Excel is the world’s number 1 tool for PLM and BoM management. Excel is beloved by engineers for its simplicity, flexibility and ability to absorb any type of data. Excel ownership and control is easy to get – just save Excel file on your disk and you have full control of your bill of materials. I recalled one of my first blog posts – Why do I like my PLM spreadsheets back in 2009. But Excel is getting complex within time and you need hire CEO (Chief Excel Officer) to modify Excel spreadsheets used for BoM and product lifecycle purposes. One more blog from 2009 – PLM Excel Spreadsheets – from odes to woes can give you few cons why Excel is expensive and complex as a strategy to manage product data and lifecycle.
Cloud is changing our working environment. No surprise, cloud is coming to change Excel spreadsheets too. While PLM vendors were making numeral attempts to explain users why PLM tools are better than Excel, developers are quietly discovered the power of Google Spreadsheets. Over the past few months, my attention was caught by few new tools developed as add-ons for Google Spreadsheets.
The following two examples can give you a better idea of what I mean – Dragon Standard BoM and Onshape BOM Add-on.
Dragon Standard BoM is a Google Spreadsheet Add-on developed by Dragon Innovation – manufacturing consulting outfit in Boston, MA. Dragon Innovation is focusing on helping hardware startups to scale up their manufacturing efforts in China and beyond. Dragon Standard BoM is a tool to prepare and to make analysis of bill of materials for electronic products. The link to the tools is here. You can read more information about Dragon Standard BoM in the following blog. Dragon Standard BoM is very helpful template-like tool that can be used hardware entrepreneurs to prepare data for manufacturing RFQs.
Onshape just a made a big splash in a news by announcing its commercial release and beta for Onshape App Store and API. Read more in my previous post here. Onshape BOM is Google Spreadsheet Add-on that can help you to extract part list and additional metadata from Onshape documents. Onshape BOM connects to your Onshape account and extracts bills of material (BOMs) from your assemblies. Once extracted, all important metadata from the assembly is populated into the Google Sheet. It also can synchronize updates of metadata back to Onshape. More information about Onshape BOM is here. Written by Lou Galo of Onshape it is a great demonstration of Onshape APIs and a useful part list creation tool. I specially liked the way some of metadata can be updated using Google Sheets.
You can certainly see the power of Google Sheets when you need to extract and manipulate data in the web and mobile environment. I guess Excels are falling short to do the same, unless you will move into Office 365 environment. Onshape is a great tool to demonstrate the power of full cloud application with REST API to access data, which reminded me why PLM needs to learn Web APIs.
PLM Excels in a cloud is an interesting opportunity. At OpenBOM I’m working on bringing Google Spreadsheet paradigm and developing an online tool that will behave like Google Spreadsheet on BOM steroids (watch OpenBOM coming soon) – disclaimer, I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM.
What is my conclusion? Cloud brings an interesting transformation into engineering environment. Many desktop (and not only) versions of CAD, PDM and PLM customization and application are using Excel. You can find them everywhere. Cloud, web and mobile transformation will force everyone to re-think the way we use Excel. New patterns will be coming to engineering apps. It is a reminder for PDM and PLM developers to take few web development and Google Sheet online courses during holiday season. Just my thoughts…
Picture credit makeuseof blog.
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.