Why is it important to manage your product Bill of Materials (BoM) in a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)? This is a tough question to answer across the board for every company, but this article breaks down what you need to know.
The level of BoM management in PLM can be dependent on your companies’ products, downstream systems, and product development processes.
With that in mind, here are some general benefits and reasons to manage the creation of your product BoM in PLM.
The benefit of bill of materials management in PLM
The data managed in a product lifecycle management system includes CAD and BoM information, as well as additional supporting product information and documentation.
PLM functionality typically allows an organization to store any and all product information in a structured manner. The structured manner is what properly represents the product within all stages of the product’s development.
This includes everything from initial design requirements, to manufacturing requirements and process plans, to quality assurance documents- all linked to a single product structure.
This gives you the ability to graphically see a truly complete representation of any and all products managed within the PLM system.
In addition, many of the top PLM systems (such as PTC Windchill) give you the ability to manage different views of a single bill of material.
For instance, you could see the design or engineering view of the structure and all design information needed for that BoM product structure.
You would also have the ability to look at a manufacturing view that has the structure defined in a way to support the best possible manufacturing process, while it also links to any supporting information and work instructions.
Additionally, you could see a service BoM that represents exactly what is on-site or on the hands of a customer, with linked product information specifically related to service or support (such as a service repair or product manual).
These systems focus on tracking and managing all cost and profit throughout the process.
Because of this, changes are tightly controlled and require significant steps to ensure proper applications across the system.
There are also few systems that allow for full product representation inside of ERP or MES as outlined above. Nor do they fully support many different views of the same BoM.
ERP tends to only manage what is required to properly manufacture or sell a product, which does not always represent the full product design or its full breadth of supporting information and documentation.
There many impacts on these fundamental differences.
When to use PLM for BoM Management
Here are some general concepts as to when to use PLM for BoM management.
When your product development is in the dynamic phases that require many changes and updates at each phase gate, your bill of materials should be primarily managed in PLM.
If your product requires specific requirements management, detailed manufacturing, quality work instructions, or an intensive manufacturing process, it’s in your best interest to use product lifecycle management for your BoM.
At the very least, all of your product information should also be managed, or linked to your product lifecycle management system to ensure full accountability to all information updates required in the instance of change.
Integrating ERP and PLM
At a minimum, if you have an ERP system it’s important to integrate your system together with PLM.
It’s essential to establish key integration points between your enterprise systems that send needed information back and forth to your enterprise resource planning solution. This will help you properly execute new product releases and changes.
By integrating your systems, your ERP processes will ensure all proper tasks and functions are executed in your ERP or MES systems.
From there, your ERP to PLM system integration would send information back to your PLM system to close the loop.
Looking for an easy way to quickly assess your bill of materials and ensure projects stay on-time and on-track?
Let’s talk about why bill of materials are so important, how BoMs impact business, and the best BoM management practices. Or check out another helpful article on BoM management, “How BoM Management plays a role in your PLM processes“.
The importance of bill of materials
In fact, departments often rely on BOM records to get the job done right. Whether you realize it or not, your BoMs drive and affect your businesses’ operational success. This is why it is so important that your organization creates and manages well-organized, correct and up-to-date bill of materials.
BoM information accuracy and why it matters
BoMs require complete and accurate information, in order to successfully benefit design, manufacturing, sales and service building quality products.
The accuracy of BOMs influences an organization’s ability to make well-rounded product development decisions. These decisions fundamentally impact the efforts organizations peruse to generate a product in the most efficient, cost-effective way.
Oftentimes creating BOMs requires input from design, procurement, manufacturing, and sales. Using manual methods to collect and enter items on various BoMs increases the risk of producing inaccurate, out-of-date, or even possibly duplicate BoM versions.
Furthermore, if departments produce products based on incorrect or inaccurate bills of materials, delays to market can occur. This can not only be very costly for an organization, but it oftentimes impacts an entire supply chain.
