Arena Blog

The Days of Excel BOMs Are Numbered

Posted in BOM Management, ERP, PLM
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If you're using Excel to manage your BOMs, it's only a matter of time before the strategy blows up in your face.

As product life-cycles continue to shrink, price pressures increase and the supply chain becomes more globally dispersed than ever before, it’s surprising how few manufacturers are prepared to manage the chaos.

For example, if you’re still using Excel to manage your product data, you’ve probably noticed that managing change and collaboration with a global supply chain is an organizational nightmare.

If Excel is causing more trouble than it’s worth in your organization, it may be time for a new system of product data management. But if you’re not quite sick of Excel yet—just wait. Here are five reasons why your days of Excel spreadsheets are numbered.

Five reasons why Excel spreadsheets are a temporary solution

  1. Over time, your BOMs become larger and more complex. And as your product goes through multiple revisions, a spreadsheet simply cannot keep track of the change history to the product record. Such one-dimensional record keeping makes real collaboration nearly impossible.
  2. BOMs are highly relational, which makes managing your product record on several static spreadsheets extremely challenging. As a growing number of internal teams and global suppliers need access to data and files, the problem is escalated. Eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to keep data accurate.
  3. Because Excel can’t easily track product compliance requirements, this important piece of the product is often managed manually and separately from the BOM spreadsheet. Not surprisingly, this can lead to oversight of critical compliance requirements. Compliance status cannot be effectively managed when divorced from the original record, but if you’re using Excel, it may be your only option.
  4. Multiple internal and external teams need access to the BOM to edit the product record throughout the product life-cycle. In many cases, multiple versions are created as “save as” docs. As BOM data is changed by multiple parties, and multiple people believe they have the most updated version, eventually the truth is lost among the spreadsheets. At that point avoiding scrap, rework and wasted time is nearly impossible.
  5. Spreadsheets cannot communicate with other business systems such as ERP, so the product record has to be manually entered into the system—along with every new update to the product. For obvious reasons, this is not sustainable.

The BOM of the future—collaborative and centralized

The shortcomings of Excel BOMs boil down to this. You can not effectively collaborate with supply chain partners or guarantee that there is one version of the truth when you’re using Excel spreadsheets. So if you’re looking for a new way to manage your product data, consider tools that can do what Excel can’t—facilitate collaboration and centralization. Even if you’re just getting off the ground, you still need something lightweight that can keep everyone on the same page as you grow.

Your manufacturing process will only work as smoothly as the tools that manage it—so if you’re experiencing issues with Excel now, don’t wait around for them to get worse before adopting a solution that works.

About the Author

Alyssa Sittig

Alyssa played an instrumental role in the development of the Arena Blog and social media channels from 2011 to 2012. Joining the team with a background in public policy, Alyssa ...

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