The prospect of managing a bill of materials system for a large organization is a daunting thought to many professionals in the supply chain, manufacturing, and engineering industries. Manufacturing and supply chains today have become so highly automated and technologically advanced that maintaining an accurate accounting of all the raw materials, assemblies, sub-assemblies, ingredients, quantities, and other data points can be a herculean task at scale, or even at a small or mid-sized business with a highly customized product offering. What’s more, the intricacies around the timing and complexity of certain products further complicates the undertaking.
In today’s business landscape, automation is a must-have for effective BOM management systems. Simply put, there is too much data collected in today’s business landscape that it’s not possible to effectively manage manually. The good news is that the advances of the past decade in cloud computing and digital inventory management provide a solution to handling such massive amounts of data.
At its core, effectively automating a BOM management system centers around the idea of integration. When manufacturing companies scale without successful integration of their data systems, the result is usually unsustainable levels or overhead and risk for error caused by the need for manual communication between systems. Let’s use a cabinetry company as an example.
Imagine a cabinetry company that designs, fabricates, and installs custom cabinetry to residential homeowners. During the design process, a cabinetry design professional will create digital schematics using any one of the litanies of computer-aided design (or CAD) software solutions to create blueprints that previously had to be created by hand. Embedded into that CAD file are individual data records for every single part and specification selected by the consumer. These could be things be the customer’s wood choice, the finish, coating, style of routing, paneling style, fixtures like knobs and drawer pulls, measurements and dimensions, quiet-roll drawer pads, screws, nuts, and bolts – and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
One can see how even for the fabrication of a single kitchen drawer, the amount of data can quickly become staggering, and that’s without even factoring in additional data systems that handle shipping, pricing changes linked to constantly shifting raw materials prices, and installation.
Traditional technology companies like Siemens and the advent of “software as a service” solutions like the offerings seen on the site openbom.com have enabled the integration of all these disparate systems via automated BOM management. These solutions can integrate common ERP systems like CAD, PLM, PDM, Autodesk, and more to give management professionals complete visibility into their inventory. What’s more, as the technology continually improves, SaaS companies can license their APIs to independent developers to help customize their solutions to the most unique and nuanced business needs. Quite simply, it’s open-source BOM management built by the very companies that need it.
The sea change in data storage brought on by the rise of cloud computing continues to improve our lives and make our economy more efficient, and automated BOM systems are a quintessential example of this process in motion.