BOM 101: The four pillars of every BOM management solution

January 17, 2013

I suggest you an experiment. Invite two engineers and ask them to provide a definition for some of PDM/PLM related terms. I’d not be surprised if you will get more than two definitions. It is not unusual to spend lots of time during PLM software implementation meetings to define terms, language and meaning of things. Regardless on terminology, I found BOM to be a central element in every product development organization and business. It contains a recipe of your product, process and, at the end of the day, becomes a lifeblood of your product development processes. Thinking about BOM management solution, I can see four major things that need to be defined, discussed and clarified.

BOM and Part Lists

Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of all items required to make a parent item. It includes components, raw materials and sub-assemblies. You may also include intermediate items identifying in-process elements to facilitate planning and other manufacturing processes. Depends on industry, people can call BOM differently. For example, in process industry, it can be called recipe or formula. Opposite to BOM, Part List is usually a term used to call a single level list for a specific level of assembly or sub-assembly.

Part Number

This is one of the most tricky defined terms in a whole product development and BOM management story. Here is a short definition. Part Number (PN) is an unique identifier that identify a single object in bill of material. However, the trick is how to define object and how to keep it consistent with your processes. Assigning part numbers is often complicated and one of the most discussed topics. The traditional definition of FFF (Form, Fit and Function) helps to identify the right objects. Interchangeable parts, substitiute items, special parts – this is only a short list of issues that comes into the discussion around part numbering process.

Routing

Think about navigation system with the road between different places. Now imagine part numbers. Routing is a roadmap that defines the path of part numbers across manufacturing floor by specifying workstations and labor time associated with every station. Usually routing applied to manufactured parts or items.

Drawings

Drawings represents a significant part of history and confusing engineering habits. Historically, drawing is the place where people put bill of materials for a product. It also solves the problem of Bill of Materials distribution in the company. At the same time, BOM on a drawing brings lots of disadvantages. In many situations, people don’t need drawing, but only need bill of materials and/or part list. Another point of confusion is numbering system. The discussion is about applying part numbers on drawings. In most of the situations, it represents the limitation of systems used for product development (PDM/PLM). To separate between Part Numbers and Document Numbers is the most reasonable ways to manage it, in my view.

What is my conclusion? Regardless of what systems you plan to use, I recommend you to have cross-department organizational discussion about these four pillars. Usually, it helps to understand product development processes. Engineering and manufacturing are two main organizations usually involved into BOM processes. To clarify terms will give you a tremendous value during PDM/PLM system implementation and integration with ERP. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, ECO and Cost of Change

December 21, 2011

Cost is an important topic. Period. Everybody agrees with this statement. I can even say many companies investing a lot in their ability to calculate and predict the cost of product. Compared to that, cost of change is much less exposed. However, cost of change can be even more destructive for the overall cost of the product you manufacturing and the business. Recently, I’ve been spending some time analyzing how companies are managing changes and how PLM systems are supporting them. I decided to put some thoughts about change management and cost calculation.

Cost Standard and processes

There are several policies or standards you want to have in your company when it comes to cost management and change processes. Change cost policy – usually specify the changes that required cost calculation (or not) and company payback period. Cost calculation document. You want to have it in the way that allows you to follow up it from the historical perspective as well as an instruction how to do so. The important question of every PLM implementation is how you are able to automate cost of change calculation and embed it in the overall change process.

Is there something you can call "average cost of change"?

The perception of people in any company is that cost is expensive thing to have. At the same time, it is hard to come with a range of how much an average change cost. $1K-5K is a range you might be hearing. But it is too broad. Another point of confusion is to conclusion out is included in this cost – engineering services, labor, equipment, etc.

Cost Calculation Classification

I can classify all changes into four groups: cost reduction, product maturity, product development, others. Depends on what type of change you are estimating, actually change cost calculation can be different. If you estimating change that marked to save cost or time, you absolutely need to calculate the cost. However, if you making a change that related to product maturity, you probably can skip some cost of change calculation. Taking right assumption can significantly improve the speed of change processes, which is an essential part of every manufacturing organization.

What is my conclusion? Change management is one of the most complicated discipline in product development lifecycle. To measure it right and tack the history and metrics of changes together with cost calculation is tricky and very important. I haven’t seen ready out of the box implementations that can do so. Main reason – system customization is complicated to have all information in PLM system. Sometime, if cost calculation is complicated, you can calculate profit erosion. What is your practice and experience? Speak your mind, please. Do you have any examples you can share?

