What is the right system for maintenance BOM?

What is the right system for maintenance BOM?

Have you heard about XaaS? Not yet.. You better catch up. Even if you’re not familiar with the buzzword, you most probably heard about total moving into service business model. The XaaS abbreviation basically tells you that everything becomes a service. It means one of the biggest business transformations is happening in front of us. You most probably touched it and got exposed to XaaS even without knowing the name.

Siemens article –Everything as a service: a closer look at the business model of the future gives you an interesting perspective on service transformation. I capture this picture which gives you examples of remarkable business service models in different industries including manufacturing.

The massive transformation of business models means obvious needs in transforming business IT infrastructure. Siemens article speaks about MindSphere Siemens IoT platform future. The perspective is interesting, but I want to take it down to nuts and bolts of service model – the need to manage maintenance and service Bill of Materials (or Product Structure if you feel it is better jargon name). Whatever you call it, the information about what is included in the product which is delivered as a service to the customer is crucial for all aspects of the business – from maintenance and repairs to re-fabrication and renewals.

This maintenance and service BOM is a very tricky part. It takes the beginning in somewhat that called “As-Built”, but then changes over time and has its own lifecycle. The remarkable part of As-Maintain BOM is that it has to be exposed to a larger group of users – OEM, service organizations, contractors, suppliers, customers. Such big exposure raises the few interesting questions  – 1/ Is there a single owner of maintenance BOM; 2/ what is the right infrastructure to hold As-Maintain BOM and 3/ How to keep As-Maintained BOM in a trusted form. There are many others, I guess. But these are the most fundamental questions, in my view.

From a business standpoint, As-Maintained BOM is a valuable piece of information. Combine it with the fact you will need to manage it not only for aircraft and defense systems but for a growing number of products – starting from cars and then down to dishwashers and home vacuum cleaner.

There are few articles I read recently that can give you some ideas where the industry is going with regards to the management of as-maintain BOMs.

Navigate to Digital Twins for As-Maintained Configuration Management Part 1 written by Kim Robertson, a co-author of “Configuration Management: Theory, Practice, and Application”. I highly recommend the article. Worth the time. It brings A&D experience and connects it to many trending buzzwords and technologies – Digital X (twin, thread, factory, etc.) as well as A&D industry practices. My favorite passage is this one:

CAD based digital twins give you the as-designed models, but without an ERP module they can’t give you the as-built information. ERP based digital twins give you the as-built information but have to be linked to the as-designed data with an import module to provide traceability to CAD models. Systems based digital twins generally center around system performance rather than as-designed, as-built, as-delivered, or as-maintained information. I have not seen a proposed solution for a digital twin that seamlessly encompasses everything they need to.

Moving forward Kim described some of the experience of the pain of digging into multi-system data in current PDM/PLM environments.

I recently went through a rush exercise to define the Parts Identification List (PIL), As-Designed Parts List (ADPL) and As-Built Parts List (ABPL) for an earth imaging instrument. It had used spare components in it that were excess to the last contractual build of a detector. As is often the case in A&D programs, excess components from contract 1 were moved to and consumed by contract 2. The as-built Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical (EEE) parts list for those components by serial number were on a server and not captured in the PDM system.

Instead of performing a quick search of the PDM data we spent almost a day looking for them. We lucked out because the only person who knew where they were on a file server got back to me hours before he left on a 2-week vacation. Not capturing the supplier SDRL submittals in the PDM system created a break in the digital thread downward from the CDRL requirement to the data associated with it.  This break in building the digital fabric from the CDRL to the supplier to the supplier SDRLs to the vendor report almost made us miss the prime contract CDRL delivery date which would have been a hit to Award fee.

Quick jump to another segment of business – ERP and Supply Chain. Blockchain Remains Top of Mind for Supply Chain Managers, Says SAP article by Supply Chain Review speaks about various aspects of blockchain applications in the supply chain. The one that caught my special attention and it is connected to Maintenance BOM is Asset Lifecycle Management.

If you have capital intensive, business critical assets, which are expected to be in use for 10 to even 30 years, it’s vital to pay attention to this. Each asset, over its lifespan will go through numerous upgrades, repairs and refurbishments and may also go through numerous owners. This ensures that all the parts used to perform these activities are of high quality, from reliable, legitimate sources and are critical for end user or passenger safety and security. Ensuring the traceability and security of this data is critical to ensure the history and provenance of parts, the or the maintenance and repair history of a capital-intensive piece of equipment. Blockchain, along with other technologies such as IoT, predictive analytics, and machine learning has the potential to manage assets from the design of the product, through manufacturing and throughout its active life and keep a secure, digital twin that can be tracked and analyzed for a complete history of that asset.

What is my conclusion? In the growing number of XaaS businesses, to As-Maintain BOM is an interesting piece of information. It represents a specific lifecycle of the product with a complex ownership model, multiple changes and it serves as a foundation for many processes. It must be connected to a variety of data sources and, at the same time, it is a source for intelligence and decision making. Is there an agreement on what business system and IT infrastructure can provide a foundation for As-Maintain BOM data. From what I can see – not much. It is too attractive and I expect a growing technology and business competition. Existing PLM and ERP businesses are obviously interested. Do they have sufficient infrastructure and technology to support it? I’m not sure. Most of the existing systems have a single company focus and not ready to serve multiple companies involved in the service business. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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