From the category archives:



Have you heard about “150% BOM”? BOM management terminology is confusing sometimes. Ed Lopategui gave a shot to explain it in his last GrabCAD blog – 150% BOM: Buy Two, Get One Free. The following passage was my favorite:

A 150% BOM isn’t sorely in need of some fitness training or sadly overdrawn at the bank. In fact, a 150% BOM is just another name for a variant structure, or more specifically, a configurable BOM. Configurable BOMs have one or more optional components and/or modular subassemblies, which, when properly set, define a specific variation of a product. In effect, a configurable BOM is many possible BOMs loaded into just one product structure. When left unconfigured, the BOM contains more parts and subassemblies than needed, i.e. more than 100%. Hence, the term 150% BOM. So why 150% and not 110% or 117.32%? That’s just the we way we roll in BOM town.

Variant structure, configurable bill of material, modular BOM… the industry invented multiple names to cope with the complexity of communication and product development processes in manufacturing organizations. The core idea of modularization or configuration is not directly related to assembly to order process (ATO), but used widely for configurable and complex products. You can see 150% BOM, 200% BOM and similar BOM organization maintained by engineering department to facilitate creation of final products from predefined parts and sub-assemblies. The product development is actually divided into two essential steps – create your modular (150% BOM) and create a planning bill of a specific product. The last one will allow you to roll out cost and delivery time.

So, why engineers created 150% BOM concept? Do we really need that? In my view, the approach was a way for engineers to manage the complexity of product structure and product variation. You can see it for product configurations and also in bill to order (BTO) situations where complex product development is managed in a way of product technological foundation combined with features developed for specific customer. With absence of better tools, Excel spreadsheet becomes the best product configuration environment and matrix with 150% BOM is the simplest model to present that.

Ed’s blog made me think about future of “150% BOM” and matrix BOM organization. In my view, the concept will disappear in the future. In my view, the complexity of product environment is growing. In many situation, to produce 150% BOM is not feasible anymore. With the level of product complexity, mix of mechanical, electronic and software components, ability of engineers to bring them all together into one 150% BOM can be not practical and even less efficient. We will need to invent new tools to manage the complexity of configurations and product data. With growing demand for personalization, we are not far from the situation, PLM and ERP systems will have to roll out bill of materials individually configured for a specific customer (and this is not only in aerospace and defense industry).

What is my conclusion? Growing complexity of products, move to mass customization, regulatory and cost pressure, global manufacturing – this is a reality of modern manufacturing environments. We need to develop a new approach how to manage product development and manufacturing of these products. Product configurations and BOM is a centerpiece of this approach. A simple 150% BOM spreadsheet will be replaced with new BOM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



Why BOM Management Is Complex?

by Oleg on May 12, 2014 · 6 comments


My last post about Manufacturing BOM raised few interesting comments online and offline. One of them by Jos Voskuil  was pretty straightforward – “What is a big deal about MBM”? Jos pointed me on his earlier post – Where is MBOM? This post as well as few other articles I posted earlier - Why companies are not ready for single BOM? and BOM 101: 5 Don’ts for BOM management made me think why BOM is so complex. I wanted to share these reasons and ask your opinion. Here are my top 3 list of issues that are leading to significant BOM management complexity: 1- Items/Parts identification; 2- Views; 3- Synchronizations. Let me go and explain more specifically what I mean.

1 – Item / Part Identification

Item Master. Item. Part. Assembly. Product. You name it… But whatever you call it, you come down to the way (and format) to identify Parts. Part number is probably the simplest wayto identify things in product design, manufacturing and support. The next question – what Part Number? Things are simple only on the surface. As soon as you dig inside, you find yourself surrounded by manufacturing part numbers, design parts, suppliers part numbers, support parts and many others. The information about them resides in multiple data databases, spreadsheets and systems.

2- Views (or Product Views or BOM Views)

You may think about bill of material as a list of parts and everything else you need to make a product. However, very fast it gets complicated with product configurations, manufacturing information, suppliers,  As-built BOM and maintenance parts. To differentiate and manage all this information is not a simple task.

3- Synchronizations.

As I mentioned before, bill of material information (multiple BOMs) are usually managed by different systems. Often (in case of PLM) multiple BOMs are managed by PLM system itself. Now think about change processes and updates. Each one generates a sequence of updates and dependent operations that needs to be done to synchronize BOMs and keep them in a consistent status. Indeed, one of the most complex tasks in BOM management.

What is my conclusion? BOM is not simple thing as you might think from the beginning. To keep system in sync with diversity of data and processes takes time and effort. Variety of product development and manufacturing approaches, global deployment, etc. How to overcome the complexity of BOM management? Look forward to learn about BOM management complexities you are facing developing and implementing BOM management solutions.

Best, Oleg




Product Data Management (PDM) was around for the last 20-30 years. However, I can see an increased traction around PDM topic last year. You ask me what’s the reason? My simple answer – Dropbox. Think 10 years back. The typical “PDM spiel” was to enable data control and collaboration in a team of engineers. So, PDM value proposition was to enable team with controlled access to CAD files and manage file revisions alongside. The alternative was to put data on a shared network drive (z:\ drive) and hope nobody will overwrite your last change. However, z:\ drive is replaced by Dropbox (or alternative to Dropbox solutions) with ability to synchronize and collaborate around data changes. It smells disruption and raised many questions about future of PDM systems, especially for small teams.

