3 challenges of design-BOM synchronization process

3 challenges of design-BOM synchronization process


To maintain consistent Bill of Materials is one of the most complex data management processes between design and manufacturing. Siemens PLM blog Defining Part Bill of Materials gives you a very good perspective on how the data synchronization process is done in today’s PLM systems. The fundamental element of this process is a definition of “Part” with specific Form, Fit and Function. Then Part (object) is mapped to the Design information with an extensive amount of data synchronization. Here is the passage from the blog speaking about.

The part is a business significant entity with a wide constituency of stakeholders within the larger enterprise. The part master needs to record properties that are essential for several enterprise disciplines, including engineering definition, manufacturing planning, costing, service planning, color and appearance planning, procurement, production execution, after sales maintenance, etc.  The design information associated with the part records its 3D geometry aspects and engineering significant attributes. Managing the part as a business entity separate from the design provides relevant stakeholders, within and also outside of engineering, the required independence of lifecycle and associated flexibility to author and access part information and design information and manage their maturation throughout the product lifecycle.

Introducing an Integrated Product Definition into an IT landscape where there is an established Part BOM system with integrations to several external applications can be a multi-phased challenge, but with potentially huge business benefits. Often the question is – how and where do I start on the road to modernization? A potential first step in this phased approach could be to establish coordinated part and design BOM authoring with common configuration and change tools and processes within the PLM system, while retaining and feeding into the established BOM system in order to continue to leverage existing integrations.

I captured the following picture from Siemens PLM blog.


It presents very well business objects and organizational roles. What I specially like in this picture is a spotlight on the complexity of integration between Design and Part objects. This is a place where PLM magic is supposed to happen. The integration between design lifecycle and BOM lifecycle is complex and usually brings lot of questions about how to synchronize data.

To address a problem, most of PLM systems today are coming with the concept of Part business object ownership. Although I can see good reasons to manage Part data in PLM systems, most of implementations are making a use of this data space for transient collaboration and synchronization between engineering and manufacturing.

It made me think about 3 challenges of this process:

1- Coordination of changes between Design and Part (BOM) data. Although synchronous release process is always pictured in a linear way, in practice this process is going back and forth many times.

2 -Complexity of data mapping. Some information from design is used for parts (BOM). In most of synchronization processes, this data is physically copied between business objects. This data transformation is not a simple task and prone to many mistakes.

3- Coordination of external tools. The simplest configuration is to manage Part data within PLM systems. Even so, Part and BOM data will have proliferate in the organization and be transferred for different purposes back and forth with other enterprise systems. The coordination of this data exchange (another sync) brings an extensive level of complexity to data integration.

What is my conclusion? Design to BOM synchronization process is one of the most complex processes in PLM implementations. Manufacturing companies are under significant pressure to make this process efficient and, at the same time, capable to manage an increased complexity of product data combined with distributed nature of manufacturing. This is a note for data management architects. The challenges of data management in manufacturing is increasing and PLM developers are under consistent pressure to support growing complexity of data synchronization embedded in the architecture of traditional PLM systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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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