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

PLM in nature is meant to be a tool to help engineering manage their production date while allowing dynamic collaboration and change control throughout the product development cycle.

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).

ERP or MES systems are all about the financial and manufacturing execution aspect of product management.

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.

These are our best practices to help you get ahead and to take product data further. We would love to hear about your thoughts about this topic and answer any additional questions you might have. Feel free to drop a comment below or leave an inquiry under let’s talk.

Looking for an easy way to quickly assess your bill of materials and ensure projects stay on-time and on-track?

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Check out our BoM Reports App

You’re likely to have experience with Bill of Materials (BoMs) if the nature of your business has anything to do with product development.

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

BoMs define products as they are designed (CAD or engineering bill of materials), as they are ordered (sales bill of materials), as they are built (manufacturing bill of materials), and as they are maintained (service bill of materials).

They incorporate product information from design and engineering, document control, operations, manufacturing, purchasing, contract manufacturers, and more. Bill of materials influence inventory levels, material purchases, shop floor assemblies, and so much more.

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.

Get More Information about EAC Productivity Apps

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.

These days product data is everywhere. Everyone seems to collect it, have a lot of it, but the question remains; how exactly can you ensure your organization’s product data is being put to good use?

It’s time to take your product development one step further by providing role-based data access, connecting your enterprise systems, and learning how to make the most of your product data. I am going to explain exactly how easy that is to do.

The current state of product data

Companies today have many different roles that require access to product data. This may include people outside of the typical roles of which you may be thinking.

Departments such as engineering, manufacturing, that’s a given, but expand your thinking to include operations, purchasing, and marketing. They all need data access in order to edit and consume information. Think about sourcing…I’ll stop there, but you get the idea.

Let’s focus on the engineering department for a moment.

People could be involved from the mechanical side, the electrical side, or even a quality standpoint. Beyond that, people need to either contribute or consume information that could include manufacturing, service, sales, and more.

We live in a world of complex role, and department specific enterprise business systems (such as ERP, MRP, SLM, ALM, CRM, Accounting, PLM and more)

Product data game-changers

Product data silos limit productivity – PTC & EAC have the answer.

PTC ThingWorx Navigate was designed to address data accessibility problems by providing simple role-based apps that deliver just the right information to different groups (or departments) in the way that they need

When non-engineering colleagues need access to vital information, they typically interrupt an engineer or designer with a request. ThingWorx Navigate eliminates that distraction and “double-billing.” Through role or task-based self-service applications, data can be securely shared with a team. That way non-expert teams can use a simplified user interface to access the product data they need, right when they need it.

To help accelerate product development processes and take product data even further, our company (EAC Product Development Solutions) has also created what we call EAC Productivity Apps that work alongside ThingWorx Navigate apps.

So what’s the difference between ThingWorx, ThingWorx Navigate and our EAC Productivity apps? 

This is a great question- I am going to try and paint the picture for you. 

First, it’s important that you understand what ThingWorx is and how it is different from ThingWorx Navigate. 

ThingWorx is the proper name of PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform comprised of 5 components; foundation, industrial connectivity, analytics, studio, and utilities. It can basically connect any computer systems or physical assets as long as they have an API port or sensors streaming out data. There are many levels and combinations of each of these components, all serving unique business drivers. Please contact us if you’d like to talk through what you’re trying to do.

The foundation component is the heart of the ThingWorx loT platform used to make connections to ‘things’ which could be machines, products or software systems or pretty much anything with an IP address and a communications interface.

User interfaces to the data coming from these connections are displayed on websites called ‘mashups,’ created with ThingWorx foundation. You might know these perhaps as ‘data mashups’ or possibly as ‘data dashboards’. Simply put, Thingworx is the IoT platform that makes everything possible. (Here’s exactly what makes Thingworx the leading technology for industrial IoT)

Then you have ThingWorx Navigate

ThingWorx Navigate is the proper name of PTC’s applications that run off, or in other words, use the ThingWorx IoT platform.  You can learn more about ThingWorx Navigate by reading this data sheet. ThingWorx Navigate is a pre-packaged set of data interfaces (also known as apps or applications) built on an Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). 

ThingWorx Navigate Apps use a Windchill (PLM) connector to extract product data for presentation to Windchill Product Lifecycle Management users.  

ThingWorx Navigate Solution. Thingworx Navigate real based apps for tooling developers, purchasing agents, quality inspectors, processing planners and more.

Fundamentally, ThingWorx Navigate Apps are all simply data and product information mashups created with ThingWorx. With ThingWorx Navigate you receive out-of-the-box apps that are instantly ready to be used with your PLM system. The idea behind these product lifecycle management apps is to ensure users can capture the complete functionality of their PLM (product lifecycle management) investment.

ThingWorx Navigate Apps eliminate user intimidation based on the complexity of PLM platforms like Windchill. They ensure organizations can easily make use of their big data

ThingWorx Navigate Benefits

ThingWorx Navigate PLM Apps include: 

View Design Files – A design file would be a format of a file that isn’t the native CAD format. This could be a staph or Induce or perhaps a 3D PDF 

View Drawing – Allows you to look at just drawings. This application pulls drawings from your Windchill PLM system.

View Part Properties – This feature allows you to look at part properties- as if you were hitting the ‘Information button’ next to a file.

