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


Manufacturing BOM dilemma

October 9, 2014

mbom-dilemma

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


How many parts will be in a 3D printed vehicle?

September 17, 2014

Strati1

3D printing is buzzing trend these days. If you are not up to speed with the trend, you probably should. Because it changes everything around. Start today from Wikipedia article about 3D printing (aka as additive manufacturing). Today’s announcement about GrabCAD acquisition by Stratasys- leading 3D printing company is another confirmation about important role additive manufacturing will play in the future. The following video is a recording of Autodesk CEO Carl Bass about 3D printing topic – The future of how things are made.

3D printing is changing the way we are going to manufacturing products in the future. This is, of course, very high level statement. It is interesting to go down and see the impact in bits and bytes. For example, how it will impact product structure, or how it will impact product data management or manufacturing planning. You probably don’t associate these two things, but additive manufacturing is changing the product structure and everything that related to that. It certainly impact BOM management too.

My attention caught by the following Engineering.com article – Autodesk and Local Motors Collaborate on First Spark 3D Platform Implementation. The article speaks about collaboration between Local Motors and Autodesk about first large scale industrial implementation of Spark. I found the following passage quite provoking:

According to Local Motors, the Strati simplifies the automotive assembly process and is a result of leveraging the contributions of community, advanced manufacturing tools, and software, like the Spark platform. This could bring many advantages, including reduction in the number of parts in a vehicle’s Bill of Materials (BOM) from 25,000 components to less than 50. The on-demand nature of 3D printing means that automotive manufacturers can change aspects of their design—or even come up with an entirely new one—with little or no additional cost in tooling or time.

The complexity of modern car is skyrocketing. Hardware is part of a complex one element of that. Others – electronic, software are playing significant role. In the past car was a pure mechanical beast. Today, it is a combination of hardware and software on wheels. Who knows, maybe in few years, we will see car bill of material very similar to computer today – few mechanical pieces and lot of software. With changing balance between hardware and rest of car elements, the focus can shift towards multi-discipline product structure.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of products is changing. It is important to see trends. While overall complexity of manufacturing products (cars included) will grow, we might see a decrease in manufacturing complexity of hardware as a result of new manufacturing methods – additive manufacturing (3D printing) will pay a key role here. At the same time, the complexity of multidisciplinary product structure (BOM) will grow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit to ENGINEERING.COM article.


How long will take GrabCAD to develop full-blown PLM solution?

August 18, 2014

grabcad-plm-beyondplm

Time is running fast. It has been two years since I posted GrabCAD: from Facebook for engineers to PLM. If you are in the engineering community, the chances you will come to PLM are very high. Like in the past all roads lead to Rome, I guess all future development roads for PDM solution lead to PLM. Even if you don’t like to brand your solution as PLM… Nevertheless, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Just few months ago, GrabCAD moved into "PDM" segment by introducing GrabCAD Workbench. Earlier today, GrabCAD made another "quack" towards PLM by adding BOM support. Navigate your browser to the following link to read – BOMs Away! Workbench Adds BOM Management. The following passage outlines what GrabCAD BOM can do today:

We’ve added an easy-to-use BOM export capability to Workbench, enabling any Workbench user to generate a Bill of Materials with just a few clicks. This means that your engineering team and manufacturing team will always be on the same page. Now your purchasing manager or supplier liaison doesn’t need to bother a CAD engineer to generate a BOM, and doesn’t need to enter items individually into Excel each time you change a revision. It’s as simple as two clicks to get the list of components into Excel!

grabCAD-bom-plm

Introducing BOM functionality is a very logical step many PDM systems did. However, it doesn’t come easy. The complexity of system is growing. From what I can see now GrabCAD is an early beginning and just touching BOM functionality to balance customers demand and complexity of full-blown BOM management solution.

What is my conclusion? To extract BOM from CAD drawing is a very neat functionality. My hunch it was requested by many GrabCAD users. However, BOM functionality introduction was a challenge for many PDM systems in the past. The complexity of Part management, multiple BOMs – this is only two visible parts of the iceberg. GrabCAD strategy reminded me what SolidWorks did in the past with PDM – added functionality when it was absolutely requested by majority of customers. I think it worked for SolidWorks… It would be interesting to see how it will work for GrabCAD. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Existing data prevents companies to improve Part Numbers?