Best, Oleg

Image: jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


ECO Management: What Matters?

March 30, 2011

Engineering Change is probably one of the most important and complicated disciplines. I had a chance to meet people that told me – all what you are doing is about ECO management. You can see many examples of ECO management solutions. Almost every software vendor in the field of engineering and enterprise software will propose you kind of the solution. Here is the definition, I grab from Wikipedia aboutEngineering Change Order:

In a typical system development cycle, the specification or the implementation is likely to change during engineeringdevelopment or during integration of the system elements. These last-minute design changes are commonly referred to as engineering change orders (ECOs) and affect the functionality of a design after it has been wholly or partially completed. ECOs can compensate for design errors found during debug or changes that are made to the design specification to compensate for design problems in other areas of the system design.

However, product development process is very diversified when it comes to real manufacturing companies. To find a system that can answer on the user’s requirements for ECO is not a simple task. In addition to that, the diversity of available solutions raises multiple questions about what is the most appropriate system for every case.

Engineering Change: Do It Yourself (DIY)?

Last year I posted – How to Manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat? The point I wanted to make was about how reuse some of the modern technologies to simplify the overall ECO management in the organization. My conclusion was that different organizations can manage ECO differently depends on specific characteristics of product, company environment and organization, which can make DIY approach quite complicated. It made me think and analyze different packages implementing ECO solutions.

Arena Change Management

Take a look on this following video from Arena Solution. I found it very educational. The power of Arena on demand was clear to me in this example. The ability to have seamless access via cloud-based services (or how Arena called it in the beginning “on demand”) can keep all participants in sync regardless on location and time.

Aras Workflow Management

What happens if your company has a high level of change processes complexity? The following video fragment is presenting Aras Innovator Workflow solution. It enables you to realize a comprehensive change process as a workflow. The workflow can be adapted to a specific customer needs. The openness and adaptability is an ultimate advantage of this system.

Kubotek ECO Manager

Few weeks ago, I learned about the new tool released by Kubotek. The interesting aspect I discovered in this tool is how it focuses on geometrical aspects of product and changes. It is clear not something you need in every industry. However, for the type of manufacturers in automotive, aerospace, industrial equipment and many other industries requiring 3D and geometry, Kubotec ECO manager can provide a significant value in the way to handle changes.

What is my conclusion? ECO is a an important, but very complicated process. It involves many people from organizational departments to work on this and following ECO related activities from inside and outside organization. To have an appropriate tool is important. When you choose a tool, take into the consideration what are specific characteristics of your organization from the standpoint of mobility, complexity, need for visual and 3D before you make a right choice. In parallel, the simplicity of a tool is another important thing. To have a simpler can be a much bigger problem for manufacturers in coming years.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

Freebie.


How to Manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat?

June 17, 2010

I had chance to read Buzz message thread about ECO management, initiated by Josh Mings. I found it worth reading. One of the questions stick in my memory, and I decided to put it in the title of my blog post today. How to manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat? I think the point was made in a very clear way. Changes is a real life of engineering and manufacturing company. However, cost/value seems to be problematic for solutions we have available today.

Microshare
Please, take a look on Microshare definition in Wikipedia.

To microshare is to offer access to a select piece or set of digital content by a specific group of invited or otherwise privileged guests in a controlled and secure manner. In contrast to public sharing of content, microsharing enables a more private or intimate level of making content accessible by others. Microsharing access can be secured via uniquely encoded urls or by password protection.

Let me take an example from Josh’s stream and translate it in microshare-like ECO-message-burst.

–>ECR#123 is submitted from customer services @servicecounter;
–>@servicecounter Looking on this ECR#123… Seems like a problem. Hold shipments;
–>Moved ECR#123 to engineering @engineeringhero;
–>@engineeringhero ECR#123 requires analyzes by #allengineeringgeeks;
–>@topgeek solution for ECR#123 is to disable radio switch off function;
–>@servicecounter hold shipments until ECR#123 fixed by @engineeringhero;

I hope you should get my hint now. In the end, I see collaboration as a message sharing in the organization. In before-computers-era, papers functioned as a message transferring mechanism. Then we invented databases, PDM, PLM…

PLM View on ECO Management
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a database and SQL, you just need to translate all your problems in database and SQL forms. This is the way we have been working for the last 15-20 years. If we got a problem, we need to create a model, keep data in a database, retrieve it, save it, manipulate and, in the end, yikes! – we have a solution. What is the problem here? This is a long way that creates lots of complexities – manage a database, agree about model, implement, agree about how maintain changes, create a user interface, teach everybody how to use it and, finally also to fix bugs. This is a way we are doing PDM/PLM today.

