On any given team, a wide variety of people—from engineers to customer-facing staff—must work together to move business forward. But when you’re dealing with tight production schedules and aggressive quarterly goals, keeping everyone on the same page can be a challenge. (And when you throw in external partners and remote employees, it gets even more challenging.)
To be successful, you need highly productive independent teams, as well as consistent and clear communication across departments and partner organizations. This means you need a single record of truth for your product that can be accessed at any time—even by key contributors in different time zones.
Your BOM = the single record of truth that describes your product
For companies who build a product, a bill of materials (BOM) is the best place to maintain the single record of truth for that product. A BOM contains part details, drawings, change information and any other details that describe or show what you’re trying to build, and is an essential part of making sure all teams have a clear picture of what the product is, how it will be built and what it will cost.
Building out a complete BOM for every product, and developing an effective way to make and communicate changes to the BOM, is the best way to avoid mistakes as you move to production and beyond. If your BOM reflects last week’s truth, is missing product data or is updated in multiple places, it can mean disaster for your product.
Three tips for better BOMs
When managed effectively, the BOM can create interdepartmental awareness of the impact individual work has on other internal and external departments, and provides a solid foundation for making and communicating changes to your product.
While many companies (like Arena) provide services that can help you manage your BOMs once you’ve created them, the best BOM management system in the world won’t help you if you don’t create correct and complete BOMs from the start.
Here are some tips I’d like to share for building better BOMs—are there any others you think should be added to the list?
1. If you want it in the product, put it in the BOM!
This seems like a no-brainer when it comes to the core mechanical and electrical parts, but what about the random and non-modeled parts like glue, software, cables, and patch cords? If you have these types of elements in your product, make sure they’re in the BOM!
In addition, it’s important that the documentation, warranty cards, offers from business partners, and packaging are accounted for, because these pieces, while they may not directly be part of the product, affect the working of your product as well as your customer’s experience.
Your BOM should be a living, breathing record of your product, down to the last wire—and if something doesn’t make it into your BOM, or the wrong part makes it into the BOM, your product won’t be made correctly.
2. Be proactive about making BOM changes
When it comes to change, don’t assume that someone else has communicated your changes across the departments, or that the head nods in last week’s meeting meant everyone was listening to your idea. The best way to maintain the integrity of your BOM is to take responsibility for the changes you make, and ensure the right people see, understand and approve your changes to the product.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Once you get to a place where you are confident that your BOM reflects the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, communication is key. (This is where systems come in handy.) A system with built-in intelligence to warn managers when specifications in the design, engineering, manufacturing and marketing BOMs disagree is ideal, but at the very least you should define a process for communicating changes to the affected work groups.
Putting energy in to ensure your BOMs are correct, and defining a system for BOM amd change management upfront, ensures you never risk your business on assumptions again.