Multiple dimensions of BOM complexity

October 15, 2014

complex-bom-old-fashion

Bill of Material topic is getting more attention these days. No surprise. BOM is a center of universe in manufacturing (and not only) world. People can disagree about terminology applied to BOM management. Depends on a specific domain people can call it part list, specification, formula. But at the same time, everybody speak about the same BOM. Actually, not always the same BOM. I guess you’ve heard about variation of Bill of Materials – eBOM, mBOM, xBOM, etc. The amount of abbreviations in BOM is growing and often can cause confusion. So, I decided to put some lights on that in my post today.

The importance of BOM management is growing as well as tension around who owns bill of material. Historically, people in different departments disagree about the way they manage bill of materials. As a result of that, departments are splitting and cloning bill of materials to get control and managing it in different systems. It leads to the need to synchronize and copy BOMs together with changes. The tension around BOM management is growing. Last year, I posted some of my thoughts in the post – Will PLM manage enterprise BOM? The main point in this article was around complexity of BOM management and integration between different systems and disciplines.

It looks like BOM will become the next place some of PLM vendors are going to innovate… and battle. My attention was caught by provocative ENGINEERING.COM article – The Power of Zero – Dassault’s ENOVIA chief talks about the ”Zero Error BOM”. Read the article and draw your opinion. I captured the following passage:

The “war” has generally been about linking product development with shop floor IT and the BOM certainly plays a key role in this. Right now there are four primary participants on the battlefield: Siemens, SAP, GE/PTC and IBM.

Article is emphasizing the complexity of "universal BOM" solution and potential advantages of winning BOM battle:

It’s not a simple job to manage a BOM. What might appear as ”a list of parts needed to build a product” is today a complex reality of multiple levels, diversified disciplines and BOMs contains information about structures, electronics, integrated software, manufacturing methodology and the way products are maintained and even disposed of. There are many sources of error and mistakes can be very costly.

If Dassault’s “zero error BOM” can become a reality, it’s a huge step forward and would, according to analyst Marc Halpern of Gartner, ”have the potential to realize the ’dream’ of the universal BOM”. But as Kalambi says: ”This is about to embark on a journey; once on ’the road’ the benefits of 3DEXPERIENCE and V6 will increase productivity dramatically”.

I found myself thinking quite a bit about complexity of BOM today and, as a result, came to the following diagram showing 3 main dimensions of BOM complexity: Disciplines, Lifecycle, Changes.

multiple-dimensions-of-bom-complexity

1- Multiple disciplines. The complexity of product is growing these days. Even for very simple products it goes beyond just mechanical and electromechanical design. It includes electronic, software and goes to services and deliveries. Engineers are using multiple tools to create design of products in each discipline. To combine everything together is a very challenging task.

2- Lifecycle. Design represents only one phase of product development. It must be manufactured, shipped, supported and (after all) re-furbished or destroyed. All these processes are going in parallel and requires sophisticated interplay in data and activities. How to connect requirements with design, plan and optimize manufacturing and run support services? This is only a short list of tasks that requires BOM orchestration.

3- Changes (ECO/ECN…). Nothing is static in this world. People are making mistakes. Communication failures happen. Suppliers are going out of business. All these events generate changes that must be applied into different stages of product development – design, manufacturing, services.

What is my conclusion? Bill of Material management reflects one of the most complex disciplines in product development and manufacturing these days. The time when companies managed BOM on the shop floor corkboards are gone. Future BOM management systems will have to be much more sophisticated, integrated and to support multiple dimensions of BOM complexity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


MBOM collaboration and cost of change

October 9, 2014

mbom-collaboration

The only thing that is constant is change. This is very much applies to everything we do around BOM. Engineering and manufacturing eco-system are full of jokes about engineering changes. You maybe heard about renaming "engineering change order" into "engineering mistake order" as well as the correlation between number of engineers and number of ECOs in a company. However, the reality – change orders are one of the central elements of engineering and manufacturing life. And it is primarily related to bill of materials. Once defined, we keep changing BOMs through the lifecycle of the product. ECOs are helping us to do so.

In my yesterday post (Manufacturing BOM dilemma), I discussed the complexity of manufacturing BOM. Fundamentally, MBOM is reflecting manufacturing process, which is by itself defined by both – product information coming from engineering department and by part and other related information coming from manufacturing systems (MRP / ERP). The collaboration between these two systems is never easy. This is one of the reasons why MBOM management process is struggle to find the right place in many companies.