Should Be A Simpler Way?
What if? What if we invented enough technologies that can help us to the same job in a much simpler way? If all we are interesting is related to a particular ECO#123, I can keep reference to these messages without inventing SQL Table Grandiose? I can just record it and want to be alerted, when something happens to this particular ECO. If you are doing something related to this ECO, you can put a message into microshare storage about that. Somebody, who is responsible for shipment need to see if there are any of messages or info that prevents shipment. You can subscribe to messages via something like RSS and get a single channel of messages coming to your mobile device. I know it sounds crazy to any straightforward database and/or IT guy. But, in my view it may work and simplify the life of many engineers in the organization. The infrastructure for microshare and RSS is much cheaper, compared to the development of data models, tables, UIs etc.

What is my conclusion? I think, we came to the point where everybody in the organization is looking how to work differently. It is not only about how much to spend on the particular software package. It is about how to organize work better and simpler. I’m taking “microshare” as an option. Yesterday, on Enterprise 2.0 conference, one of the presenters asked a question – How many user guides did you read in the last year? The answer was ZERO. This is a time to think about a simpler way. I want to credit Evan Yares blog for the picture, I put in this blog post. I think it is very valid these days.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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Do We Need PLM To Manage Changes?

May 13, 2010

One of the areas that is always in the focus of people related to Product Lifecycle Management is how to manage changes in the organization. It sounds obvious – product lifecycle is all about changes. So, it seems to me, change management need to be a sweet spot of PLM. In my view, companies are very often struggling with the implementation of change management practices. I will try to figure what are the elements of the change management and what are potential bottlenecks.

Change Process

When you speak with people about change management, this change process normally comes first. The reason is simple. Changes cannot be done by a single person. It requires multiple person communication. In most of the situations, it requires to communicate across organizational divisions. The bottom line – it is not easy to communicate between people, and it requires good collaboration and communication skills. Software used by an engineering department is not always used by other departments. From the PLM product standpoint, process is a diagram. Simple? I’m not sure it is simple. The most complicated part of this diagram is to draw one in the real organization. I think this process is hard and requires lots of communications with people in the organization.

Referenced Data

The topic of data is underestimated, in my view. You need to have an efficient access to all data related to a change. Models, Drawings, Requirements, Manufacturing, Customers, etc. This is not always possible and this information is rarely located only inside of the PLM system. This is a time when the value of PLM solution becomes lower in customer’s eyes. From the PLM product standpoint, data managed by PLM system can be efficiently used for change process needs. I see it as a chicken-egg problem.

Implementation

Change implementation is another important piece of change management. When a change is approved, the next step is to implement all required modifications in multiple systems – Bill of Materials, Models, Drawings, Manufacturing instructions, etc .. What is very valuable for this stage is to provide a tool to control the overall implementation process. Because of distributed character of operation and many people involved it is always complicated to provide a complete picture of implementation status and control of it. From the PLM product standpoint, everything can be controlled until it management by PLM system. However, this is not always a reality in the organization.

What is my conclusion today? Management of changes is a complex topic. There are multiple dimensions of complexity – process in the organization, people involved and referenced data. To get them together is not a simple task and hardly can be managed by a single system. To have multiple systems coordinated between them, involving people under the stress of the overall product development and manufacturing process makes is even more complicated. If I’m back to my first question about PLM system, I think, a PLM system can provide a significant help in managing changes. The most important characteristic of this system will be an ability to organized process and giving an access to relevant product and organizational data.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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How to Improve Engineering Change Processes using Enterprise 2.0 Technologies?

