I’m sure at least once in your life you’ve heard the saying, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’ But what a cliche, right?! Well, for those of you managing your Bill of Materials (BOMs) in Excel, it’s time to step away from the cell block prison (pun intended).
In this article, we’re going to break down what it actually means to revitalize your BOM strategy with the Digital Thread to start seeing the results you want.
What Is The Digital Thread?
First of all, let’s start with the basics. The Digital Thread is a term used to describe the seamless flow of information throughout the manufacturing process. From design and engineering to production and after-sales support. It provides a way to connect all the data and information generated at different stages and from systems of the product lifecycle.
Generally, the Digital Thread provides value by enabling better visibility and control of any processes that require or produce product data. It enables manufacturers to collaborate more effectively, automate and optimize workflows, and quickly respond to changes. All while adjusting quickly to customer needs.
Bill of Materials (BOM)
Next, let’s break down the concept of a Bill of Materials. A complete Bill of Materials (BoM) list usually contains all of the parts and components needed to create or manufacture an end product. You might think of a BoM as a recipe ingredient list. The information about each part can include details such as part names, part numbers, quantity required, and cost per unit. Not to mention, BoMs contain other relevant part details such as material type, color, or size if applicable; supplier information; serial numbers, etc.
By consolidating and organizing all the pertinent information product information, the BoM becomes a centralized resource. A critical resource that facilitates the manufacturing processes of specified products.
Ultimately, the goal of the BoM is to help track inventory and verify missing parts during assembly. Equally as important, BoMs are critical to support a healthy supply chain, as well as help with purchasing decisions and more.
The Digital Thread and Bill of Materials Working Together
Balancing a plethora of product information – it’s no surprise, the best BoM management strategy used within the industry does not leverage solely Microsoft Excel. Nor does it rely upon one Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Instead it works to unite data from multiple systems into a single source of truth.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But, if you’re like most – your product data lives all over the place in different systems from different departments. This situation tends to create data siloes resulting in time-consuming manual tasks using outdated operational processes. Generally, these are some of the biggest problems that inhibit manufacturers from achieving their business initiatives.
Oftentimes, during our EAC Assessments, we hear multiple teams across the enterprise and different management levels are frustrated by broken processes. In short, there is a lack of key information employees need to do their jobs right, at the time they need it most.
Meanwhile, the digital thread uses advanced technology (such as product lifecycle management systems as well as the Internet of Things) to connect critical disparate processes. This, in turn, helps minimize manual tasks, and breaks down data siloes. Implementing the digital thread to your BoM strategy creates a major impact for all stakeholders involved. For instance, design teams, engineers, manufacturing, assembly, operations, finance, purchasing, and even marketing.
How The Digital Thread Supports Engineering
Furthermore, the Digital Thread plays a crucial role in supporting engineering and bill of materials (BOM) management by providing seamless connectivity and accessibility to relevant data throughout the product lifecycle. Here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Engineering Collaboration
Firstly, the digital thread allows engineers to collaborate effectively by providing a centralized platform for sharing and accessing engineering data. This facilitates cross-functional collaboration, enables real-time communication, and reduces errors or miscommunications during the design and development process.
2. Design Consistency
Secondly, the digital thread ensures design consistency by maintaining a single source of truth for engineering data. Changes made in the design phase are automatically propagated throughout the digital thread, ensuring that all related documents, models, and specifications remain synchronized.
3. BOM Accuracy and Visibility
The digital thread integrates BOM management, configuration management, and BoM transformation capabilities. This enables accurate and up-to-date BOMs, as the data will automatically reflect changes. Additionally, it provides real-time visibility into the BoM status, including component availability, sourcing information, and cost implications.
4. Change Management
Next, the digital thread streamlines change management processes. By automating change notifications, approvals, and tracking. Essentially, it ensures that engineering changes are effectively communicated, documented, and implemented across the relevant stages of the product lifecycle, minimizing errors and delays.
5. Manufacturing Process Optimization
By connecting engineering data with manufacturing process management, the digital thread enables better coordination and optimization of production processes. By in large, system and data integration allows for improved manufacturing planning, efficient resource allocation, and reduced lead times.
