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…