The importance of software BOM for hardware security

January 27, 2015


We live in the era of smart products. Modern smartphones is a good confirmation to that. The average person today keeps in his pocket a computer with computational capability equal or even more than computer that aerospace and defense industry used for navigation. In addition to that, you smartphone has communication capability (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) which makes it even more powerful. If you think about cost and availability of boards like raspberry pi and Arduino, you can understand why and how it revolutionize many products these days. Although, wide spread of these devices has drawbacks.

Smart products are bringing a new level of complexity everywhere. It starts from engineering and manufacturing where you need to deal with complex multidisciplinary issues related to combination of mechanical, electronic and software pieces. The last one is a critical addition to product information. Bill of materials has to cover not only mechanical and electronic parts, but also software elements.

Another aspect is related to operation of all smart products. Because of connectivity aspects of products, the operation is required to deal with software, data and other elements that can easy turn your manufacturing company into web operational facility with servers, databases, etc.

As soon as devices are exposed to software, the problem of software component traceability is getting critical. Configuration management and updates is a starting point. But, it quickly coming down to security, which is very critical today.

GCN article – How secure are your open-source based systems? speaks about problem of security in open source software. Here is my favorite passage:

According to Gartner, 95 percent of all mainstream IT organizations will leverage some element of open source software – directly or indirectly – within their mission-critical IT systems in 2015. And in an analysis of more than 5,300 enterprise applications uploaded to its platform in the fall of 2014, Veracode, a security firm that runs a cloud-based vulnerability scanning service, found that third-party components introduce an average of 24 known vulnerabilities into each web application.

To address this escalating risk in the software supply chain, industry groups such as The Open Web Application Security Project, PCI Security Standards Council and Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center now require explicit policies and controls to govern the use of components.

Smart products are also leveraging open source software. The security of connected devices and smart product is a serious problem to handle. Which brings me to think about how hardware manufacturing companies can trace software elements and protect their products from a potential vulnerability.

What is my conclusion? To cover all aspects of product information including software becomes absolutely important. For many manufacturing companies the information about mechanical, electronic and software components is siloed in different data management systems. In my 2015 PLM trends article, I mentioned the importance of new tools capable to manage multidisciplinary product information. Software BOM security is just one example of the trend. The demand to provide systems able to handle all aspect of product BOM is increasing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: JulianBleecker via photopin cc

When BOM is not BOM

December 17, 2014


Bill of Materials (BOM) is a central part of everything in product development. Sometimes, people call it product structure. Manufacturers are using BOM to define list of raw materials, parts and sub-assemblies with corresponded quantities need to manufacture a product. This is over simplistic definition. As usual, devil is details and BOM story is getting quite complex. Depends to whom are you talking, people see a different aspects of bill of materials – sales options, design hierarchy, product configurations, manufacturing process, service parts. Many systems are defining BOM differently. It depends on their roles and functions in overall product lifecycle.

In one of my recent articles – Thoughts about BOM ownership, I discussed some ideas about how BOM can be shared among organizations and enterprise software tools. That was my attempt to think about how to resolve a conflict between two major BOM stakeholder – Product Lifecycle Management and ERP systems. The BOM management landscape in the organization is complex. In my view, companies are not ready for a single BOM management tools – it was my observation 2 years ago.

At the time a major BOM master ownership dispute is between PLM and ERP vendors, I can see an interesting trend which can put some lights on how PLM companies are articulating their BOM strategies.

Dassault Systems ENOVIA is coming with their "zero BOM error" strategy. I posted about it earlier – PLM and Zero BOM errors: the devil is in details. In a nutshell, ENOVIA is trying to improve process of Bill of Material generation by direct connection between CATIA design and product structure. In my view, it might lead to potential formal elimination of EBOM, which will be replaced by a bundle of design and engineering information. Practically, product structure in CATIA/ENOVIA will represent everything that happens on engineering level. According to ENOVIA strategy, it will eliminate errors between design and engineering.

In parallel, I’m observing the way BOM is positioned by Siemens PLM. Teamcenter blog – Introducing BOM management speaks about BOM information as a vital part of many processes supported by PLM. I found interesting how "BOM management" term was replaced by "Product definition". Here is the passage:

I just noticed that as I am writing this I am using the words “bill of materials” less and “product definition” more. I would go back and correct – I wanted to keep it a surprise! But I think it’s ok – it helps me get to this next part. To us, it has become abundantly clear that one of the problems that come up when you talk about bill of materials (BOM) management is that the scope of what people might mean is so broad. To call all those things listed above “BOM Management” is not sufficient. We’ve collected these capabilities into an umbrella we call the Integrated Product Definition. This is an area where we have been leaders, and it continues as a high priority for us – we have the breadth and depth to address these issues like nobody else can.

