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.

Imagine if you could manage quality, reliability, and risk at every stage of your product’s life cycle. You could reduce costs, speed innovation, and enhance next generation products. PTC’s product lifecycle management (PLM) software, Windchill, lets you do just that. 

Want to see an example of how Windchill software is used? See how Virnig Manufacturing uses PTC Windchill to change the way their data is delivered within their organization.

Already using Windchill and need help with admin and support? You’ll want to check out our Alliance Program,  provided to our customers for on-going technical support, business process consulting, and mentoring services on a monthly basis.

Already using Windchill but you or some of your team member don’t use it often, therefore, it gets confusing? You’ll want to check out our role-based apps for casual Windchill users – EAC Productivity Apps or ThingWorx Navigate will help you.

Don’t know what the heck PTC Windchill is? Then read on.

What is PTC Windchill?

PTC Windchill is a product lifecycle management (PLM) application suite that leverages a consolidated view of product information through multi-system data. It’s a systemic enterprise wide approach to maintaining product and process quality throughout the entire product lifecycle. 

PTC Windchill PLM software provides a complete functionality dimension to help organizations capture product structures from computer-aided design tools, transform them into full engineering bill of materials (eBoMS), to manufacturing bill of materials (mBoMS), to service bill of materials (sBoMS) all while retaining the linkages between different perspectives on the product. Windchill solutions break down organizational barriers, allowing teams to work faster and more accurately all while reducing time-to-market and cutting costs.

The Windchill Product Lifecycle Management system can help streamline your product development and service information processes. It’s a system that can help your organization create better products, with more variations, faster, at a lower cost. As a manufacturer, your pressures are not only continual – they’re mounting. Your industry is changing. Your customers’ requirements are evolving. And your supply chain is constantly adjusting to compete in today’s environment. In the middle of all this, more is being demanded of you and your entire organization.

Windchill helps with exactly that. As an integral component of PTC ’s Product Development System, Windchill manages all product content and business processes throughout the product and service lifecycle. And it has a robust, high-performing architecture to help you today – and to prepare you for tomorrow’s uncertainties. Windchill provides a rich systematic approach for creating, configuring, managing and reusing product structures and associated content, such as CAD files, documentation, requirements, manufacturing information, service information, part/supplier data, calculations and illustrations.

Windchill can also play an important role in increasing your company’s competitiveness by allowing continuous improvements and automation of business processes and procedures. Windchill is an integral suite of products that address the needs of product development. The Windchill family is composed of products that help support product data management, collaboration, product analytics, service information, product quality, and integrations. Check out the PTC Windchill Data Sheet to learn more.

PTC Windchill Cost

PTC Windchill made updates to their PLM packaging and pricing – which means you can customize dashboards and product data more than ever before at a cost that makes sense for your organization. Here is a breakdown of the new PLM structure.

PTC Windchill Certification

Once you’re ready to purchase the software, you’ll need to make sure it’s learned and understood in a timely manner and without frustration. We have a few options:

Short-Term Support: EAC’s Product Development System Services Team has a long track record of successfully implementing Windchill products.

Long-Term Support: Check out our Alliance Program – EAC’s PTC Windchill system administration and support services for on-going technical support.

Support at your own pace: Your team can get PTC Windchill certified by taking our classes we offer for end users and managers. Check out our training schedule.

The Windchill Products Explained: 

Windchill products are application modules that offer users specific sets of features and capabilities within the Windchill application suite.  Some of the most common Windchill PLM modules include: 

      • Windchill PDM Essentials 
      • Windchill PDMLink 
      • Windchill ProjectLink 
      • Windchill PartsLink

What is Windchill PDM Essentials? 

PTC Windchill Product Data Management (PDM) Essentials is built on PTC’s production proven PTC Windchill software. 

Windchill PDM Essentials simplifies data management activities by transparently incorporating them into the design process. It manages all forms of information such as CAD drawings, customer requirements, schematics and Bill of Materials (BoMs) that are generated during product development.

