Cloud and Next Generation of BOM

Few days ago, I was talking about some interesting patterns of PLM and ERP implementation. In a nutshell, the integration between PLM and ERP systems presents a significant level of implementation complexity. The need to synchronize between PLM and ERP storage is a complicated process that different among many companies. In many situations, service providers hired to make this implementation.

Earlier, this week, I stumble around Arena Solution website. The following white paper caught my attention – Beyond BOM 101: Next Generation Bill of Materials Management. Take your time and read this 8 pages document. It is worth reading. Despite the fact Arena is bluntly marketing their cloud BOM management tools in this paper, I found it explaining very well all challenges a company can face with regards to the management of Bill of Materials and related activities. According to Arena’s opinion, the following picture represents a very typical situation when BOM created by multiple people involved into the process of the project.

To answer the challenge, Arena presents another picture presenting next-generation bill of materials tool that bridges the design and manufacturing world. I tried to abstract the Arena name on this picture. The picture made me think about how the solution solves the problem.

I found that this architecture contains the same PLM-ERP implementation pattern that creates a high level of implementation complexity and requires a significant effort to be spent in order to be integrated between engineering Bill of Material in PLM and manufacturing BOM in ERP.

Now, let me get back to the Arena tools. Arena is suggesting “cloud BOM” solution. Does it mean the integration between BOM in Arena and manufacturing BOM in ERP will be different? Frankly, saying, I don’t know the real answer. Arena’s white paper didn’t say a word about how to integrate Arena BOM with ERP.

What is my conclusion? I think, cloud and other web-based solution can introduce many advantages. One of them is to streamline BOM access by members of the team. Think about BOM as a Google spreadsheet and you probably can get excited by how it may change the way you work. However, cloud technologies introduce new challenges (especially in the field of integration) that need to be solved. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

7 Responses to Cloud and Next Generation of BOM

  1. Jim Merry says:

    Just read the white paper with great interest. This approach of managing BOM centrally in the cloud has many benefits. One area jumps out that may still be further refined: They talk about managing documents associated with items and BOMs via their cloud-based central repository but after someone downloads/extracts that data, it is no longer tethered to the BOM system, right? So if it is updated in the Arena system, there is now out of date documents stored locally on the systems of any users with access, including users out in the supply chain.

    It looks like from the screen shots they are making much use of PDF and I wonder if perhaps they could leverage a DRM system like Adobe’s Livecycle Rights Management to add revocation and auditing to such artefacts. This would enable shutting down access to out of date information centrally from the BOM management system.

  2. Jim, Thanks for your comment! I think you are pointing on a very interesting detail. What happens between BOM in the cloud and outside world (including other cloud systems). Documents can be everywhere. They can be located in the company vault as well as fly over corporate Google App. How all these things will co-exist is an important problem cloud software providers will have to figure out. Just my thoughts… oleg

  3. Cam Bickel says:

    Oleg, the two figures above do not seem to me to require cloud technology. The second diagram is exactly what we have today with Agile hosted internally with an external web access portal. This is not really a new concept in PLM.

    The cloud issue is firstly another deployment option with costs and benefits. I don’t know how the cloud per se affects the end user experience unless the cloud cost structure enables doing things you wouldn’t do with a self-hosted approach.

    I don’t think PLM to ERP integration is all that complex. Our PLM pushes item master and BOM information to multiple ERP systems when changes are released. The PLM is the master for design information. All the factory specific data is managed in ERP. The key thing we did a number of years ago is to agree on conventions so we do not have EBOMs and MBOMs. The BOM in ERP is driven unmodified from PLM. All changes to the ERP BOM are done in PLM. The important thing is to simplify your process, it is not the fault of the integration.


  4. Cam, thanks for the comment! You are right- the first picture is not about the cloud, and the second diagram can match many PLM implementaiton. However, Arena is making a case for the cloud. This is why I mentioned that. With regards to PLM-ERP integrations, I have a mixed feeling. Most of the successful ones I’ve seen, were created by people inside of companies. It is complicated when you don’t have people inside that understand how two systems need to interplay. Only these people can “simplify processes” as you said. Best, Oleg

  5. Cam Bickel says:

    Ah, you caught me. I designed our integration of Agile with ERP. One of our IT staff wrote the ERP Adaptor and I configured the Agile end of the integration. Cam

  6. Cam, thanks! This is a very typical story, in my view… Oleg

  7. […] Cloud and Next Generation of BOM (PLM Think Tank) […]

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