Inaccurate bills of materials are one of the costliest errors engineering companies can make. In order to avoid the risks of inaccurate BoMs, many organizations have started to reevaluate the way they create, manage, and share product information.
BoM management processes
Bills of materials (such as eBoMs, sBOMs, mBoMs) are most-likely part of your product development process. That being said, what are your current processes for managing those BoMs?
How do you share, collaborate, and ensure the accuracy of your organizations’ bills of materials? Do you find it difficult to manage the differences between them and keep the data consistent across eBOM (engineering bill of materials) and mBoMs (manufacturing bill of materials)?
Odds are if you have yet to implement technology solutions to manage your bills of materials, your methods for BoM management most likely involve spreadsheets, emails, rekeying information, and multiple other systems of communication.
If this is the case, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Studies show nearly 50% of product development companies still use spreadsheets (or sometimes even nothing at all) to manage complex bill of materials!
Despite the big workload that BoM management represents, many organizations are still comparing bills of materials in excel spreadsheets or by opening separate BoMs and manually connecting the dots. This management approach is not only tiring, but it also increases risks of human error and mistakes, especially if the bills of materials are very long.
In fact, is not unusual to find one giant excel spreadsheet on top of information managed by PLM (product lifecycle management), ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and other databases. Why is that? The information required to assemble bill of material documents tends to reside within separate, disconnected enterprise systems.
It’s time to change that.
Connecting business systems and information
In a world of complex, role and department-specific enterprise systems, productivity can seem quite limited. But the truth is, with the help of technology, businesses no longer need to operate this way. Collaborative solutions exist, and they really are as simple to implement as they, well… should be.
System integration tools (such as applications) change the way organizations create, manage, and share product information- without even having to upgrade or change current enterprise systems.
Using system API connections, applications can pull data from disconnected enterprise systems and consolidate it into centralized dashboard display windows. In fact, many integration applications are even ready to go straight out-of-the-box (yes, this means they require absolutely no special configurations or complicated implementation at all).
For instance, productivity apps offer simple, role-based access to data and other enterprise systems making it easier for stakeholders to view and understand consolidated product information and data. What makes simple applications that integrate enterprise data even better is the fact that most of these system collaboration tools are even affordable.
With a single view to into multiple enterprise systems (such as ALM, MRP, ERP, SLM, CRM, Accounting, and PLM) you can be sure that users have access to the latest and most accurate product information when they need it, and how they need it. There’s really no catch. Productivity apps really are solutions that are; easy, affordable, and that solve the complexity of dealing with multiple disconnected enterprise systems.
Effective BoM management & bill of materials software
Parallel to system integration apps that can pull and consolidate enterprise data, BoM applications can also automatically consolidate real-time data across enterprise systems.
This means organizations can enable real-time BoM collaboration – and that is a game changer.
Real-time BoM collaboration empowers users with capabilities to collaborate and work together creating a bill, sharing BoMs and associated data, and even preview CAD drawings and images. It also opens up the ability to simultaneously edit manufacturing bill of materials, while completely avoiding duplicate and inaccurate documents. This enables users to get a virtual ‘live view’ of data.
Users are able to maintain and manage all associated product documentation such as part datasheets, materials required, CAD drawings and files, as well as anything else that is needed to manufacture a product all in one centralized location. This reassures one sole accurate and revision-controlled bill of material for a product.
This is exactly why it is so important to establish systems and methods that enable all departments within your product development process to be able to share, collaborate, and ensure the accuracy of your bills of materials.
A simple bill of materials software
Our experts at EAC Product Development Solutions recognized the need for better BoM management within many organizations- That’s why we created our bill of materials software application, BoM Reports.
Our BoM Reports PLM application is essentially an out-of-the-box PLM system plugin. It’s easy to use, simple to integrate, and an extremely affordable for any organization.
