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Does your multi-level BOM send the right message?

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A flat BOM conveys simplified product data.

Once you’ve created a deeply nested BOM within your CAD program, sharing the information with other departments as a multi-level BOM from your PLM system is an intuitive next step. But within an organization, there are many departments that rely on BOMs to complete purchasing tasks, manage inventory and even sell the product to customers. Is a multi-level BOM really the most helpful way for these employees to access product data?

Who prefers flat BOMs in an organization?

There are times when it makes sense to provide internal customers with a fully indented BOM, but for some departments this information is excessive.

Consider employees working in finance and procurement who utilize the BOM to determine order quantities and total cost. Individuals in this position prefer to work off a flat BOM because it gives them the product quantity data they need without unnecessary assembly and sub-assembly instructions. Because flat BOMs enable quicker quantity calculations and simplify cost analysis, they are an ideal view for your finance department.  In fact, providing finance with too much detail into assembly numbers and construction may cause confusion and lead to purchasing errors.

Sales is another department that can benefit from a flattened version of the BOM, as they are mostly looking for relevant warranty and spares data and don’t need assembly details. The organization of a multi-level BOM makes finding this information difficult, so it can actually slow sales down.

Even within the manufacturing department there are players who would be better off with a flat BOM. For example, some entry-level production workers use a BOM as an inventory checklist—for these employees, product information is best presented in a simple, single-level format.

When it comes to BOM organization, be consistent!

Even if you provide the correct employees with a flattened BOM, the information can still be confusing if you don’t organize the information with a consistent methodology. For example, an employee who believes the product data is organized by assembly order will interpret the flattened BOM differently than an employee who believes it is structured by cross-section. Maintaining consistency of presentation is critical to ensuring every player within an organization is on the same page.

Additionally, there may be times when team members move up in an organization and require retraining to read BOM structures with a higher level of complexity. For example, someone who begins in a company receiving inventory may suddenly need to read and understand nested BOMs if they move into assembly. Making retraining a priority will help you avoid miscommunication down the road.

At the end of the day, the BOM is the seed of your product. Ensuring that it is accessible and helpful to your team members will open lines of communication and yield greater success throughout the product lifecycle.

For more information

A recent article, Managing Multi-Level BOMs, provides an in-depth run-down of the factors to consider when determining how to best structure your product BOM. The article provides examples of multi-level BOMs, considers the challenges of managing multi-level BOMs and discusses how PLM solutions like Arena help mitigate these obstacles. For manufacturers interested in learning more about BOM structures, or for those ready to build a master parts list and share it with suppliers, the article provides a technical breakdown of need-to-know information.

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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