One of the suggestions made in comments was to use PLM system as BOM manager and run ECO/ECR processes each time we need to make a change in bill of material. Such process will insure ERP will be always updated with the last information about BOM. My initial thinking – this is very straightforward way to manage it and I’ve seen it in many companies. On second thought, maybe there is a better way to manage that.

As I mentioned before, changes to the bill of material are a controversial topic. My hunch every company should have a policy how to manage BOM changes. From my experience I can classify three major type of changes to bill of materials: 1/mistakes; 2/materials and/or parts changes; 3/arbitrary changes (liabilities, etc.). In many situations, BOM changes can lead to significant cost related to material scrap, additional material planning, etc. On the other side, every change related to materials, process optimization and manufacturability should be synchronized back into PLM system. So, maybe, ECO/ECR is not a right way for engineering/manufacturing collaboration these days?

The life was good when engineers were able to through BOM over the wall of manufacturing department and finish their job. This is not a reality we live in today. Engineering and manufacturing should maintain a very close relationships by developing and optimizing manufacturing processes. Sometimes, the solution is purely manufacturing. However, very often, redesign or additional level of product engineering optimization required to reduce product cost or bring product to market faster. Maybe it is a time for both engineering and manufacturing department to develop new practices how to collaborate on BOM? Abandoning old fashion ECR/ECO processes for engineering/manufacturing collaboration can be a first step into this change.

What is my conclusion? Engineering and manufacturing process planning are tightly coupled these days. In many situations both product development and engineering planning must go in parallel to achieve desired level of optimization. It requires new type of processes and software enabling new level of BOM collaboration. Old fashion ECR/ECO method may not work. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, demolishing silos and closed BOM loop

June 24, 2014

bom-closed-loop

Product development and manufacturing is getting more complex every day. The complexity comes from both direction – product definition complexity and globalization in manufacturing, supply and customer experience. As we move towards future cloud software, the importance of data platforms is growing even more. For the last 15-20 years, we are living in a realm of siloed and fragmented parts of business applications. Integration and connectivity heavily relies on integration services and expensive integration toolkits.

PLM vendors understand the importance of broader integration beyond engineering department. We can see it in the strategies and acquisition patterns. The following two examples can show you what I mean. Navigate to the following article by Engineering.com – "Demolish the silos in PLM": Why Dassault’s Bernard Charles believes in the 3D Experience is explaining the vision and strategy of Dassault. The following passage is my favorite:

The zero error BOM (Bill of Materials) demands a zero file solution. 3DEXPERIENCE brings the zero file world into the engineering environment; what we do is to connect directly to product data, not to files”. Every company has a promise to their customers and that promise is eventually realized through a value creation process that touches many different points within an organization. Now, to ensure that a brand promise is consistently and sustainably delivered it has to be managed across the entire enterprise, and we have assembled the necessary IT tools.” He adds that so far PLM has just been about helping companies to develop their products, ”But the world has moved beyond the product; the end-customers are demanding experiences around the product” and the secret of market success is to be able to innovate not only on the product, but also on the experience.

Another example came recently from PTC Live 2014 forum in Boston. The following blog post by Monica Schnitger gives you a very good outline and links to keynotes video recording. However, my attention was caught by another blog by Joe Barkai – Closed Loop PLM. Joe outlines PTC vision to connect important lifecycle tools in a single product lifecycle workflow. Here is the passage explaining that:

While the vision – and company executives acknowledged it’s still a vision rather than a product roadmap – is correct, the tools and “solutions” in PTC’s portfolio are separated by a noncontiguous business strategy (SLM and ThingWorx operate as separate business units), and by the lack of a digital backbone, shared data models, common taxonomies and unified workflows. It will be interesting to see how PTC is going to move from a strategically rich but fragmented portfolio to realizing a connected PLM architecture.

Sooner than later, PLM vendors will come with platform strategies and implementation that connecting complicated product lifecycle. Meantime, engineering, manufacturing, supply and consumer spaces are disconnected and can create some real problems. Few days ago, I stumbled on a very interesting article – Keep a sharp eye on SSD bill of materials by DIGISTOR. The article takes you to the reality of disconnected Bill of Materials between OEM manufacturers, suppliers and consumers. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage

It appears that manufacturer PNY Technologies has committed the same sin, releasing SSDs with varying BoMs. A TweakTown reader contacted Ramseyer and described how the SSD that the individual purchased did not feature a BoM that matched up with one previously reviewed on the website. According to Ramseyer, that reader bought the PNY product because of his glowing assessment of its performance. Because of the shifting BoM, however, that individual’s SSD did not hit the same benchmarks. A representative from PNY admitted that the company had shipped out SSDs with disparate BoMs, qualifying the move by noting that all of its products fall within "minimum advertised performance levels." When manufacturers neglect to lock down the components within their BoMs, consumers and business users may wind up with a product that doesn’t meet their expectations.

