Who’s ready to manage complexity of BOM for connected cars?

July 2, 2015


The complexity of modern manufacturing products is skyrocketing. It is hard to imagine a product without electronic and software components. But if you think, industry reached the top of imaginable complexity, think again. It gets even more complicated.

The future of “connected cars” is coming fast. Modern automobile is already very complex device with lot of electronic and software. But, it is getting even more complex. Forbes article U.S. And European Automakers Will Need To Be More Aware Of The Chips They Put In Their Cars speaks about complexity of car electronics and its connection to security related issues. I found the following passage interesting:

With the modernization and electrification of vehicles, electronics as a percentage of the BOM (bill of materials) of the car has skyrocketed, and we haven’t seen anything yet. This will only become a higher percentage as piloted and self-driving vehicles start to become more commonplace. Up until this point, silicon brand and security hasn’t really mattered all that much as long as the functionality was there, and as a result, vendors simply implemented whatever met the utility, was more cost effective and passed regulatory rules.

As the percentage of the BOM that is electronic components increases and features are added that could increase potential security risk, I believe that this will change, and branding and security will become more important.

The complexity of BOM management is well know thing in PLM industry. My earlier blog post – Multiple dimensions of BOM complexity. The need to trace manufacturers of electronic components in a car bill of material will only increase the complexity of data. Most of PLM products today are managing multiple views of engineering and as-built BOM. The requirement for additional traceability and regulation in this space can potentially break the level of complexity PLM products are capable to handle.

In addition to branding, security or at least perceived security, will become an even more important factor in automobiles. Previously, people simply worried about people breaking into their cars with crowbars or wires, but now high-tech carjackers are breaking into cars remotely. Just think of all of the safety and security concerns with a vehicle that is fully in control of the driving experience at 65 Mph or more. Few really thinking that one through, yet.

A potential security concern and government regulation will create a demand to expose more information about vehicle electronics. To make some of the information available will be another challenge for PLM systems in automotive domain. Bill of materials data is siloed between multiple systems often not available from a single place.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of automobiles and specifically car electronics will increase the demand for sophisticated data solutions to manage bill of materials (BOM) and related product data. Some of existing PLM vendors might be unprepared for such change and for some systems it can be beyond what can be managed. This is an alarm call for PLM architects and technologists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Images courtesy of Mashable article, Doug Chezem, Flickr, colinbrown



Why PLM is failing to manage multi-disciplinary BOM?

May 21, 2015


Products are getting complex these days. Look on every small electronic gadget in your hands. It is actually combined from multiple pieces – mechanical parts, plastics, electronic and software. Traditionally you are using separate tools to design these parts – MCAD, PCB design, software tools. Then it gets tricky a bit – you need to put together right information about the product, manage changes, coordinate with suppliers, etc. PLM tools are here to help. But, for some reasons, it is a difficult problem to handle.

Engineering.com article In High-Tech Electronics, Managing Three Lifecycles As One is a New Key to Product Development by Laila Hirr speaks exactly about that problem. Here is my favorite passage from the article explaining the problem:

HTE’s need for PLM is straightforward—a firmer grasp of the information generated before and during product development and subsequently “in the field.” Many information needs go unmet when products go into assembly operations of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and built into other manufacturers’ components in complex supply chains. Users and system integrators may also be slow to share information.

For many reasons, PLM has repeatedly fallen short in this industrial sector. At CIMdata, the reason we see most often is a lack of integration with the full information set that defines the product. Achieving this integration is a multidisciplinary challenge and in PLM’s twenty-plus year history with the high tech industry, the challenge has yet to be resolved. This largely accounts for the scarcity of compelling PLM successes in HTE and the ongoing skepticism about PLM.

Article speaks about absence of integration between tools and dependencies on homegrown spreadsheets to manage bill of materials and change. Which made me think about core problem in PLM tools – management of multi-disciplinary BOM. I addressed this problem in the keynote presentation at ProSTEP iViP Symposium few weeks ago – PLM and ERP: separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM). PLM systems today are addressing BOM management. Most of them are taking an approach to manage multiple bill of materials view. However, these tools are not efficient enough to manage a BOM which contains mechanical, electronic and software pieces together. The complexity of BOM is driven by multiple disciplines, change management and product lifecycle as I presented on the following slide


What is my conclusion? Technical difficulties and disagreement between people often can lead to problems in establishment of cohesive BOM management solutions. PLM fails to provide a way to manage multi-disciplinary BOM and changes. High-tech and electronic industry is specific because of high diversity of design tools – mechanical, electronic, software. PLM tools are not integrated well with design tool, which leads to poor BOM management. There are several reasons why it happens – limits of BOM management tools, complexity of integrations between design tools provided by multiple suppliers, UI complexity. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Toa55 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM and ERP: Separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM)

May 6, 2015


Yesterday, I had a privilege to share my thoughts about Bill of Materials and BOM management during my keynote at ProSTEP iViP Symposium in Stuttgart. That was my first time at ProSTEP conference. The first day is over. I will be publishing  updates in my live blog here.

The discussion about Bill of Materials is always interesting and entertaining. BOM is a centerpiece of every engineering solution. As an organization you have to manage different aspects of Bill of Materials during design, engineering, manufacturing and support stages. These days, as companies are moving from selling products into services, support and maintenance BOM is getting more into the focus of discussions. After all, Bill of Materials is complex topic. On the following picture you can see multiple dimensions of BOM complexity:


In every organization, Bill of Materials has two notions  – technical and political. The first one is absolutely important. The following three characteristics are absolutely important if you think about reliable BOM management solution: 1/ ability to manage multi-disciplinary data; 2/ scalability; 3/ user acceptance. User acceptance is a tricky thing. The demands of people in an organization about BOM are different. Engineering, manufacturing, support, supply chain, sales – these organizations have want to see BOM differently.


However, regardless on the role of a person in organization, the following demands are absolutely critical: 1/ No errors (each mistake in BOM is painful and can lead to significant problems in an organization ; 2/ No painful date re-entry (nobody wants to enter information into BOM multiple times); 3/ No painful synchronization of data between PLM, ERP and other systems.


Below you can find a full deck of my presentation:

PLM and ERP: Separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM) from Oleg Shilovitsky

What is my conclusion? Bill of Materials and BOM is a very interesting topic. My hunch, it is getting even more in the focus of people as products are getting more complex. These days every single product is a combination of mechanical, electronics and software. Manufacturing companies are selling it as a services. Customers are demanding configurability, high quality and low cost. How to manage all these things together? The following three questions are absolutely important when you think about BOM management – 1/ How to support connected processes in an organization? 2/ How to stop synchronizing BOM between silos (PLM, ERP and others)? 3/ How PLM and ERP can support a concept of “single BOM”? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PS. If you want to discuss more about BOM management, please feel free to contact me directly.


Multiple dimensions of BOM complexity

October 15, 2014


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.


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


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


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


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


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