In both situations, I can see a strategy by PLM vendors to redefine BOM and bring up the extended value PLM environment for customers. This is a very important transformation in my view, since it helps to streamline processes. The problem of synchronization between design and engineering environment is well-known and not solved in many companies. Teamcenter is connecting BOM management into varietly of topics such as part management, master data management, configuration management, coordinate change and variability and others. It helps to create a solid platform to manage product data.

However, the biggest fight over the BOM is between PLM and ERP environments. outlined it in their article – The next big boom in PLM is a battle over MBOM ownership. Muris Capital Advisors outlined the sam conflict in the blog post – The Battle for BOM Control. According to Bruce Boes of Muris Capital, service integrators will play a leading role in making alignment between PLM and ERP and forming BOM master model. Here is an interesting passage:

We predict that System Integrators have a unique opportunity and from our recent experience, the desire to bridge the gap and add value during integration with the BOM as a key point of integration. In doing so they open the market for process consulting and integration services surrounding the master model concept.

The last one make sense. In many PLM implementation projects, SI teams are actually leading development of PLM-ERP integration on site or using different middleware or integration toolkits. Unfortunately, the cost of these implementation is high and overall process is very complex.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors redefining BOM by tight integrating of product information into development processes. From what I can see, both Teamcenter and ENOVIA are trying to redefine Bill of Material (BOM) as a wider topic. This is an interesting strategy to fight over MBOM ownership. Integrated "product definition" can help to streamline processes between engineering and manufacturing. However, the end game should be total BOM experience including all manufacturing aspects – manufacturing process planning, cost and orders. The last one brings PLM-ERP integration topic back on the table. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Thoughts about BOM ownership

November 20, 2014


The publication about PLM taking ownership of MBOM ignited few discussions online about Bill of Materials, BOM Management and co-existence of multiple enterprise systems. My first thought was that all of them will have to rethink the way BOM is synchronized between systems. This is not a new problem. Any implementation of enterprise PLM is facing this challenge. Pumping BOM between PLM, ERP and other systems is costly and complex process. But the reality – this is the only practical way to do so.

I went back in my old writing to find some recommendation how to make it easier. My old blog post five years ago, speaks about Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Materials. To me, all recommendations are still very relevant. Following them can make your “BOM synchronization” problem less painful. Almost at the same time, Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity also shared his thoughts about single BOM: Single Bill of Material – Holy Grail or Pipe Dream? I liked Jim’s thought about Single BOM vs. Associated BOM. Here is a passage I 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.

At the same time, single BOM or Associated BOM is hard. It requires many points of synchronization between departments and processes. Therefore, I still keep my opinion that most of companies today are still Not Ready for Single Bill of Materials.

So, what to do? How to make an improvement? Do you think fight for MBOM as it mentioned in article is the only way? I tried to visualize the picture of different BOMs and present it together with how PLM and ERP ownership is distributed. Take a look on the picture below.


There are paces where each systems claims their benefits. At the same time, there are places where ownership of bill of materials and related product information can be different. The touch point is manufacturing BOM. I still believe, this is the next cool thing in PLM – how to manage MBOM.

What is my conclusion? I think both ERP and PLM vendors need to take a step back. Data ownership was a fundamental part of any enterprise business strategy for the last 20 years. Maybe, this is a time to change data ownership approach? Maybe it is a time to think about better data synchronization and transparency. How we can help people to collaborate alongside the product development process from design to management and to support and services? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: mrxstitch via photopin cc

PLM vendors’ fight over BOM will require to solve data synchronization problems

November 10, 2014

data-links article by Verdi Ogewell earlier today is introducing a next step of PLM vs. ERP battle for ownership of manufacturing BOM. Navigate to the following link to read a very provoking interview with Siemens PLM CEO Chuck Grinstaff who says – “PLM should take over ownership of the manufacturing BOM too“.

I’ve been writing about the complexity of manufacturing BOM before. You can refresh your memories with the following two articles I wrote earlier this year: Manufacturing future will dependent on solving old PLM-ERP integration problems and Manufacturing BOM is the next cool thing in PLM.

BOM topic is fascinating and incredibly important for PLM companies. It boils down to the ability of PLM to control the complexity of variety of product definitions. The complexity of modern manufacturing environment is skyrocketing. Think about a combination of multiple disciplines involved into the process of design, engineering, manufacturing and support. Mechanical, electronic and software components are tightly integrated to produce modern airplanes, cars and other highly sophisticated products. However, to solve design complexity is just a beginning of the road. The next huge problem is to solve manufacturing problems. It all comes to manufacturing planning, procurement and shopfloor control. After, eventually, you end up with the result, which is represented by “as built” product data, support and maintenance systems.

