There has been a lot of talk lately about Bills of Material (BOMs), and just how this important construct should be handled within a large organization. My fellow blogger Oleg has been obsessed with this topic lately, and he has several recent blog posts: PLM, Multiple BOMs and Cross Functional Teams, BOM: Overstructured, Understructured or lean, Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Material. I have been asked by several people what I think, and I thought it would be easiest to post this blog to explain some of my feelings on this engaging topic.
First of all, the challenge to accurately communicate technical product information to all levels of an organization usually falls on a Bill of Material (BOM). The product BOM is often started in engineering (at least in discrete industries) and propagated to various groups within the company who modify the information for their own specific needs. Sometimes, a group will start their own BOM strictly for their own use with little regard for anyone else. Some groups have an actual BOM tool, while others use an Excel spreadsheet (after all, Microsoft Excel is the #1 PLM solution in the world). Thus, we end up with many BOMs and virtually no connection from one to the other.
Of course, the BOM above does not tell you everything. Far from it! This type of BOM is actually a construct from an earlier day when we did not have a strong PDM solution to assist us. When we start to dig a little, the BOM gets very complicated; people cannot manage this kind of complexity properly without help. Each of the parts (items) above has a host of important information that needs to be tracked, updated, and analyzed to create the final product.
With a strong PDM solution, we can track all the information that is needed to support various organization. A PDM solution allows us to manage a much more comprehensive Bill of Information (BOI). The BOI not only includes the product structures from engineering, it also includes all the information needed to get the product from design to manufacturing and out to the customer. This BOI provides a strong foundation for all groups to work together and collaborate during the product design process, and beyond. The additional tools found within various PLM solutions allow us to collaborate and share this information as needed.
When a company relies on a BOI, information can be added, and various views of the BOI can be generated depending on who needs to use it. Another nice attribute is that a BOI can be used in any industry to communicate product information: recipes, formulas, patterns, simulations, etc. can all be represented and shared using a comprehensive BOI supported by PLM.
I know what you are saying, "In a perfect world we would have one BOI, but this is not Narnia!"
Yes, you are right. This is not Narnia, and I am not Prince Caspian, as far as you know.
But, the effort to connect your many BOMs using a BOI will be effort well spent. The BOI will still need to integrate to other systems, and pass data between various groups, but the concept is still sound: how can we put information into one comprehensive BOI in order to support our work. Starting down this path will pay handsome dividends in the long run.
What do you think?