A typical BOM comprises thousands of electrical, mechanical, and software components. It is highly relational and includes everything needed (like a recipe) to build the finished product. For complex BOMs, companies need more intelligent BOM management solutions that modern PLM systems can provide. Throughout the development process, the BOM and its components change often, requiring testing between each aspect of the design.
Before cloud-based PLM, product companies relied on spreadsheets, documents, and repositories to manage changes to the BOM and related product information. This information was then shared via phone, fax, or email, with no way to ensure that the data was current and accurate.
This made remote collaboration challenging and slowed time to market considerably. In addition to spreadsheets, companies also used a variety of other static applications not specific to the needs of manufacturers, such as Microsoft Word, PDF files, and plain text files, to record and share product information. All fell short in effective change control and information sharing.
Though many companies have evolved their processes from that point, there is still a misconception that enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can be used to manage all product information after design—including changes and communication. Unfortunately, even though the final production BOMs, the item master, and costing information are ultimately loaded into ERP systems, these systems do not have integral processes for engineering change orders (ECOs) or file management. Therefore, they cannot be used to control BOM or item changes or to manage associated files. Furthermore, as a tool primarily for internal groups, ERP systems cannot be used by external partners and suppliers to obtain product information.
Additionally, during the product development and manufacturing process, it is often useful to trace back the changes to specific revisions of the BOM and make design or part comparisons. It is nearly impossible to do so with a collection of BOM revisions in different spreadsheets.
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