To demonstrate complexity of BOM transformation I created a diagram below. What you can see below is different views of product data. It usually represented as a different views of Bill of Materials.


The following quote from article is one of my favorite to describe the importance of product data modeling. According to Chuck Grinstaff of Siemens PLM:

How important is the BOM issue among businesses? ”Incredibly important”, claims Chuck Grindstaff, and it’s not just a matter of semantics, ”The real issue around the Bill of Materials, whether for engineering, for manufacturing, for test or for procurement, is that each of these views of the product are important to the consumer of the BOM. Every view of the ‘bill’ needs to reconcile to other views and must remain accurate within the context of the total product during each stage of development. We believe that each of these viewpoints needs to be configurable from a common definition; from a single source of truth into the context for each of the engineers. For that reason it’s important to get it right. You can call it ”a battle”, yes, but the point still is that a PLM system is the best environment to manage this complexity.”

PLM vendors arguing towards full control of all aspects of BOM by PLM platforms and tools. The main battle is with ERP systems. Historically and traditionally, ERP companies are controlling part of product data starting from manufacturing planning and going future towards procurement and as built representations. It created well-known status of engineering vs. manufacturing balance. However, future demands of deep manufacturing integration brings PLM vendors to think that to take over MBOM (or more specific, manufacturing planning BOM) will deliver better solution for product complexity management.

The desired status for PLM vendors is to push ERP down towards procurement only and manage manufacturing BOM as part of PLM database. Here is another passage from article quoting Peter Billelo of CIMdata explaining why it can be reasonable from PLM vendors’ standpoint:

”ERP solutions generally do not actually optimize or have development tools for defining what the manufacturing BOM is. They just focus on executing a defined Bill of Material. So if I look at what Siemens is doing they are based on developing what that mBOM should be and optimizing that BOM. Quite frankly I don’t see any of the ERP vendors spending much time, if any time, at all at actually doing that. That said it makes sense for Chuck to claim the ownership since they have the tools to make changes, analyze and optimize the BOM.” article made me think again about complexity of data management and integration in product development. It is certainly complex thing to manage multiple aspects of product data – design, engineering and manufacturing. To ensure data accuracy, both PLM and ERP systems must be well synchronized, which requires multiple very complex data transformation. The “sync” is king of the road on the PLM-ERP highway connecting engineering and manufacturing organizations.

Current enterprise data management paradigm is based on the RDBMS architecture that fundamentally provides a storage for all aspects of product data. TeamCenter is probably one of the best systems to support the complexity of product data representation. By moving manufacturing planning BOM to TeamCenter (or other PLM system), PLM vendors can decrease complexity of data synchronization between two complex views – engineering and manufacturing planning. ERP system role in this situation will be limited to procurement function and management of master production schedule.

However, Siemens PLM is not alone in their desire to take control of complete product structure management and all aspects of BOM. My earlier article – PLM and Zero BOM errors speaks about how Dassault Systems ENOVIA strategy to simplify the complexity of BOM synchronizations between design and engineering environment. This is a bit different aspect, but still represents the desire of PLM companies to solve BOM synchronization problem.

What is my conclusion? The problem of data synchronization between different BOM representations is a real one. The level of complexity is huge. PLM companies are trying to leverage their sophisticated data platform to control the overall product data complexity. The fight is two fold – technical and political. The heart of every CIO is usually with ERP system. PLM companies need to think how to deliver technologies to solve the level of integration complexity. In my view, this is a key to win MBOM battle. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: elcovs via photopin cc

Tesla, iPad on wheels and BOM management complexity

October 29, 2014


The complexity of manufacturing is skyrocketing these days. It sounds reasonable for many of us when it comes to spaceships, jetliners and defense systems. You can think about car as something much simpler. Navigate to Ford Heritage website article – Ford Celebrates 100 Years of the Moving Assembly Line. The complexity of Ford Model T just about 100 years ago was few thousands parts:

One hundred years ago today, Henry Ford and his team at Highland Park assembly plant launched the world’s greatest contribution to manufacturing – the first moving assembly line. It simplified assembly of the Ford Model T’s 3,000 parts by breaking it into 84 distinct steps performed by groups of workers as a rope pulled the vehicle chassis down the line.


