Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky?

 I’d like to start  a wide topic for discussion – BOM. Yes, Bill of Material. This may seem like an old topic, I think, since most of the work that manufacturers do, starts from a Bill of Material (requirements) and ends with a Bill of Material (built/support/disposal). Therefore, my first question in the Bill of Material discussion is how to find right the Bill of Material in an organization? You, of course, know about the “I’m feeling lucky” button on Google start page. So, how many times have you felt lucky and found the right Bill Of Material with single click?

 My initial thought was to discover multiple types of Bill of Materials organizations manage today.

 1.     Concepts /Ideas –I’m not sure that there is a formal BOM here. But probably there is some relevance to existing BOMs in the organization.

2.     DesignCAD systems and other design systems are increasing their potential of showing and managing Bill of Materials.

3.     EngineeringPDM/PLM and other TLA (Three Letter Acronyms) systems are used here. But, I think, from a market share standpoint, MS Excel is the leader.

4.     ManufacturingERP is heavily presented in this space. Sometimes PLM supports the Manufacturing BOM. If ERP is not setup in the organization, manufacturing is supported by various homegrown systems and… by MS Excel.

5.     Supply chain – depends on the type of communication and various collaboration tools, CAD/Design/PDM/files and again…. MS Excel.

6.     Support and others – various systems for asset management, industry-oriented tools for product having long lifecycle, etc.

7.     Regulation – recently, there is a growing trend for support for various regulations. This leads to the question of how to manage a regulation Bill of Materials.

 While looking at this list, which I’m sure is not complete, I started to think about how I can find the right BOM for what I’m doing now for my role in organization. I don’t have an answer today, but I think, there is  some room for innovation.

 As I consider PLM Think Tank as a discussion place, I will be very glad to hear your voices as I will be continuing discussion on this topic in my upcoming posts.


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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  • François


    You have the right, old and trendy question! Except the wording, which refer a list of materials. The right wording for me is more product structure.

    But let’s wait for answers…

  • François, thanks for your comment. Indeed sometime “product structure” is more appropriated… Regards, Oleg.

  • Steve Calvert

    Oleg, great question and I’m asked it all the time. Which BoM is correct? I use the CAD BoM and my Engineering guys use the ERP System BoM. The two need to talk with each other somehow for both of us to feel like either BoM is correct.


  • Steve, great point! So, how did you make this discussion between CAD and Engineering guys? Did you make any tools that helping you? -Oleg.

  • Sarvajit

    If BOM=Product Structure, you have already lost half of the info in a Mfg BOM

    I use a universal Bill-of-X in my product
    Its still a hierarchical structure, but allows
    X = Process, component (made or bought), Tool, fixture etc etc

    And then filter based on the functional requirement of the viewer/user whether it be Eng, Design, Costing, Mfg etc etc


  • François


    Funny to see that your initial question was both on the data and the IT Tools. The comments are all about the data only. As if the initial statement was not so clear for everybody. So the tools to implement…

    From my knowledge, there are different approachs in the IT tools available in the market:
    – consider there are different structures, in different tools, and people leave with it
    – consider that there are different structures which have some links between the structure elements
    – consider that there are some business schema behind those structures, especially including timing, making some structure the parent of others
    – consider possibility to manage a single structure, containing a part of the whole scope

    Wht do you think?

  • Hi Sarvajit, Thanks for your comment! How do you filter you universal structure? is it something you are doing according to the X (type)? You mentioned “viewer”… is it specific application or just MS Excel?
    Best- Oleg.

  • François,

    What I see is that you can use specific tools to manage Design Structure (in most cases this is CAD) and Manufacturing structure (in most cases ERP). PDM/PLM tools are mostly used to manage Engineering structure(s). Some of PDM/PLM tools have flexibility to manage multiple structures or have additional data modeling capabilities to make what you called “links” between structures or “business schema”.

    Actually, I’m not sure understand difference between “links” and “business schema”. Can you explain, please?

    With regards to possibility to manage a single structure – in the end this is will be structures and links in my view.


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