We designed our Bill of Materials Reports application with the intention of making manufacturing bill of materials and engineering bill of materials management ‘easy’ for organizations of all sizes. Meaning- our bill of materials software can even work for small businesses!
Our BoM Reports app delivers access to your accurate bill of materials database while it provides visual representations, cost rollup for materials, and detailed informational listings of items within bill of materials.
We guarantee our BoM Reports application will enhance your bill of materials management. In fact, it has changed the way many of our customers do business.
Our EAC Productivity app enables purchasers to see product cost roll-ups during design, so they can hit cost targets. It allows project managers to see the highest level status and availability of constituent parts so they can keep projects on time and budget. It helps fabricators see what version of parts go into the build so they can prevent scrap and rework- and SO much more!
We’re excited about how our organization is enhancing product development and we would love to share more information with you about how our EAC productivity apps really work.
If you would like more information about apps that could work for your business insert your information below. We promise not to fill up your inbox with overloads of information, we simply want to share tips, tricks, and tools that will help your organization succeed.
Manufacturers always try to find a ways to streamline processes and ‘do more with less.’ It drives success in a world full of competition. One way organizations do this is by reducing process complexity with powerful product life cycle management (PLM) or change management software. Connecting your team directly to live operational data increases efficiency in all departments and allows your organization to save money and manufacture products faster.
EAC Product Development Solutions has partnered with PTC, the world’s product development technology leader, to bring organizations the products and services that they need to succeed in their industry. As a PTC Solutions Provider, we provide the maintenance, support, configuration, and training you need to implement change management software as easily as possible.
PTC Windchill Data Management
If you’re looking to do things like keeping better track of files, create and store Bill of Materials (BoMs), put CAD models and drawings in one place, eliminate the risk of two individuals working on a file at the same time, or secure your data without burdening IT – you’re looking for PTC Windchill.
PTC software – specifically Windchill – is a complete PLM solution that provides capabilities such as:
- Bill of Materials (BoM) Management (EBoM, SBoM, MBoM)
- Configuration and Change Management
- Requirements Capture Management
- Early insight into product quality, reliability, and risk
- Efficiently making product variations with a structured platform
- Product Data Management
- Collaboration across all departments with accurate, up-to-date information
- Seamless software integration and defining standards
PTC Windchill is a PLM solution that provides a smooth transition from design to manufacturing with universal access to all critical product data information so that the process isn’t fatigued with delays.
PTC Windchill, Change Management, eBoM Case Study
ALM Positioners, a leading manufacturer of positioner lifts located in Rock Island Illinois, needed PTC Windchill. The company offers unique, customizable weldments and assemblies that require a lot of CAD models and other product information from engineering before manufacturing even begins. Due to extensive product customization and configuration depending on the needs of their customers, ALM needed a better solution to manage product data. They were drowning in paper files – a lot of which had outdated information.
EAC’s implementation team helped ALM Positioners transition to a digital workflow using PTC’s Windchill software. Windchill helped ALM save up to 4 hours per project by integrating EBoMs and MBoMs into their ERP system.
Watch the ALM Case Study on PTC Windchill to see how it has consistently proven to be a leader in the industry and outperformed competitors when it came to product lifecycle management.
Part II – (You can read part 1 here) Evolving your BoM strategy, tools, and abilities. “EBoM vs. MBoM” transforms into “EBoM integrates with MBoM.” This integration includes associativity to one another, time saving tools, elimination of error prone manual steps & more.
Imagine eliminating the common disjointed processes, additional time, and error prone manual steps involved in the creation of downstream BoMs from Engineering into Manufacturing, Production and Service management.
Concepts & examples such as Manufacturing Bill of Materials (MBoM) are shown below, all under one system, integrated & associated, and created with a single click. Then they’re easily edited to meet downstream BoM needs.