What is my conclusion? To close product lifecycle loop from product requirements to actually physical devices with specific supplied components is a big challenge. It requires significant coordination and integration between applications and data sources. I can see the intent of PLM vendors to come with platforms and solutions. Cloud technologies will play a significant role in the way companies will try to demolish silos and synchronize data across multiple application boundaries. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why BOM Management Is Complex?

May 12, 2014

bom-complexity-manufacturing

My last post about Manufacturing BOM raised few interesting comments online and offline. One of them by Jos Voskuil was pretty straightforward – "What is a big deal about MBM"? Jos pointed me on his earlier post – Where is MBOM? This post as well as few other articles I posted earlier – Why companies are not ready for single BOM? and BOM 101: 5 Don’ts for BOM management made me think why BOM is so complex. I wanted to share these reasons and ask your opinion. Here are my top 3 list of issues that are leading to significant BOM management complexity: 1- Items/Parts identification; 2- Views; 3- Synchronizations. Let me go and explain more specifically what I mean.

1 – Item / Part Identification

Item Master. Item. Part. Assembly. Product. You name it… But whatever you call it, you come down to the way (and format) to identify Parts. Part number is probably the simplest wayto identify things in product design, manufacturing and support. The next question – what Part Number? Things are simple only on the surface. As soon as you dig inside, you find yourself surrounded by manufacturing part numbers, design parts, suppliers part numbers, support parts and many others. The information about them resides in multiple data databases, spreadsheets and systems.

2- Views (or Product Views or BOM Views)

You may think about bill of material as a list of parts and everything else you need to make a product. However, very fast it gets complicated with product configurations, manufacturing information, suppliers, As-built BOM and maintenance parts. To differentiate and manage all this information is not a simple task.

3- Synchronizations.

As I mentioned before, bill of material information (multiple BOMs) are usually managed by different systems. Often (in case of PLM) multiple BOMs are managed by PLM system itself. Now think about change processes and updates. Each one generates a sequence of updates and dependent operations that needs to be done to synchronize BOMs and keep them in a consistent status. Indeed, one of the most complex tasks in BOM management.

What is my conclusion? BOM is not simple thing as you might think from the beginning. To keep system in sync with diversity of data and processes takes time and effort. Variety of product development and manufacturing approaches, global deployment, etc. How to overcome the complexity of BOM management? Look forward to learn about BOM management complexities you are facing developing and implementing BOM management solutions.

Best, Oleg


Manufacturing BOM is the next cool thing in PLM

May 9, 2014

plm-manufacturing-bom-boom

I’ve been doing data management system for the last 20 years. The one thing you learn very fast – 3D and visualization are cool. Data is boring. So, if you want to impress somebody (journalist, analyst, your boss… whoever else) you need to create realistic representation of your future product. And show how to can turn it on the screen of your computer or better on mobile device (the reality of last 3 years). I agree, to see what you mean is cool, especially if you can make it before it will be manufactured. Awesome stuff. It can sell your product before it even exists. CAD/ PLM companies made lots of money selling visualization and rendering products. These days you almost cannot differentiate the video or photo of real car from realistic visualization.

Forget about it, for the moment… Design can be cool. However, important question these days is that – can you really make this product? If yes, than how? How fast? Or even more – can you make a profit after you design, visualize, manufacture and sell your product?

Engineering.com articleThe Next Big Boom in PLM and ERP and the Battle Over mBOM Ownership announced “war alarm” between PLM and ERP companies around manufacturing BOM (MBOM). Article speaks about how important MBOM and Master data management in solving problems such as cost, quality, tooling and many others.

I made me think again about how future of manufacturing will be dependent on solving of old PLM/ERP integration problem. In my view, complicated data synchronization is really bad thing. It leads to complex behavior, user experience and, after all, to product data errors. The question of product data errors is one the disturbs manufacturing companies. Emailing spreadsheet with bill of material won’t make your product development and manufacturing process more efficient. The following passage from engineering.com article is my favorite:

Ashley Morris, a researcher at Cardiff University in the UK, has identified seven root causes of product data errors. The three most important ones are 1/ Inaccurate data entry; 2/ Incorrect data flow between applications; 3/ Duplicate data between systems. Product development teams are all-too-familiar with how these errors occur given the various systems that manage the data. Generally cBOMs (configuration BOMs) and eBOMs (engineering BOMs) are created in the PLM systems, whereas mBOMs (manufacturing BOMs) and sBOMs (service BOMs) emanate from ERP or/and MES systems. But there’s no rule here. Several variants and combinations are “on the map”.

