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.
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.
I’d like to start off by clarifying the difference between eBoM vs eBoM. Most companies developing products have both an eBoM and mBoM.
- Engineering Bill of Materials (eBoM) — as designed
- Manufacturing Bill of Materials (mBoM) — as shipped
You may not agree, many don’t see it this clearly. The industry does, and therefore, some software tools have more ability than you may know. But, I guarantee, if you overlay these two elements onto what you are doing for Bill of Materials (BoMs), whether in Engineering, or in Manufacturing, or in Production, you’ll see the clarity of these two simple elements rise to the surface.
Definition of eBoM and mBoM:
eBoMs are created in engineering, are typically driven from the CAD tool, and are usually centric to the final assemblies list of parts or components that make up the as designed or eBoM.
mBoMs will contain, or be ‘driven’ by the eBoM. MBoMs make up the ‘end item’, or product as shipped. Of course, the eBoM, or ‘parts list’…the eBoM requires additional things like shipping containers, crates, peanuts, or packing foam, plastic bags for accessories, power cords, or items necessary to complete the product that is not defined on the eBoM.
Manual processes for eBoMs & mBoMs
In the drawing board days, we often communicated this detail as a table on the final assembly drawing. Sometimes as many sheets attached or referred to on the final assembly drawing. Hopefully, you’ve evolved beyond that! If not, that’s okay, there is hope. Unfortunately, many still use this legacy approach and are still creating (painfully) this table on their CAD assembly drawings. Others may be manually forming them in spreadsheet software.
The next step, and pain point, you must re-enter or get the data into your ERP/MRP tool. Either manually, or via an importation, it is error-prone. What if changes occur? But, that never happens, right?? Ha.
How much time does your organization spend on these tasks? How about errors because of changes? Do you have the role of Configuration Manager defined?
The task of creating the mBoM from the eBoM usually has many manual and painful disjointed steps. Often involving exporting out of one tool, into another, but only if you are evolved enough — as I stated earlier, many are not this evolved, but have the vision to do so…maybe you’ve already made a connection from your data management tool to your ERP/MRP system?
PLM Systems like PTC Windchill help you manage your BoMs
EAC can help you form this vision, and guide you to a better way of understanding this topic in the context of your organization. We strongly believe there is a better way to develop products – and managing eBoMs and mBoMs is just one part of doing it better.
PTC Windchill can drive the eBoM into the mBoM or vice versa. It has the out of the box ability to be the tool for the Configuration Manager roles in your organization. Options and variants are another use case you’ll see in a future blog topic.
Organizations have found ways to leverage PLM systems that transform their product development process and defeat pain points like the disjointed processes that come with manual creation of the mBoM from the eBoM.
Take a look at the Aberdeen PLM Research revealing that organizations with connected PLM see a 22% increase in engineering productivity and 21% improvement.
If you’re looking for a PLM solution such as PTC Windchill, our Product Development System Services (PDSS) team can help implement the software within your organization.