8 June 2012: We all know that the engineering (design) BOM is not usable for manufacturing. It’s not robust enough for manufacturing. It contains much of what manufacturing needs, but not enough. Here are some things needed for manufacturing to have a usable BOM:
- Non-design elements such as paint, labels,
- Manufacturing instruction
- Manufacturing assemblies
- Test and quality procedures
- Detailed information on purchased parts
- Variants for different zones of manufacturing
- And so on . . .
If this is the case, then one might ask how does one use a design BOM to build an MBOM? Several alternatives come to mind. Rather than giving a dissertation on the subject, I spoke with Steve Chalgren, VP of Product Management & Strategy of Arena Solutions. The company, one of the earliest cloud based providers, provides only a cloud based solution. In fact, the company was at one time called BOM.com.
Founded in the late 90’s, the company has grown to about 100 employees, with 500+ customers, and 15K to 20K users in 40+ countries. More than half of their customers are in the high tech electronics business.
I had a chance to meet with the former founder soon after they were founded, but have not kept up with the company since then. A recent press release revealing that their net new subscriptions grew by over 25% in the first quarter piqued my interest. The company stated that the “increase in new business can be attributed to Arena’s 2011 investments in new products, like PDXViewer and PartsList, and integrations to cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions like SAP Business ByDesign and Netsuite, and component aggregators like Octopart.” My interest centers on possible use in the mechanical realm.
Their products include the following three cloud based products:
- BOMControl: A collaborative and centralized way to manage BOMs and changes
- PDXViewer: Share build and quote packages up and down your supply chain
- PartsList: A lightweight app that helps capture, document, and share designs
BOMControl seems to offer much of the capability that mechanical design users need, including BOM management, import from CAD systems for creating the MBOM, and change management of the created BOM’s. Typical users might include the engineering team, document control managers, operations and manufacturing planning, supply chain management, and suppliers. The software makes it easy to add and track items needed for manufacturing. The fact that it is isolated from engineering CAD systems and from internal PDM or PLM system seems to allow secure access into just those areas that suppliers need without concerns about intellectual property (IP). Allowing suppliers direct access to internal PLM systems always makes me nervous.
The software seems to make sense for those companies that do not yet have or will not soon have a fully integrated PLM system for BOM management. And few do today. My guess is that many companies today use spreadsheets (like Excel) to manage their BOM’s, since most CAD PDM systems have little or no capability for multiple BOM views of the product, instead, focusing entirely on the engineering BOM, the EBOM. While spreadsheets will work for this application, they do not have the capabilities to easily collaborate, track changes, or smoothly interact with EBOMs to automate data exchange.
In the case of electronics manufacturing, an electronic search engine called Octopart automatically searches for the data associated with specified purchased parts and adds it to the MBOM. Capabilities exist for also adding these hooks manually and to include virtually any type of part descriptive files. Thus the Arean Solutions MBOM can become the residence not only of part data, but many other types of data associated with manufacturing. Consider test descriptions, supplier acceptance requirements, engineering test specifications and calculations as just a bit of what is possible.
Shown below are two screen shots of BOMControl managing these exact processes.
Showing the ability to track changes
Allowing various views into the BOM
Plans and pricing
Arena Solutions offers a BOMControl basic plan for $49 per month for up to 3 seats. They also have a 30-day free trial. For more information see their website at http://www.arenasolutions.com/products/bomcontrol/plans/. This trial pricing program is competitive with Autodesk 360 PLM and considerably cheaper than PLM vendors.
Arena Solutions’ products are aimed at taking the design EBOM and allowing a secure system for developing, maintaining, and collaborating MBOMs. All of which are needed to build and even service the eventual delivered product. All user companies without a current or short-term plan should definitely consider BOMControl.
One might think that BOMControl is used only by smaller companies, yet this is not the case. A large proportion of Arena Solutions clients are large companies.
I received no compensation for this review.
For more information