This modern product data management solution makes it easy to manage, share, and review your data. It’s finally possible to have a single view of the latest product data, along with tighter integration to major end CAD vendors, Microsoft Office, and desktop tools. Plus, it allows your users to save time with better version control, automated data release, and simple search capabilities. Learn more by reading the PTC Windchill PDM Essentials Data Sheet.

With an abundance of data dispersed throughout your organization, how do you maintain the integrity of your product information when multiple people are working on the same files? The solution is easy – Windchill PDMLink. 

Windchill PDMLink is a Web-based, industry-proven Product Data Management (PDM) system that supports geographically dispersed teams while managing critical processes such as content, change and configuration management. Windchill PDMLink maintains the integrity of your product information by storing master data in a secure area where you can control, monitor, and record all changes. 

When a change is made to your data, Windchill PDMLink stores a modified copy of the data, signed and dated, in a secure area alongside the old data, which remains in its original form as a permanent record. In addition to providing change control management, Windchill PDMLink enables you to manage your product’s release cycle as well as its configuration. Check out the PTC Windchill PDMLink Data Sheet for more information.

Windchill ProjectLink is a collaborative product development web-based environment that automates and tracks projects. 

ProjectLink provides a common workspace where you and your team can share and discuss documents and product structures, hold meetings, and communicate and track progress on tasks. From private exchange environments to public business to business (B2B) exchanges, ProjectLink is a secure web-based system that can easily be used in any collaboration environment.

It can also be used well beyond the engineering and manufacturing departments of your organization. Any project that requires team members to share electronic information such as writing annual reports to creating training materials, can be managed with Windchill ProjectLink.  For more information read the PTC Windchill ProjectLink Data Sheet here.

Windchill PartsLink is a module for PDMLink that adds part classification-based features. 

PartsLink enables you to perform parametric attribute searching and manage your results through convenient navigation and searching. You can search parts by typing a free-form product description or a part number in the search criteria text box. You can browse the hierarchically organized structure of your parts using text and images. You can also refine your search by constraining parameters in a parametric search. 

Windchill PartsLink enables your team to perform similar part searches, expanding your search to look for matching parts that have parametric attributes that are within a certain percentage or absolute tolerance of the selected part. Additionally, you can export the result set to a file.

Many companies lack a comprehensive part search system and as a result they lose the benefits of reusing product components. Criteria-based searching limits the result set, which helps a great deal in reuse decisions. PTC Windchill PartsLink helps solve that problem. 

What is Windchill Quality Solutions? 

Depending on your specific Windchill Quality Solutions suite (Windchill Quality Solutions 10.1 Desktop, Windchill Quality Solutions 10.1 Administrator, Windchill Quality Solutions 10.1 Web Access) you may have access to one or more applications. 

Windchill Quality Solutions, the desktop version, is the cornerstone of the Windchill Quality Solutions suite. It is available in both the team and enterprise additions and is the feature rich windows application for all of your reliability and maintainability activities. 

Available in the enterprise addition you will also find Windchill Quality Solutions Administrator which provides you options for administrative controls including options to support secure login. 

Windchill Quality Solutions Web Access available specifically for Windchill FMEA infractions in the enterprise edition, allows you access for data entry, filtering, graphing, reporting and more. 

Is there other Windchill Software for product data management and process management?

  • Windchill MPMLink acts as an integral solution for Manufacturing Process Management.
  • Windchill FlexPLM is a product lifecycle management solution that is widely used for retail, footwear & apparel and consumer product companies.
  • Windchill Requirements Management is a combination of PTC’s Integrity product and Windchill PDMLink that manages product data software and hardware requirements.
  • Windchill PPMLink is a program that provides portfolio management capabilities to discrete manufacturers.
  • Windchill Service Information Manager creates associative, interactive service parts information used throughout a product’s serviceable lifecycle.
  • Windchill Service Parts improves service operations by enabling service information to be organized and optimized for accuracy, applicability, and rich, graphics-driven delivery.

Want to see a PTC Windchill tutorial to see the software in action? Watch this on-demand video of Windchill’s basic software capabilities.

Watch this on-demand webinar recording to learn more about Windchill software.

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.