Is it time for a synchronized Bill of Materials?

Is it time for a synchronized Bill of Materials?

In my previous post “Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky? “, I started to discover possible ways to handle Bill of Materials in the organization and extended enterprise. Thank you all for your comments. I think we had a good conversation, so  I’d like to continue now in slightly different direction. Before I speak  about the diversity of Bill of Materials I’d like to say that the core of this approach is to have multiple Bill of Materials for various aspects of product development (such as Design, Engineering. Manufacturing, Maintenance etc.). So, we have multiple Bill of Materials. These multiple Bill of Materials are managed normally by different systems. By using of this approach we have several possible combinations of BOM within an organization.

But there is opposite approach: There are NO multiple Bill of Materials. Instead we have systems that define a single BOM for the organization where all relevant pieces of information are connected and synchronized. According to the type of information you are looking for, you can extract a subset of this information from the overall Bill of Materials system. This overall BOM structures managed and synchronized among all groups within an organization. Therefore, this approach can simplify the way different pieces of product-related information are managed in an organization.


 How can you organize this synchronized Bill of Material overall? There are many technological approaches that can be mentioned here – PLM with federated Bill of Material capabilities, data warehousing, business intelligence, PIM, and enterprise search. Even if these approaches are sensitive from the standpoint of synchronizing information between different enterprise systems, all of these technologies have the potential to be used for this purpose.

 I would be interested to know if you see the practice of a synchronized Bill of Materials applicable in your organization.


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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  • Schuber

    Hello Oleg,
    Sounds promising but I think that is difficult to avoid BOM duplication, the smart PLM tools should help to propagate changes from one BOM to another knowing that one part in a BOM can be splited in many parts in another BOM or vice-versa. For me the point is to have a system that can manage complex associativity and define corporate rules without programming.

  • hA! Oleg this is great. We have just been talking about this and discussing the possibilities where I work.

    We basically have the same information being feed into different systems. The hang up, from what it seems, is how that data is 1) views and 2) used.

    First, people are use to seeing the info a certain way. Solution? XML. Second, each department uses the info in different ways. Solution. XML.

    I thin it comes down to developing application with a rich interface, that pulls data in from a central source and displays it for how it needs to be used.

    It’s not so much the BOM itself. That’s one component of one program. It’s how the data that is displayed and used in a BOM is displayed and used elsewhere.

    centralize data entry. that’s the key. feed it to other system. yep, PLM2.0? PLaas? 🙂

  • Hello Shuber, Agree with you, to propagate changes in one of the ways to synchronize Bill of Material across organization. Question how it’s efficient or not. My thoughts was to have single system that pulled data from multiple sources and keep single ONE synchronized Bill of Materials (structure) contains information about different aspects of products.
    Regards, oleg.

  • Josh, In my view you got point- to have centralized system managed various aspects of products and present it in multiple view to different people. On the ground, this is conceptual idea of PLM related to multiple views of Bill of Material. But organizations duplicate information in multiple systems (as you said feed different systems) and this is becomes starting point for development of silos that need to be replicated, which make it very not efficient.
    What I didn’t understand is if you are using central XML to share BOMs between all departments… can you, please, clarify>?

    Thanks, Oleg

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  • Martijn Dullaart

    In our case, in the past the EBOM, supply BOM and Service BOM would go their separate ways and end up being completely different… So yeah synchronization is important. So this is what we have now…

    Currently we have an application in which the EBOM is created using import files or manual input. The model is such that the only BOM that exists in essence is the EBOM, but with allocations and parameters we are able to create a Supply BOM (the term MBOM is used incorrectly in our case) that is communicated to our suppliers and to our internal SAP to create the MBOM and planning BOM, also the Service BOM is created based on the EBOM, allocations and certain parameters. The service BOM is communicated to our service regions and partners (both internal and external).

    This means that the material content if the EBOM, supply BOM and Service BOM (before filtering) are always the same for a certain version of product. However the view sometimes leave out levels or components that should not be visible for lets say a service user.

    Even though we allow creation of kits (to evade high import taxes) in the supply BOM, the material content does not change. But an extra assembly level is created that does not exist from an engineering perspective but only due to import regulations.

    However in manufacturing the MBOM does not always follow the same time-line and versioning as the EBOM. The same EBOM can be produced for multiple commercial regions by different suppliers and the level of Engineering Change incorporation can be different and also in a different order. As far as I can see there is not a good solution for this available yet, that provides the user with tooling that supports the incorporation of Engineering changes in a different order than the approval date of those Engineering changes. Because if you are not careful you create a product that does not work or does not comply with regulations.

    So overall I agree about the synchronization that one BOM is the master of them all ;-). In our case we choose the EBOM. But in general you could say that our EBOM is a central BOM that has a EBOM view, Supply BOM view and Service BOM view.

  • Martijn, Thanks a lot for sharing your story. There are few very interesting moments. 1/you do have common and different pieces of Bill of materials. 2/they are logically connected; 3/ you see as “views” on top of all data you have (BOMs etc.)… in SmarTeam Engineering express we had notion of multiple BOMs and views. The main feedback we got from customers was it too complex. Customer says – we don’t want to have many… we want to have one!… What is your view on this? Regards, Oleg/

  • Martijn Dullaart

    Oleg I can imagine that it can become very complex for the user community but in our case the user is not confronted with the notion of views. Most users don’t even know that there are different views. The application has a very smart scoping logic that decides which scope the user needs (wants) to see. Scope being view and date-time/version.

    By clicking on tab pages or selecting a change order all the scope settings are done automatically for the user. You might think that this will impact performance a lot, but we have developed our own persistence layer that communicates with the database, which is very fast. Our users really appreciate that. How we came to that is a whole different story… 🙂

  • Martijn, You went exactly to the point- 1/users are not aware about multiple views; 2/users need to see different views… Thanks for this excellent clarification!… Oleg.

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  • rupesh


    Sync of BoM Between PLM & ERP is a good Idea. But my concern there is not one to one mapping of EBOM to MBOM. Ur EBOM will be same but ur MBOM will change based on ur location & Plant. Sometime i have seen even in one Plant and location M-BoM is different as Manufacturing Engg is using different substitute Part for one Engg Part. so in these kind of business scenarios how we can sync EBOM to MBOM

  • rupesh, thanks for sharing! agree with your example. This is why EBOM/MBOM integration is complicated. However, it is absolutely needed, in my view. Oleg