BoM creation can be streamlined & improved by associatively creating downstream BoMs (S or M or other) and eventually, connecting them to your ERP system. For now, we’ll focus on the first step of this business transformation concept; the creation of the second, or downstream M or SBoM, starting with a simple EBoM example, created in minutes, and easily viewed & tracked.
Who should be involved in this topic at your company? Ideally, your Configuration Manager role should be leading or heavily involved in this process.
The starting point & tool is PTCs Windchill and your willingness to change & improve.
Once your CAD data is ready to check into Windchill, there is an option (check box) to auto-associate the EBoM to a downstream BoM such as an MBoM. It is a 1:1 relationship for starters. Options can branch out from here into many CM (Configuration Management) directions. Such as multi-level BoM management, uses, visualization and more.
Once created, you can manipulate & edit the default 1:1 downstream BoM to your needs; adding bulk items, manufacturing specific sub assemblies, (build throughs) even new service end items. You can also flatten out an EBoM to meet assembly or production needs. BoM items such as adhesive, lubricant, paint or coatings, packaging items, all things that typically are not on an EBoM, can and do belong on the M or SBoM.
If this fits your company’s needs? consider using Windchill’s auto-associate feature.
This article covers a couple examples. If this is not deep enough…here are even more tools to consider. Topics such as creating associated manufacturing instructions, work instructions, work plans and more. Change Management is shown as reference only, it is an optional element of Windchill for another blog.
There are many options to this topic, these are common examples that fit a lot of needs and is considered a starting point.
1stexample shows all BoM & change components all connected in one system vs. manually done in silo fashion, which is industry’s most common method today. These examples are shown in PTCs Windchill reference viewer tool, which ties all related objects into view for easy visibility with just a few clicks.
- 1. EBoM structure (highlighted in green)
- 2. Change requests, notices and tasks (highlighted in red)
- 3. MBoM structure (highlighted in blue) with their own, or connected Change Management Requests, Notices & Tasks
2ndexample shows an EBoM, SBoM (Service Kit in this example), with a saleable end item service kit, as well as components for service or manufacturing BoMs. It also shows Changes, these can also be created, edited, routed, approved or rejected, and even include the SBoM if need be.
Please connect with EAC to learn more, to discover your company’s transformation opportunities with an assessment, maybe see a demo, or attend a webinar. The goal is to help your company transform how you design, manufacture, connect to and service your products.
In last week’s post I walked through a manufacturing use case without Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). I hope you noticed the possible issues and costs related to restricting Manufacturing direct access to PLM and engineering data.
If you missed last weeks post, you can read it here:
This week I will use the same use case story. The only difference will be manufacturing has access to PLM. I have also included manufacturing specific modules, which are run through PLM as well. Manufacturing has access to these modules and uses them for all Manufacturing planning.
As before, Engineering completes a new product design and starts a release process of the product in PLM. One major difference now, is Manufacturing personnel are included at appropriate points in the new release process. There is a full integration between PLM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as well. This integration allows for automatic transfer of the Manufacturing Bill of Materials (BoM) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) when appropriate based on processes managed in PLM.
One thing to note on the outline below; each system task, since it is in PLM, has links to all the required information engineering released as well as any supporting information. This is including manufacturing information, customer specification, and supplier specifications on purchased parts.
Part 1: Release Process
The lead Manufacturing Engineer receives a PLM task asking him to begin manufacturing planning for this associated new products design.
Part 2: Manufacturing Planning
The manufacturing engineer begins the layout of manufacturing processes in the PLM Manufacturing Planning System. This includes planning at each work cell. Each cell is linked to required resources, parts, CAD data, and manufacturing documents required to complete that cell action. With the correct system, this will have included all metrics required to properly and completely plan a manufacturing process.
If required, a Manufacturing BoM is based off of, and linked to, the Design BoM. This allows the Manufacturing Engineer to restructure the BoM as needed to allow for the most efficient manufacturing processes without losing ties to the design BoM and parts the manufacturing BoM was created from.