View Parts List – Allows you to look at bills of Materials (BOMs) 

View Part Structure– With the View Part Structure App, ThingWorx is actually going into PDMLink and showing different aspects of a specific part instead of different ways of going at it (such as having to open several different tabs to get information). Using this application, you can get all your information together on one page. This feature also includes capabilities that cross-highlight part structures within your product. For instance, you could select a component and it would highlight that part and create a hyperlink that allows you to directly look at that specific part. This feature essentially creates a mash-up that takes information from different places inside of Windchill PDMLink and brings them together putting them on one screen, allowing you to have all your information at your fingertips.

View Document  & View Document Structure

Download this FREE ThingWorx Navigate eBook

If you would like to learn more about ThingWorx Navigate technology or if you have any questions, you can always request to talk with Thingworx Navigate specialists here.

PLM Applications created by EAC

Our EAC Productivity Apps (also known as product lifecycle applications) are also built on the ThingWorx technology platform.

They allow departments to access content and perform common tasks through a very simple interface, versus having to use a complex product lifecycle management system (PLM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. 

EAC Productivity Apps for Windchill

PTC Navigate Apps vs. EAC Productivity Apps

Our EAC Productivity Apps provide capabilities beyond that of the out of the box ThingWorx Navigate apps. 

In short, ThingWorx Navigate applications allow you to securely access and present role-specific data from your Windchill system. They provide all of the power of a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system to someone who is not familiar with its ins-and-outs of product data management. 

EAC Productivity Apps take it a step further by taking the underlying technology of ThingWorx Navigate, and the ability to get at the information in the PLM system and create even more complete applications that really give individuals instantaneous access to the information and product data they need to do their job. EAC’s PLM applications are created using PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform, however, they can run independently of ThingWorx Navigate. 

These apps are unique to EAC

While built using the same ThingWorx foundation, ADK and [Windchill connector], they have their own look, feel and functionality.  These mashups are packaged and sold together as a collection. EAC Productivity Apps created for Windchill promote user adoption and amplify the return on the investment you’ve made in your Windchill system, as well as extending role-based visibility into relevant product data and the impact PLM has on your organization. 

Take your product data further with EAC Productivity Apps

Every subscription of EAC Productivity Apps includes free access to EAC Productivity Home. EAC Productivity Home is a proprietary framework, or launcher, for ThingWorx Navigate applications.

It sits on top of Windchill and Navigate to provide a fully configurable and responsive interface. Productivity Home simplifies user interaction and helps administrators maintain the user portal after upgrading to new releases of ThingWorx Navigate.

PLM App 'Quick Search'

The EAC Productivity App, Quick Search, provides a simple way for users to find content in Windchill. It removes the need for users to apply an understanding of how Windchill objects are related in order to find the information needed to do their job.

The Quick Search PLM application also allows users to search for components and retrieve information and file formats. For instance, if you were to grab a drive system and do a quick search, it’s going to find product information such as parts, EMP like documents, CAD files and more. See EAC Productivity Application Quick Search in action here.

You can also learn more about the Quick Search features in this brochure.

The Quick Access EAC Productivity Application streamlines access to critical and select data sets. Simplifies downstream users feeding critical quality information back to engineering with minimal effort. 

This EAC Productivity App allows downstream users to feed critical quality information back to engineering with minimal effort. The simplified interface and consolidated task workflows help users easily submit new problem reports, new change requests, and new variances.

Here's an example of what a user might see using the EAC Productivity Application Quick Access
Here’s an example of what a user might see using the EAC Productivity Application Quick Access

For instance, you could select a component (such as a product), pick its name (the end item number), search for it, and you would get straight to assemblies. With the use of Quick Access users can easily submit new problem reports, change requests, variances and more.

You can learn more about Quick Access features in this brochure.

The Part Associations EAC application provides a “shortcut” for non-CAD users to access critical files and documentation associated with designs like drawings, parts, assemblies, and other documents associated with CAD files and part data.

Here’s an example of what a user might see using the EAC Productivity Application ‘Parts Association’

You can learn more about Part Association features in this brochure.

BoM Reports App provides a visual representation of cost roll-up for materials, and detailed informational listing of the items in a Bill of Materials. 

This EAC Productivity App allows users to quickly assess a Bill of Material and ensure projects stay on-time and on-track. The simplified view helps ensure products are built with the appropriate design iterations. With the use of BoM Reports users can easily see BoMs, lists of unreleased parts, parts that have been created or modified by specific users and more.

This app allows users to see the progress of a bill of materials, and apply filters to focus on parts that are not yet released. It is also useful for viewing all of the “make” parts or “buy” parts in a given BoM, or all parts created/modified by a particular user.

Here’s an example of what a user might see using the EAC Productivity Application ‘BoM Reports’

Get better access to your product data 

See all the features of EAC Productivity Apps for PTC Windchill by watching our short webinar below or contact us to start the conversation about how you can get better access to your data with ThingWorx Navigate and EAC Productivity Apps. (Quick Access, BoM Report, Part Associations, Quick Search)

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. 1. EBoM structure (highlighted in green) 
  2. 2. Change requests, notices and tasks (highlighted in red) 
  3. 3. MBoM structure (highlighted in blue) with their own, or connected Change Management Requests, Notices & Tasks

 

Evolving Your BOM Strategy, Tools, and Abilities | EAC Product Development Solutions

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. 

Evolving Your BOM Strategy, Tools, and Abilities | EAC Product Development Solutions

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.