April 22, 2009

I think that using Enterprise 2.0 technologies for Product Lifecycle can bring significant improvement in implementation and services. Today’s traditional approach is to use workflow-based tools to implement ECO processes. Is this good? Yes, it’s probably good, but at the same time, establishing such implementation can be relatively complex. You need to rely on database management tools and process management infrastructure. This is expensive. What alternative do we have today? I noticed that there is an emerging group of software which is starting to be referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Although there isn’t a consolidated agreement as to the scope of Enterprise 2.0 software, but there does seem to be a reference to a group of software tools and technologies that use Web tools for collaboration.

So, a typical, traditional ECO implementation includes the following components: Data, Process and Collaboration. Data allows you to keep information about ECO and link to the relevant CAD files located in a vault. Process allows you to set up a workflow to pass ECO information and requests among people in an organization. Collaboration tools are dedicated tools that allow you to present connected information about change and design to users. Collaboration tools normally include data and visual tools. Most of such implementations today are based on proprietarily rich (windows) clients and web tools. Workflow implementations in most cases rely on proprietary process tools, and sometime rely on IT process middleware. Overall, such implementation requires significant planning of everything – starting from ECO data through down to processes and people communication.

How we can make this implementation simpler and cut implementation costs? First of all – managing of all data natively in RDBM can be replaced by an implementation based on Wiki. This would allow us to keep information about ECO and reuse regular Web wiki editing tools to put information there. Depending on the Wiki engines you choose, you will have already user interface (web like) and data capture capabilities. You can tag this information and make it easy to search using desktop and/or enterprise search engines. Approvals and ECO process can be part of associated Wiki page data and ad-hoc collaboration. To establish more formal process you can use built-in workflow engines (i.e. Windows Workflow Foundation etc.). And last but not least is collaboration. Your environment can be Web-based and use all Web-based collaboration tools, and co-editing web pages. Additional power is that all ECO information can be easily shared as regular URLs. Additional interest can be gained by using subscription models similar to RSS. These can easily be applied on native web data and gives you the ability to use organizational information to discover which people to whom you should connect..

I believe, we are only in the beginning of Enterprise 2.0 tools introduction in organization, but for me it looks very promising…


PLM Process Management – How many Workflows do we Need?

April 20, 2009

In one of my previous posts, I already discussed PLM process management: Should PLM develop its own process tools?. In reality, I see that companies have many products that have process management and workflow capabilities. Some of them are part of IT platforms (Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere etc.), while others are part of PDM, PLM and ERP tools. With such a large number of capabilities, I noticed that companies often develop multiple solutions to manage these processes – and these solutions are tightly connected to existing products. From a particular standpoint, it will let customers maximum the reuse of product capabilities and organize a dedicated process management and workflow solution integrated with data managed by a particular system (PDM, ERP etc.). But, one of the biggest drawbacks of that kind of situation is that organizations have multiple silos of disconnected solutions, with multiple process/workflow management implementations.

So my question is how many ”workflows” do we need in an organization? More precisely, I’d like to think about how to organize separated and disconnected workflow and business processes management solutions. Following are the priorities needed to organize this solution:

1. Establish a single process modeling environment

2. Multiple process deployment

3. Immersive access to process /workflow execution in a built-in user environment

A single process modeling environment would user to organize and maintain a single picture of the organizational processes. My preference in this case is IT platforms. Organizations normally chooses one IT platform, so having an environment in which to model processes makes a lot of sense to me. Consolidation around popular notations such as BPMN can let you use 3rd party tools, in some cases, if they provide additional benefits in managing of single process model.

Multiple process deployment can resolve the procedure of integrating processes into many existing systems. This depends on the specific system deployed by the company, and can be done in different ways – but the goal here is to keep the process connected to specific solution as much as possible (i.e. product data management and/or any vertical solution in the organization). This will allow existing systems to maintain the connection with data management using this system/sub-system. Access to this data is very important since most of process logic, in many cases, depends on this information.

Most of the processes require user involvement for control and data submission (i.e. document approval, ECO management etc.) Immersive access to process/workflow execution and control from the regular user daily environment is critical – because this is what guarantees the user’s acceptance. A process solution will be live only when customers will use it rather than bypass it.

So, where do you start? 1- Analyze what system can be used to keep overall control of processes in the organization; 2- Choose process modeling tools; 3- Analyze how to connect multiple workflow and process management solutions that already exist in the organization; 4- Give priority to solutions that have immersive integration in the user environment.

As usual, I’m open to discuss this and am interested to know what type of solutions you have and how you organize workflow and business processes within your organization.


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