Do We Need Chief Excel Officer To Manage BOM?

I had chance to read yesterday Arena’s whitepaper “Whose BOM is it Anyway?”. You can find the link this whitepaper for free download here.The white paper is written as a Disaster Story from a manufacturing going trough the hassle of BOM management using Microsoft Excel.

In the end of white paper, there are 3 tips how to take control of your BOM.

#1 Provide Multiple Views into a Single Consolidated BOM. Every department needs different information from the BOM, so you need to present your BOM in a format that allows each department to access and incorporate the information that is vital to them, without having to fork off a new version for their own use. Consider using a tool designed for this purpose instead of something like Excel, and keep all departmental information related to the BOM in one centralized location that is accessible by all.

#2 improve Visibility of Changes through redlines and notifications. The ability to redline a BOM is critical. A single change in a BOM of 20 columns and 500 lines is very easy and too costly to miss. Redlines enable someone who isn’t intimately familiar with the BOM to pick it up and know instantly what needs attention.

#3 Establish a review and Approval Process that Everyone Agrees to and Stick to it. By consistently following your process, you can make sure that all your changes are reviewed by the right people across multiple departments. This will help you prevent costly errors that result in scrap and rework and ultimately delay your product getting to market.

In addition to these three tips, there is a very nice picture shows Bill of Material shows how Your Product Data is managed by Arena Solution.

This white paper stroke me to think again about my post related to an idea of single Bill Of Material – Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Material. The main point of my post was about how we can eliminate multiple Bill of Materials in the enterprise and replace it with single one, that contains all we need from design to manufacturing.

As I can read tip 1 – “Provide Multiple Views into a Single Consolidated BOM” with option to have a multiple set of views into this BOM. This is really good news. However, I found the picture presenting bi-directional data exchange with CAD/PDM and ECAD/Component Library. So data need to be synchronized in two directions. In addition ERP/MRP is presented as Item Master Ref (which I believe a reference) to product data in single BOM and probably mean data never going to be synchronized from ERP back to PLM/PDM. This is something that rarely happen if PLM consider as a Single Consolidated BOM.

At this point, of time, I came with strange feelings, similar to what Carlos had from the same white paper. BOMs are starting to fly all over!  However, now, Bills are flying between Product Data storage and all other systems. All systems mentioned on this picture, need to be somehow synchronized. So, you can see flying gizmos inventing magic vacuum cleaners to suck Bill of Material data from the central place where Product Data is stored and moving it between and around with CAD/PDM, ECAD, ERP/MRP. How we can organize this data exchange? Oh, I’m sure there are magic XML (or maybe Excel) files that can go back and forth and do this work. My hunch is that this work is very complicated and the cost of such integration is not cheap.

Unfortunately, this is a reality of every engineering and manufacturing company. Flying Excels with Bill of Materials, or any other representations of the BOMs in any format, is the ultimate way to do real Bill of Material job in the organization. And, this is very expensive work. There are two alternatives I had chance to see in the organization:

(1) to invest big $$$ to make a comprehensive integration (I’ve seen such companies and they are doing very well);
(2) to hire Chief Excel Officer to take care of all BOM/Excels in the company (this is the mainstream situation).

So, what is my conclusion today? The white paper touched the real problem. There are no magic gizmo that can solve integration problem related to Bill of Materials. To create a single point of product data in the organization is not simple. Period.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


21 Responses to Do We Need Chief Excel Officer To Manage BOM?

  1. andy says:

    Yep, been there and done that! We used to run our BOM on Excel years ago. That worked well enough to get a product out the door but it took a lot of hard work by the team to keep it all organized. Excel is only slightly better than pen and paper for keeping a BOM. We moved from there to a home built system based on PowerBuilder. That worked a lot better because at least in that case we had an actual database rather than just a bunch of flat files floating around the organization. We’ve tried a bunch of other systems including Oracle, Agile, TeamCenter, etc. These days we’re building BOM and ECO solutions using the Aras tool set which so far the best platform we’ve worked on.

    I’m not familiar with the Arena solutions. I looked over the website but they don’t say much about their code, they just talk about the benefits. So I’m not even sure what exactly that software is or what it does.

  2. Andy, Thanks for your comment! I assume you developed all integrations based on Aras platform – ERP/MRP/CAD/SupplyChain etc… Can you, please share your experience? Normally, this is a pretty painful process. In comparison to other systems you mentioned (TC, Agile), can you provide advantages of integration development with Aras? Best, Oleg

  3. George Lewis says:

    Hi Oleg!

    I’ve always found ERP integrations to be some of the easiest when the PLM system has a good understanding of effectivity and material disposition. Software, again fairly easy as there is no BOM, and you are usually uploading “released” code. EDA, fairly straight forward, you integrate to the component library and the BOM is usually flat. For me, MCAD integration discussions are always interesting. Certainly drawings/part number generation are easy to integrate. The MCAD BOM never is. Sure, it makes sense to upload it once to get started, but once it has phantom parts/construction geometry removed and then parts moved around for manufacturing how to you sync it?? I’d be curious to hear what others think. I have worked with numerous PLM vendors in the past, and I’ve never seen a good solution for the MCAD BOM.


  4. George, Thanks for commenting. I agree, EDA is easier, but MCAD/PLM/ERP integration is always challenging because of BOM models and synchronization. Lots of customization is required. Best, Oleg

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