August 15, 2014

historical-part-numbers

Part Numbers is a fascinating topic. I’m coming back to blog about what is the best approach to manage Part Numbers. My last post about it was – Part Numbers are hard. How to think about data first? was just few weeks ago. In that article, I outlined few principles how to keep PN separate from surrounding data focusing on different aspects of parts – description, classification, configurations, suppliers, etc.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by ThomasNet article – Are Part Numbers Too Smart for Their Own Good? The article nailed down a key issue why companies are still having difficulties with management of Part Numbers. Nothing works from scratch in engineering companies. Complexity of characteristics and history of existing Part Numbers and products are making real difficulties to adopt new PN management concepts. The following passage explains the problem:

Another problem with descriptive numbering is that the description can become out of date and irrelevant over time. Individual parts can have their own life cycles; if a part has been identified according to the product, what happens if that product is discontinued but the part continues to be used in a newer product? Or what if a manufacturer changes vendors and the part number contains the name of the vendor that originally provided the piece?

Gilhooley admits that some Ultra Consultants clients have decided that switching from descriptive to auto-generated numbering would require too much organizational change. Some companies stick with old systems, and some opt for hybrid systems that perhaps retain descriptive numbers for existing parts but use auto-generated numbers for new parts.

It looks like there is no single solution or best practice to solve the problem. The "traditional" engineering approach to keep options to manage a diverse set company configuration looks like the only possible way to solve this problem in existing PLM/ERP systems.

What is my conclusion? History keeps customers from moving forward. There are two aspects of complexity in Part Numbers: 1/ complexity of definition and data classification; 2/ historical records of PN in every company including catalogs and existing products. Together, they create a block to make any changes in existing PN schema and prevent companies from migration towards new approaches. New data modeling technologies must be invented to handle existing data as well as supporting customers to migrate into modern PLM and ERP solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Excel Spreadsheets, Pain Killers and Vitamins

July 29, 2014

bom-plm-excel-painkiller-1

We like to compare stuff. Gadgets, cars, hotels, software. We can compare iPhone to Samsung, Canon to Nikon, Honda to Toyota. Software is a special category. When it comes to enterprise software it gets even more complicated. However, marketing comparison is a fascinating type of writing. Arena PLM blog posted a marketing writing – Using Excel for Bill of Materials (BOM) Management. The article compares BOM management using Excel spreadsheets and BOM management PLM tools (Arena tools implied, which is okay). Read the article and draw your own conclusion.

I have special passion for spreadsheets. In my view, (and I know many of PLM analysts and bloggers will agree here) Excel is stands out as one of the most popular PLM software tool in the industry. I have my reasons to like PLM spreadsheets as well as list of my "hate statements" about Excel.

Arena’s article reminded me famous marketing stories about vitamins and pain killers. The first is "nice to have" and the second is "must buy now". I think the value of PLM tools is obvious. But… here is my little "but". If I compare lists of values, cost and features in that article, I can not come to an absolute conclusion about advantages of PLM tools. It creates some mixed feeling. First, there is no line that says "no" to any of features you can do with Excel. So, basically, I can do everything with Excel, but not in an optimal way (means I won’t die :) tomorrow by keep using Excel). Second, cost is emotionally on the side of Excel. It is very hard to compete with "free" that everybody can use. And, to switch to PLM tools, you need to change the way you work. Even this is not in the list, it implied when you compared "time to implement" between "immediate" and "days-weeks". So, when you have organization using Excel and manages BOM, PLM is not in competition with Excel. This is another type of competition, which sales people often calls "competing with status quo".

What is my conclusion? Few weeks ago, I shared my recipe how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. Here is the list of three recommendations – flexible data models, easy customization and excellent user experience. I’d like to add pain killers to the list. This is something that PLM is still missing in competition with Excel. The comparison should have "no/yes" notation. Today’s "poor/excellent" is still has a flavor of vitamins. PLM implementations are still hurting people and lose in the comparison to initially glamorous Excel spreadsheets. Engineers are spending too much time managing Excels, but the cost is hidden and not obvious to managers to step into longer implementations, higher cost and slow learning curve. 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


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