Once complete, work instructions can be created in web form or be printed to paper from this plan. The work instructions would include links to the correct Engineering data and required manufacturing documentation.
Part 3: Release Process Continues
Once the Manufacturing Engineer completes their planning tasks, all required parts and Manufacturing BoMs, are automatically added and/or updated into the ERP system via an integration to PLM.
During this same process, PLM system tasks are sent to purchasing to start the procurement process.
Tasks are also sent to the tooling designers to start tooling generation.
As mentioned, these tasks are automatically linked to all the required engineering and manufacturing information to appropriately complete each task.
Part 4: Tooling and Controls Tasks
Tooling designers access PLM to generate their tooling data and controlling programs directly from engineering 3D data.
The resulting CAD and other tooling data are also saved to the PLM system. This data is linked to Engineering data, Manufacturing data, and the Manufacturing process plan.
Machining paths and other controlling programs generated are also created and saved to PLM with the same functionality mentioned above.
Having these links from manufacturing to engineering data allows for full impact analyses of any potential changes being planned for the product by the company. As well as insures all downstream data is updated appropriately when an engineering change does occur.
Part 5: In-Process Change by Engineering
While ramp up is happening, Engineering makes a last-minute change. Once the change is complete in Engineering, they start a change process that includes all downstream departments. Each department receives a PLM system task with the all required information related to the change linked to the task. This includes purchasing, manufacturing, tooling, etc. Each department acts upon the change, completing all internal department actions required.
Once all of the departments have completed their tasks in PLM, the change has been completed. Manufacturing ramp up continues leading into the initial manufacturing process.
Part 6: Issue Tracking and Correction During Manufacturing
During the initial manufacturing process, a manufacturing team member notices there is a clearance issue with the design. The team member verbally notifies their cell leader of this issue. The cell leader creates a change request in the PLM System. During that process, he creates a digital markup that is saved with the change request. The change request is created referencing the engineering data the issue is related to.
The engineer responsible receives a PLM system task notifying of this problem. The engineer takes the needed corrective actions and updates the CAD data. This CAD data is then revised released and included in the problem report.
The cell leader receives the notification the problem report was approved and corrected. The updated CAD data is included, the cell leader and the manufacturing floor team member can now reference the new data directly from PLM and make the needed correction.
This happens many times during the initial manufacturing process. The necessary PLM processes are initiated based on the issues found during the initial manufacturing run.
Manufacturing uses PLM to gain access to engineering data because it always references the latest released information. This insures nothing is made from outdated information.
Part 7: Final Product Release
The final product is released to the customer.
All as-built information has been saved in PLM, meaning most of the related engineering data has been changed via the PLM process capturing changes. Anything that hasn’t been corrected yet is also saved via electronic markups to be processed later.
Part 8: Another Manufacturing Run
One year later, the company needs to do a manufacturing run on this same product. However, they have a large turnover with their manufacturing employees. Only a few people are there that worked on the first production run of this product. Without the use of PLM, this could be a disaster. However, all as-built changes where captured in PLM for the first production run of this product and manufacturing is still using PLM to access all build information. This allows manufacturing the ability to properly prepare for the next run. This resulted in very few, if any, issues during the next production run.
Hopefully it is easy to see the benefits of giving manufacturing direct access to PLM, even based on this limited use case example.
There are many benefits to utilizing PLM in manufacturing. Much more than is appropriate to list in a blog. If you’d like to take a deeper dive, please contact one of our experts here at EAC. We would love to talk you through all the benefits PLM utilized in manufacturing could offer you.
In the meantime, reading our eBook, “Designing an Effective Change Control Process” may be helpful. We walk you through how to design a change control process to improve productivity and reduce quality issues.
Many still think that a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system is only for the Engineering department. At one point that may have been true. However, I am starting to see a shift in that mind set. More companies every day are starting to see the benefit, and even the necessity, in giving manufacturing direct access to the appropriate engineering data through a robust PLM system.