The situation is completely different these days and it raises concerns of cars reliability because of design complexity. My attention was caught Business Insider article – Consumer Reports Says Infotainment Systems Are Ruining Car Reliability. Picture in the article shows central computing unit of Tesla Model S. I’m not sure the concern of authors was specifically about Tesla, but I noticed the following passage:

“Of the 17 problem areas CR asks about in its survey, the category including in-car electronics generated more complaints from owners of 2014 models than for any other category.” Automakers have invested heavily in infotainment systems since consumers began demanding them in a wide variety of vehicles. Furthermore, the entire auto industry is looking forward to a future in which in-car electronics, displays, related infotainment systems, and advanced self-driving features will be increasingly prevalent, if not dominant. It can be difficult enough to engineer a highly reliable car from a strictly mechanical standpoint. There are quite literally a lot of moving parts. Bringing a whole new cluster of technologies into the picture has created additional pressures — and to a certain extent given Consumer Reports’ testers more to find wrong.

This article reminded me few topics I touched before on my blog. One of them is related to some of my speculation about future plans of Tesla to build their own PLM system. Another one is related to future need to combine engineering and software BOMs. I think, these are very critical elements of modern PLM system to serve the needs of many manufacturing companies. Tesla is probably an extreme case. But the question is for how long.

Here are some interesting examples about Tesla electronic and software. Navigate to Autoconnectcar article – Telsa S super connected car is a giant iPad on wheels? The article speaks about some interesting tear-down project made by IHS, which is known for tearing down smartphones and tables. IHS recently tore apart 2013 Tesla Model S. Read the article and watch few videos. The following passage gives you an impression of Tesla media control unit (the hub of infotainment and everything else in Tesla)

The Premium Media Control Unit is gigantic as compared to other cars with a 17″ diagonal display that controls the whole car with a NVIDA Tegra 3 1.4-gigahertz quad-core processor. It’s large, with ten printed circuit boards with wireless communications (Sierra Wireless 3G HSPA+ cellular module), GPS, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi (Parrot), a visual computing modual, DRAM, supporting components, touchscreen controller, display controller and motherboard. The instrument cluster is NVIDIA Tegra 2 based

The complexity of bill of material just for this unit goes beyond average smart TV set. Which can give you an impression of overall complexity. The article briefly mentioned future connected telematics with internet access. Which connects to even more complex topic of IoT complexity and scale I posted before – IoT data will blow up traditional PLM databases.

What is my conclusion? The challenges and complexity of product development and manufacturing are real. The wide spread of electronic and software in modern manufacturing products and the overall complexity level is growing up. While all eyes are now following Tesla, my hunch other cars are not much different and modern product development trends will not make car simpler. It raises many questions about requirements to PLM software capable to manage such level of complexity. PLM vendors and engineering IT architects can take a note and do some homework. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Pictures credit Business Insider article and Ford Heritage website.

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

Manufacturing BOM dilemma

October 9, 2014


Manufacturing process optimization is one of the biggest challenges in product development these days. Companies are looking how to low the cost, optimize manufacturing process for speed and to deliver large variety of product configurations. The demand for these improvements is very high. The time when engineering were throwing design"over the wall of engineering" is over. Engineering and manufacturing people should work together to optimize the way product is designed and manufactured at the same time. Which, in my view, leads to one of the most critical element of this process – Manufacturing BOM (MBOM).

In one of my earlier posts, I addressed the challenges PLM systems has to manage BOM. PLM vendors are recognizing the importance of manufacturing solutions. However, it is hard to deliver MBOM in PLM. It related to CAD roots of PLM products, historical disconnect of engineers from manufacturing processes, complexity of synchronization between multiple BOMs and problems of integrating with ERP systems. Vendors are encouraging companies to use PLM technologies to manage MBOM and to push right product MBOM information to ERP for execution. The advantage of that is the ability of PLM to deliver accurate product information derived from design and engineering BOM.

However, there is another side in this story- manufacturing planning. Fundamentally, MBOM is created by manufacturing engineers and it reflects the way product is built. It usually structured to reflect manufacturing assembly operations, workstations, ordering process, etc. In other words, MBOM is a reflection of manufacturing process based on information from product design. Company can decide to improve manufacturing process for existing product. It means most probably no changes for CAD design and EBOM, but will require to create a new version of MBOM.

As a result of that, MBOM has dual dependence of both correct engineering information from PLM system and manufacturing constraints and part information management by ERP. Both are absolutely important. By placing MBOM in PLM system company can create a complexity of manufacturing process planning in ERP. At the same time, ERP system (more specifically manufacturing modules) are not providing dedicated BOM planning tools capable to handle information from EBOM and MBOM simultaneously.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing BOM is stuck between a rock and a hard places. It must reflect manufacturing process and stay connected to both PLM and ERP environment. It creates a high level of complexity for existing technologies and tools. To create a cohesive environment to manage MBOM is tricky and usually requires significant services and customization. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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