PTC Creo blog published  guest blog article written by Chad Jackson. Article PDM is a Personal Productivity Tool  speaks about traditional PDM value proposition – enabling collaboration, offloading complexity of CAD, managing design configurations, managing data dependencies (eg. simulation data), etc. These values are typical and (almost) never questionable. However, Chad drives a conclusion towards individual productivity-  a bit unusual when you speak about collaboration and data management tools. Here is the passage from the post:

Listen, I know there is value in PDM for the organization and it actually does deliver. But for me, what is even more valuable is that it frees up individual engineers and designers to spend more of their time actually designing products, not managing spreadsheets with file names.

Fundamentally, I agree with Chad – PDM delivers value. However, PDM implementation usually can raise many questions about individual productivity lost and additional efforts to implement and maintain PDM system. Topics mentioned by Chad made me think about few tips that can help you to evaluate PDM  system to insure it will boost your individual and team performance.

Secure global collaboration

PDM is using centralized storage to keep data and control access. No tricks here. So, before starting your work, you need to insure you can move your data from central location to your working folders and back. Nobody wants to have slow system that will suck your time during check-in/check-out process. The ability to manage conflicts is also very important here. You better test your specific CAD system, version and sample your data.

Complexity of CAD

Yes, CAD data is complex and very intertwined. Drawings, dependencies and many other features. Some of them carefully designed by CAD vendor for a very specific design process, features or performance optimization. Check if PDM system will support all features and won’t break design scenarios beautifully crafted by CAD. This is also the time to check how your PDM system can support different versions of CAD software.

Managing configurations

Design configuration brings an additional level of complexity to data management.  CAD systems are implementing it differently. If configurations matter for you, check how PDM system will allow you to manage configuration and expose this information in PDM environment.

Design dependencies (simulation, manufacturing, etc.)

Another important point. Obviously, you want PDM to capture “related data” such as simulation, requirements, manufacturing information. This information either management by your CAD system or created by add-ins or separate application. You need to validate PDM system’s ability to capture this information and integrate with separate CAE tools you might use. Otherwise, you will be manually connecting files in your PDM environment.

Design BOM

This is not always obvious. However, the ability to generate design BOM in the way you can share it with outside parties is an important functionality of PDM system. The same is about BOM updates. Otherwise you will be spending your time in Excel updating bill of materials to share with your suppliers.

What is my conclusion? The demand of customers these days is to provide technology and products that can boost your individual and team performance. Traditional approach to solve CAD data management problems is going to meet new technologies and paradigms.  In my view, PDM has a huge unrealized potential. However, the devil in details. Wrong PDM system can suck your time and make your everyday’s experience very complicated. You can consider these tips together with my earlier blog - How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps? before making your final decision. Don’t forget to check cloud PDM alternatives. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



Bill of Materials (BOM) Management: Data, Lifecycle, Process

April 2, 2014

In my recent post about bill of materials – Bill of Materials (BOM): process or technology challenge? I touched the variety of topics related to BOM organization – multiple BOMs and need to manage BOM located in different systems. My main question at the post was around how to make the work with multiple BOMs easier? […]

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Part and Document Management: Why is it Complex?

March 8, 2014

Parts and Documents are two different objects in engineering, product development and manufacturing. While “part” usually represents physical object, “document” usually represents specification, drawing or 3D model of part. Even it it sounds obvious, Document and Part management is not an easy and simple task. In my post – How to manage Document versions, revisions […]

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How to manage Document versions, revisions and Part numbers

March 6, 2014

Identifications, Part Numbers, Documents, Revisions. Despite initial simplicity these terms are often create confusion in organizations and lead to additional misunderstanding. Design and Motion blog post When a version is just a version and a revision is more  made me think again about differences between document revisions / version and part lifecycle. In my earlier […]

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PLM and Magic of MBOM planning

January 21, 2014

Manufacturing BOM (MBOM) is an interesting topic. After all design and engineering operation,  MBOM defines how product is going to be actually manufactured. While most of PLM / ERP debates about MBOM are going around “who owns what”, the most fascinating part that I found in MBOM is related to the nature of manufacturing planning. The […]

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Holidays, PLM Education and Free Math Books

December 25, 2013

Holidays is a time for gifts. I remember a sentence that stuck in my memory from my childhood – book is the best gift. I didn’t find documented confirmation, but I think this statement goes back to Gutenberg era. Back that time, books were very expensive and it was a very valuable gift. Well, nowadays […]

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The Ugly Truth of Multi-BOM Management

December 17, 2013

Bill of Material (BOM) management is always fascinating topic. It sparks so many debates and introduce a large set of diverse opinions. I can even say that I have a special passion to speak about BOM on my blog. If you want to catch up on my recent posts about BOM, you can try these […]

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Why PLM should not think about ownership?

October 10, 2013

Enterprise software business is complicated. It often comes with questions of system responsibilities and ownerships. IT usually holds primarily responsibility for cross company software stack. At the same time, divisions and departments often try to influence IT and make their own decision related to what software to use independently. One of the terms came out […]

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