellent features that improve capability to compare Bill of Materials in multiple ways. I’ve been a bit confused in the end of Anurag’s post by his question to readers, how they actually compare BOMs and what can be possible use cases for new introduced reports…

Here is my Think Tank question… Do we really want to compare Bill of Materials? Except the fact that we always excited by features and capabilities of our software, I guess comparison is a very complex task. Each time I’m trying to compare structures, I feel unsecured. To compare multi-level structures that include multiple changes is very complicated, in my view. I’d be very interested in see examples of multi-faceted BOM comparison Anurag is talking about…

Here is my view:
1.  Bill of Material comparison is very complicated task.

2. Designers and Engineers are less interesting “to compare”, but more interesting to find difference between two versions of designs of product structures.

3. May be we need to think about functions in our software that provide “results” and not put users in complicated scenarios of comparing multiple structures?

I’m looking forward your responses and open discussion…

Best, Oleg


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  • Shibin


    I had encountered a client where they have multiple BOM’s. For eg. DBOM, MBOM, totally about 15 BOM’s. After rationalizing, we could cut it down to 7 BOM’s. All these BOM’s are for the same Product Structure, but with views for Different Dept. For PDM, we had to deal with 4 BOM’s and three comparison’s. Just to make sure the BOM’s are matching. When the first time, BOM was created, this was automatically done,thru a script, but subsequent changes were manual. To do the manual changes, we needed to have comparison programs.

    Ordinary BOM compare are simple, where u go line by line. But in cases where you are having a different BOM, ie re-arranged BOM, the comparison is difficult. You have to compare instance by instance. Cause BOMline in one BOM could be under a different level in another.

    Performance in these cases are another killer. we were looking at a structure with 20,000 lines. It almost meant that you compared 20000! lines each time.

  • Roberto Picco

    I think BOMs management is a key feature of an ERP software. I’m not sure ERP software should delegate BOMs management but BOMs creation only. And to answer your question, Oleg, the more “faceted” is the BOMs analysis, the better, IMHO…

  • Shibin, thanks for sharing this experience. BOM work becomes very complicated fast. What are typical “comparison tasks” you need to do in case of different Bill of Materials…? Regards, Oleg

  • Roberto, why you are saying BOM is ERP function? In my view, with many Bill of Materials (design, engineering, manufacturing etc.) it’s really spread out of multiple systems. I’ve see people are managing BOMs in so various combinations of systems and tools… Faceted analyses make sense. It sounds better to me. I’m trying to avoid faceted compare, since to handle results of this compare is hard work, in my view. Thanks for you notes! Oleg.

  • Roberto Picco

    Maybe I was too concise. You surely use BOM in CAD/PDM system, but my personal experience leads me to believe that most useful BOM manipulations/comparison/analyses are performed at an ERP level. This vision is surely biased by what I’ve seen so far, but I think I’m not a white fly…

  • Roberto, I understand, ERP have more widely used set of feature related to Bill of Materials. You point about “useful” lead me to the following set of questions – do you see ERP more mature for BOM management? do you think ERP have appropriated data to provide comparison and analyses you need to perform? Is it related somehow to the roles of the people involved into this work? Thank you for contributation… great discussion! Cheers, Oleg.

  • Martijn Dullaart

    I agree with you Oleg, that side-by-side BOM compare is not really useful. Most of our users want a proper and fast way to find the difference between 2 versions, both single and multi level. Not only the presentation but also the performance is really important in case you compare 2 large product structures (let’s say about 4000 lines each).

    Currently we have multiple reports/output formats available to support the community in getting the right view of the delta depending on their need. Because we have in one environment the Engineering BOM, Manufacturing BOM (actually the BOM allocated to suppliers) and the Service BOM. Where the MBOM and SBOM are a view on the Engineering BOM.

  • Martijn, This is exactly point I wanted to make. To compare multi-line-level BOMs side-by-side is very complicated work. In the end designer/engineer need to know result. I’d assume, comparison need to be done multiple times (depends on actual task(s)), so performance will be really critical. Thanks for your comments and welcome to plmtwine discussion! Best, Oleg.

  • Paul

    I think another key issue here is that one (or more) of the BoMs can be in motion. For example, the design is being modified to incorporate 3 CNs (ECO’s) across 3 systems, whilst the Planning BoM is also being modified, however the changes to the planning structure are grouped by Assembly whilst the design changes are by system. This is a difficult comparison (by the time the 3 ECO changes have been incorporated into both structures, another ECO is being incorporated into the design) but it is simple compared to doing the same across either structures with different nomenclature for the same object (e.g. Part number in design vs Nato Stock Number in the Logistics Support view) or comparing actual delivered BoMs (many off) to a set of As-Design BoMs.

    We have looked at using the ECOs to manages this comparison – if an ECO has been processed into both structures and the net effect of the ECO is the same (e.g. Plus these parts, minus these parts) then the key is incorporation of the ECOs, not part level comparison of the BoMs. Additionally, this mechanism can reconcile documentation if necessary.#

    I would see the ERP comparison as two (or more) versions of the same structure which have both been Released, the PLM problem is comparison of the content of two (or more) differently organised structures, where the maturity of the two structures can be different.


  • Paul, Thanks for your examples and thoughts! I agree, net changes and comparison of multiple structures are complicated. I see your example with ECO is sort of a case that can implement “results of complicated comparison”. If such comparison can be automated and presented to end-user it would be the best result in my view. My main point is that “comparison” is something that hard to handle. However, we need to have a result of the comparison. So, from the user perspective, results need to be generated by automatic compare… Does it make sense to you? Best, Oleg

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