MBOM is tough problem. I identified 4 main reasons why MBOM is hard for PLM. Read my previous article here. In a nutshell, here are four main reasons why MBOM solution is not simple for PLM vendors and service providers:

1- Most PLM systems starts from CAD and Engineering BOM.

2- Engineering and manufacturing people live in different worlds.

3- Synchronization of BOMs is messy by default.

4- For PLM to get data about manufacturing parts is painful.

Despite all these complexities and difficulties, PLM vendors is pushing towards better integration with manufacturing. I really liked the following quote explaining the objective of Bill of Material module by Siemens PLM:

“The objective of this BOM module (TC PMM) is to provide an integrated BOM foundation spanning Engineering, Manufacturing, Prototype and Service domains.” The tight integration to design and manufacturing processes can drive virtual validation of both these process types from a BOM point of view. “With our approach the BOM is documented once and various other BOM’s like mBOM, sBOM, pBOM etc are derived from this core eBOM, without re-documentation.”

So, what it all means for PLM? Bill of Materials (BOM) was always the apple of discord between PLM and ERP. Large companies these days cannot live with PLM and ERP systems. While engineering part of product information resides in PLM system, manufacturing part is managed by ERP. Product cost and quality can often fail between chairs and this situation disturbs manufacturing companies. This is the simplest possible configuration. Sometimes, design and engineering product even more distributed (look on Airbus’ case) – design (CATIA), product configuration (Windchill), manufacturing BOM (SAP). Which brings me back to my thoughts about why companies are not ready for single BOM? Main reasons – specialized tools used by different departments, no agreement between organizations how to manage data in a consistent way, absence of ‘universal’ tools.

What is my conclusion? MBOM is going to be in focus for many manufacturing these days. Efficiency and ability of manufacturing company to execute flawlessly becomes more and more important. Manufacturing environment is highly distributed these days with lots of constraints and dependencies. To design and bring product to market in a short time is a complex task you cannot solve without tools that will help you to synchronize and connect bill of materials. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why Excel and Multi-BOM are killing collaboration?

April 22, 2014

excel-multiple-bom

Excel and Bill of Materials. What can be better to start a discussion? One of my favorites blogging buddies and author of eng-eng blog Ed Lopategui hit the button of BOM & Excel discussion in his GrabCAD blog – It’s time to drop Excel BOM. I liked the following passage. It speaks about huge cost involved in management of changes using Excel:

There’s one fundamental constant in all of engineering: change. Aligning with the capability to change quickly and often is crucial in fighting back ever-increasing schedule pressures. Excel BOMs provide no help here. A separate Excel BOM has to be manually synchronized with each design change. It’s usually in this confusion where some of the bigger and most expensive errors tend to happen. Conflicts are common and notoriously difficult to set straight. Recognize that the information in a BOM is every bit as vital as your CAD design, and should be managed accordingly. For the very same reasons you benefit from managing CAD, so should you do the same with a BOM.

Ed’s post took me back five years to my Why do I like my PLM Excel spreadsheets? Excel is super flexible and powerful. However, it comes with cost. I summarized them here – PLM Excel spreadsheets: from odes to woes. Very recently I put a possible recipe how PLM can compete and take over Excel spreadsheets. These are important 3 ingredients – (1) flexible data model, (2) easy customization and (3) flawless user experience.

One of the topics in Ed’s blog, took me far beyond just usage of Excel to edit BOM. It was about how to manage bill of materials between engineering and manufacturing space. Here is the passage:

So far we’ve been talking about BOMs strictly from a design perspective. But the expectation that there can be only one BOM to rule them all is unrealistic. There are different ways to slice BOMs, different disciplines may have a need for their own specific view or information. How manufacturing looks at a BOM in ERP will be fundamentally quite different from how engineering looks at a BOM.

