Posts Tagged "eBOM"

The Challenge

Often when listening to a CIMdata presentation, their consultant will offer a tongue in cheek remark: “the most widely used PLM tool is Excel”. So, is it true? It is worth examining the issue in more detail.

Before proceeding, a better definition of the title is in order. The more accurate formulation – “Does an Excel spreadsheet contain the master definition of the eBOM during product design in your organization?”

There are two crucial points in this question

  1. Master definition implies that the BOM of record for final design is maintained in a spreadsheet
  2. eBOM is distinct from the mBOM maintained in an ERP system. Organizations generally do not use Excel for this purpose.

The Reality

BOM

So how prevalent is the master Excel BOM? If you are reading this article, you can answer silently for yourself. Aside from that, let us look at two data points:

Tata Technologies has conducted a PLM benchmark assessment at approximately 150 different organizations over the last 4 years. Based on our results, approximately 75% of these organizations use Excel in one form or another to control the eBOM.

Try a Google search on “Bill of Materials” and access the results for “Images”. Count how many of the images show Excel. By my informal count, at least 60% of the images from that search are Excel sheets of one form or another.

So, the prevalence of using Excel for eBOM would seem to be very high. Is that good or bad? Let’s examine that question in following sections.

The Good

Excel is perhaps one of the great inventions of the IT revolution. It is conceptually a simple tool but can be used in sophisticated applications. For generating and specifying a simple eBOM, it has the following merits.

  1. It is flexible and can be formatted in various was to portray an eBOM structure. The inherent layout of rows and columns is convenient for defining a structure
  2. One can add many columns to define and specify the various attributes of Parts in the eBOM
  3. Because Excel can easily perform calculations, the spreadsheet can automatically give aggregate results like total cost, total or sub assembly weights, total selling price, margins etc.
  4. It is a readily available tool across all businesses because of the persuasive nature of MS Office and everybody knows how to use it. Probably most businesses see it as an economical and inexpensive tool; dependent on budgets this may or may not be true
  5. Although it takes a little bit of dedicated formatting, the eBOM can show indented levels and collapsed sub-assemblies
Excel BOM
Excel BOM

The Bad

Of course, Excel may have some strengths, it has some significant weaknesses when it comes to eBOM management:

  1. It is difficult to do a BOM compare in Excel. Such functionality is required when two versions of the BOM need to be compared to see the differences
  2. Change Management in any Product Development environment is always a big challenge. While it may be possible to do revision control on an Excel spreadsheet (e.g. in SharePoint), it is impossible to do change control on individual parts in the eBOM
  3. Excel has no safeguards against anyone inadvertently deleting line items or details out of the eBOM.
  4. Calculations and formulas in Excel must be constantly checked to see they cover the correct ranges as changes will compromise these. Many companies have fallen to the problem of Excel formula mistakes
  5. By their nature, Excel spreadsheets are difficult to control and can proliferate easily, resulting in multiple copies. Which one is then the master?
  6. Excel eBOMs are always entered manually into ERP systems; requiring considerable effort and allowing the possibility of errors

The Ugly

Even if the “Bad” above is manageable, there are some situations where it is impossible to even consider using Excel for eBOM. Here are some of those situations:

  1. Large complex eBOM with part counts in the 200 and above range. No human can reasonably manage this in an Excel worksheet.
  2. Situations were the product has multiple configurations or variants. Because the number of resolved eBOM’s grow exponentially with the number of variants, it becomes impossible very quickly to manage
  3. When multiple downstream users must access the eBOM. This compounds the proliferation problem
  4. When the eBOM changes rapidly – keeping everybody up to date becomes impossible
  5. An eBOM is the very core of Product Development. Why use a half-baked tool?
  6. Excel cannot connect to any digital representation of the Part (3D model, Drawing, Specs etc.). This is a major shortcoming!

The Change

So, are you comfortable driving an automobile knowing that 66% of the eBOM sub-assemblies are managed in Excel?

There is technology that overcomes all the Bad and the Ugly. It exists today and is proven. The change to these systems may be difficult and potentially expensive but given the critical nature of an eBOM to a Product Development organization, it must be embraced!

Watch for the next article.

Tata Technologies is an engineering services company dedicated to engineering a better world. Visit our website at www.tatatechnologies.com

Anyone who has dealt with Bill of Materials (BOM) knows about the challenges and complexities involved with it. Sometimes we get asked, managing a single BOM itself is cumbersome, then why do we even need another one in the form of a Manufacturing Bill of Material (mBOM)..?

What we have seen with our customers  is that, when there is only one BOM then it is usually owned by the engineering department (CAD BOM/ eBOM) and will be available for  the Manufacturing Department as  a “read only”. This is not good enough for the manufacturing teams as they need to author and add data specific to manufacturing , for example  manufacturing specific consumable parts like glue, oil or Tool Fixtures and such. Another key factor is how the BOM is structured; typically eBOM is structured around organization systems and functions and represent the product architecture, but for manufacturing team a mBOM needs to be  organized according to the manufacturing assembly order.

When customers need to work towards the industry 4.0 goal, they need to have  smarter manufacturing  solutions and systems that provide more ways to capture the manufacturing business intelligence and then suggest solutions based on the previous patterns. With this in mind they need to invest in  manufacturing BOM authoring and management area. During a mBOM adoption, the key is not to recreate the data that’s already in eBOM, but to reuse the eBOM and add additional information specific to manufacturing. That way there is both reuse and traceability of the data.

At a high level mBOM creation automation solutions exist in multiple flavors

  1.  Recipe based mBOM:  In a recipe based mBOM, customers can initiate the mBOM creation via pre-configured  templates pointing to eBOM. Based on the recipe stored with the template it will automatically fetch the engineering parts into mBOM. This kind of solution helps customers who have heavy standardization in their product offerings.
  2. Reusable Manufacturing Assembly: In such a solution, customers can leverage the same manufacturing assembly across multiple product lines to reduce the design, development and procurement costs
  3. New Offline Processing Solutions: This approach is to tailor the mBOM creation process and application to the customer need using customization. This standardizes and automates the process to capture the business intelligence and its reuse via customization.
  4. Smarter Validations: Such solutions suggests what’s next to the business users, that way users spends less time discovering the problem and more time solving it.

Over all value of such solutions is not just the flexibility it offers the manufacturing team, it also reduces manufacturing process planning and execution lead time with improved structure accuracy and significant reduction in change reconciliation processing time.

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