6. Enhanced Visualization and Analysis
Another example includes leveraging augmented reality (AR) design sharing to provide visual representations of designs. In detail, enabling stakeholders to view and analyze products in a virtual environment. It’s recommended to use AR to enhance design reviews, simplify communication, and facilitate better decision-making.
Overall, the digital thread improves engineering and BoM management. Markedly, by streamlining processes, enhancing collaboration, ensuring data consistency, and providing visibility across the product lifecycle. It promotes efficiency, accuracy, and agility in engineering and BoM-related activities. Leading to improved product quality and faster time to market in the long run.
How A Digital Thread BoM Strategy Streamlines Manufacturing
Simultaneously, the digital thread plays a significant role in enhancing the bill of materials (BoM) management for manufacturing, assembly, and quality control processes. In sum, here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Manufacturing and Assembly Planning
The digital thread enables seamless integration between the BoM and manufacturing planning systems. It provides real-time visibility into the BoM, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for manufacturing and assembly operations. This allows for efficient production planning, optimized resource allocation, and improved scheduling in all.
2. Supply Chain Integration
By connecting the BoM with supply chain management systems, the digital thread enhances supply chain visibility and collaboration. It enables better coordination with suppliers, accurate tracking of component availability, and improved procurement processes. As a result, it minimizes the risk of production delays and ensures timely delivery of materials.
3. Work Instructions and Assembly Guidance
Thirdly, the digital thread facilitates the creation and dissemination of detailed work instructions and assembly guidance based on the BoM data. This ensures that assembly operators have access to accurate and step-by-step instructions, reducing errors and improving productivity on the shop floor.
4. Quality Control and Traceability
The digital thread enables better quality control and traceability throughout the manufacturing process. By integrating the BoM with quality management systems, it ensures that quality requirements and specifications are adhered to during production. It also enables traceability of components and materials, making it easier to identify and address any quality issues or recalls.
5. Continuous Improvement and Feedback Loop
Additionally, the digital thread supports continuous improvement initiatives by capturing data and feedback from manufacturing and quality control processes. It enables the analysis of production data, identifies areas for improvement, and facilitates data-driven decision-making to enhance manufacturing efficiency and product quality.
6. Post-Market Monitoring
Finally, the digital thread extends beyond the manufacturing phase to support post-market monitoring and quality assurance. Integrating BoM data with field service management systems and customer feedback enables organizations to identify and address product issues, initiate product improvements, and provide timely support and maintenance.
All in all, the digital thread enhances BoM management for manufacturing and assembly processes by ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, facilitating supply chain integration, enabling effective work instructions, improving quality control, supporting continuous improvement efforts, and enabling post-market monitoring. Concurrently, it streamlines operations, improves product quality, and enhances customer satisfaction.
The Polaris Story
Polaris utilized PTC Windchill, an advanced product lifecycle management system, to transform their Bill of Materials into a reliable new business model backbone. As a result, it allowed them to create a connected enterprise.
Windchill PLM combines the digital thread framework with a maximized BoM and change management strategy. This powerful product lifecycle management platform organizes all information associated with the development of its products, allowing every stakeholder to access the latest up-to-date information in a dynamic format.
Once it was clear to Polaris that they had outgrown certain tools and processes, they coordinated and synchronized a digital thread of data throughout the enterprise by leveraging PTC Windchill.
As of today, Polaris’ Windchill PLM system enables them to manage and organize the bill of materials (BoM) and implemented configuration management practices. This helped transform their BoMs as needed, effectively managing changes, overseeing manufacturing processes, and utilizing augmented reality (AR) design-sharing capabilities.
By orchestrating these elements, the digital thread ensured seamless connectivity and flow of information across different stages and departments within Polaris. This enabled improved collaboration, streamlined workflows, effective change control, and enhanced manufacturing processes. On top of giving the ability to share and visualize designs using AR technology.
To sum it up, it’s time to put Excel away and start working smarter, not harder. Successful BoM management derives from a single source of truth throughout the enterprise in regard to all the data contained in the Bill of Materials. The Digital Thread allows for the seamless automated flow of the BoM information to create a truly connected enterprise, working in sync along every step of the manufacturing process.
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.