The topic of multiple BOM management isn’t so new. The truth is every enterprise system wants to manage their portion of BOM. In PLM space BOM management is often comes with the strategy of multiple BOMs or BOM views. Most of PLM systems can support multiple BOMs. The idea of separating BOMs into different slices or views is current answer to how to let every department in the organization to own their portion of BOM. Most of organizations are doing that because they didn’t find an alternative way to agree how to manage BOM. So, data is split between CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, MRP, CRM and other domains. Read more about it in my article Why companies are not ready for single BOM? One of the biggest problems in using multiple bill of materials is related to collaboration between people in organization. Multi-BOM leads to huge data synchronization problem. The question “where is my BOM?” is usually the one that kills collaboration.

What is my conclusion? To manage BOM in Excel is a nightmare. So, to bring BOM management tools to replace Excel is a very good idea. However, most of companies are having though time to decide how to manage bill of materials among different systems and environments. In a real world companies are relying on combination of Excel, PDM/PLM and ERP to manage multiple BOMs. Unfortunately, it kills collaboration, productivity and innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Bill of Materials (BOM): process or technology challenge?

March 3, 2014

bom-process-vs-technology

The importance of Bill of Material in product development and manufacturing hardly can be undervalued. BOM is a cornerstone of almost all processes and activities – from early requirement and design and to manufacturing, services and support. Therefore, efficient BOM management is an absolutely important element of product development processes. PLM vendors are coming with different solutions to manage BOMs. Together with vendors’ solutions, manufacturing companies are developing practices (and sometimes a complete solutions) how to manage Bill of Materials.

I’ve been discussing the idea of "single BOM" for the last few years as a possible way to simplify BOM management. My earlier post – Severn Rules towards Single BOM is almost five years back (2009) raised very interesting debates. All of them are still relevant in my view. I wanted to highlight one very insightful post by Jim Brown here. Jim speaks about different aspects and advantages of single BOM management. As part of this conversation Jim introduced a concept he called – associated BOMs. Here is the passage I specially liked:

Companies have spent a lot of time and effort making logical connections between different BOMs, and developing tools to help develop and synchronize different BOMs. For example, PLM, MPM, and Digital Manufacturing software helps companies translate an engineering BOM into a manufacturing BOM and then further into a BOP. In fact, they have gone further upstream to match conceptual BOMs and requirement structures downstream to BOMs. Maybe you would call these “workarounds” to the real answer of a single BOM. But I would propose a different view based on history and my observations. Perhaps engineers have done what we do best – addressed the problem in the most practical way as opposed to the most elegant way to solve a problem.

I think, Jim’s post is absolutely relevant today. After few years of discussions on this topic, one of my hypothesizes is that companies are not ready for single BOM solution… yet. At the same time, I do believe companies can take realistic steps into single BOM management already today. The variety of ways companies are managing bill of materials can surprise even people with lot of experience in manufacturing and PLM. After many years, I’m always surprised to find "yet another way" to manage bills, configurations and associated manufacturing and production information.

My attention was caught by Teamcenter PLM blog few weeks ago – Bill of Materials concept. Author, posted a very good summary about different types of BOMs. Together with eBOM, mBOM, sBOM and few others, it outlines the idea of Master BOM as a centerpiece of BOM Management capable to provide "single source of truth" about BOM. The following passage explains the idea:

To overcome this challenge, the concept of Master BOM has come. Master Bill of Material can be defined as single source of BOM having all aspect of information for various configuration and discipline. Hence Master BOM by definition is single source of truth for all BOM. Industry is still struggling to find the exact solution in term of defining and managing Master BOM. Also it become more complex due to the facts that different BOM types are managed in different systems. PLM vendors including Siemens PLM has come various solution and tools, but still required to show the success and maturity of managing Master BOM as a single source of truth across various BOM lifecycle and discipline.

This post and exchange of comments made me think about potential two challenges in BOM management – technology and process. The way and technology to support and implement the idea of "master BOM" is quite complicated as well as PLM implementation attempts to integrated product data under the umbrella of "single point of truth". At the same time, the idea of "master" or "single" BOM management faces multiple political challenges including discussions about internal and external company processes. In my view, modern data management technologies (especially coming from web and open source) can introduce some advantages in BOM management. It can be related to scalability of data management solutions as well as improved collaboration features. Would it be enough to overcome process challenges? This is a good question to ask these days.

What is my conclusion? After decades of development in PDM, PLM and ERP, companies are still struggling with BOM management. The topic is quite complicated and introduce many technological and process challenges for companies. Future pressure around competition, customization and cost can bring BOM management challenges back. It will be interesting to see what (technology or processes) improvement will allow to unblock future of BOM management? No specific conclusion. Just thoughts today…

Best, Oleg


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