In this two part series I am going to outline a fictional use case both with and without PLM. My intent is for this to highlight the benefit of PLM in manufacturing. Please realize the use cases are not all inclusive. There are many possible actions that need to be taken to start manufacturing of a new product. I am simplifying for purpose of maintaining a storyline that is easier to follow along.
In the first use case, engineering is working in a PLM system and Manufacturing is not. Engineering uses PLM for data management, process management, and controls their release process utilizing this system. However, only engineering has access to this PLM system.
When a new product is released to manufacturing, only the drawings associated to this product are printed on paper and put in a folder and then physically handed to manufacturing. Once manufacturing has this folder, they begin the required tasks to begin production of this product. I will outline below what a possible workflow might look like in manufacturing without a PLM system.
Part 1: Initial Manufacturing Product Release Tasks
The required parts are manually entered into the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. In many cases, the parts are entered into a manufacturing Excel file instead. Requests made to purchasing to procure parts and raw materials required, utilizing copies of the 2D prints to send to the suppliers. After that, a Bill of Materials (BoM) structure for the parts is manually created to support the required manufacturing processes.
Part 2: Process Planning
Manufacturing will then begin the layout of processes required to manufacture the product. In many cases, the layouts are also created in Excel.
Part 3: Tooling and Controls Design
The tooling designers recreate the required 3D models from the 2D prints. The designs are typically saved in an uncontrolled manner such as on a local drive on a user desktop. The machining paths and other controlling programs are generated from these uncontrolled tooling files as well.
Part 4: In Process Engineering Change
While the ramp up is happening, engineering has the ability to make last-minute changes. If a change is made, a new 2D print must be created and supplied to manufacturing. Manufacturing must attempt to replace all copies of the printed design with a new copy. When this happens, there is great risk associated with having two of these copies floating around. Designers are manually notified to make the required changes, as are the supplies to make the required changes to the new prints. Manufacturing planning must adjust processes based on these changes as well.
Part 5: Finish Ramp Up
Manufacturing ramp up continues leading into the initial manufacturing process.
Part 6: Begin Initial Manufacturing Run
During the initial manufacturing process, a manufacturing team member notices there is a clearance issue with the design. The manufacturing team member verbally notifies their cell leader of this issue. The cell leader will then make a phone call to the engineer whose name is on the print and explains the problem. The engineer tells him to grind down the part to allow the needed clearance. The cell lead marks by hand on the print how much the part must be grinded down. If the engineer remembers, he will also update the 3D design to match this. It’s unlikely they would request a formal change to be release. One thing to note here is that there is no history of this interaction anywhere but on the market up print on the manufacturing floor.
This happens many times during the initial manufacturing process. Typically, only major issues are formally documented which will drive a full change process in Engineering.
Part 7: Out-of-date Information on Manufacturing Floor
One sub-assembly was made using out-of-date information due to outdated prints being used. Rebuild of this sub-assembly was required.
Part 8: Product Release
The final product is released to the customer.
Most of the as-built documentation is saved on paper in a folder in the manufacturing offices.
One year later, they need to do a manufacturing run on this same product. However, they have a large turnover with their manufacturing employees. Only a few people are there that worked on the first production run of this product. They were not aware of the as-built mark-ups manufacturing had in their folders. So, many of the same issues were found and had to be corrected in this manufacturing run again.
I listed a few possible issues that could come from uncontrolled information used in manufacturing. I am sure you can imagine, or even experienced other possible issues.
Keep your eyes peeled for next weeks post where I review the same manufacturing process, but this time with manufacturing having direct access to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). If you would like to learn more about the benefits of PLM in manufacturing you can download our eBook, “Designing an Effective Change Control Process” here. This eBook discusses how following a change control process would likely improve productivity and reduce quality issues. The benefits of having a controlled process in place substantially outweigh the initial time and resources to get started.