PLM, BOM, Excel – How To Make It Right?

PLM, BOM, Excel – How To Make It Right?

The following blog article caught my attention last week – “Four recommendations for better Excel BOMs” in Arena Solutions blog by Jennifer Bomze. I found it interesting. Arena Solution is a PLM outfit that started about ten years ago as a company named After few years, was re-branded and expanded to provide PLM on demand solution. I remember I was impressed by what Arena was doing with their web-based Bill Of Material product. I was following Arena activities over the past few years. They grew up in their functional PLM scope. However, my hunch is that the main competition is going between PLM offering and plain Microsoft Excel product.

PLM vs. Excel: Apple-to-Apple?
I had chance to write about PLM and Excel multiple times in the past. You can track my previous articles on my blog. Few of them are here:
Do we need chief excel officer to manage BOM?
Why Do I like my PLM Excel Spreadsheet?
PLM Excel Spreadsheet: From odes to woes.

Of course, Excel cannot be compared to PLM. Nevertheless, I guess, MS Excel is successfully outperforming PLM systems from the simplicity, implementation cost and data openness. So, even if you will never see PLM vendors comparing their product portfolios with Excel, they are struggling with Excel competition.

How To Make Excel In a Right Way?
Despite the fact Excel cannot replace broad set of PLM system functionality, I can see PLM companies are thinking more and more into “Excel-friendship” direction. To confirm this you can see multiple expanded MS Office and Microsoft SharePoint offerings coming from TeamCenter and Windchill. However, current proposal by Arena make it even more interesting. You can take a look on the full article here. In short, what Arena proposes – 4 recommendations how to use Excel if you decided NOT to purchase PLM system, for the moment:

  1. Be consistent. Use the same columns in the same order in every Excel bill of materials. Use a standard format for part numbers, manufacturer names, file titles and other types of data.
  2. Use standard templates. Get in the habit of hiding (not deleting) columns that aren’t needed in a particular BOM and creating separate spreadsheets for doing analyses that require additional columns. Give each column a single purpose, and label every piece of data in your Excel BOM spreadsheet.
  3. Have part numbering and part naming conventions – and a single location to store them. Develop and document a standard way to number and name ALL parts, and then manage those part numbers and names in a single location, like an item master or master parts list.
  4. Minimize repeated data. Include only as much data as is needed for each BOM to perform its core function of capturing the relationships between parts and assemblies. Store additional part data in the item master instead of multiple Excel BOMs, so updates only need to be made in one place.

In addition to that, Arena proposed free Excel templates to manage Bill of Materials.

PLM Excel Trojan Horse?
I can see where Excel PLM templates may be going in the future. By helping customers to optimize their Excels, PLM creates the foundation of a future PLM expansion. Of course, there is a danger in helping customer to keep going with Excel. However, there is a chance for being able to connect Excel data to Arena PLM and to import excel-based data into Arena PLM. It seems to me a step in the right direction.

What is my conclusion today? I think, MS Excel is a big deal for PLM companies. Customers are voting for Excels. PLM vendors may understand that their previous “Export To Excel” strategy was wrong, and they need to change it now. The competition with Excel will be growing as much as PLM vendors will be trying to expand their solutions to be used by more people in companies. So, give away some Excel templates can be a very good idea.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

PS. Freebie. Arena Solution didn’t pay me to write this post.


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