Before manufacturers turn on the first machine at the start of a production line, they need to understand and plan all of the components that will be used in the assembly process. As such, the initial stage of the manufacturing process is to create a comprehensive list of parts, sub-parts, and sub-assemblies that will be used to build the finished product.

What is a Bill of Materials (BOM)

At its core, a Bill of Materials (BOM) is essentially a detailed list or “recipe” describing all of the items and materials that are used in the production of any given product. Because it covers all of the components required to make the final product, a Bill of Materials is often referenced at various stages of a product’s lifecycle to ensure inventory and materials necessary for assembly are available, and production is flowing as expected.

In order to keep track of inventory and keep your workforce aware of any changes or updates to items used in an assembly, manufacturers rely on BOM management solutions to ensure that they have a reliable, up-to-date blueprint. In so doing, manufacturers ensure that they can competently and consistently manage production.

As such, BOM management solutions will often play a role in core business practices including inventory management, product lifecycle management, quality control, and conformity to regulations and standards.

How BOMs are used in manufacturing

As mentioned, manufacturers lean on their Bill of Materials to ensure products are built correctly and that all aspects are accounted for, relying on input from various departments of the business.

For instance, the engineering and development team creates a BOM that details the dimensions and specifications of the given product. Additionally, manufacturing and operations teams utilize the BOM to outline their production process, including equipment, tools, and warehousing.

The purchasing department also has access to the BOM to facilitate costing. Marketing and sales personnel utilize the information within the BOM to effectively communicate product descriptions and functionalities to the customer.

Manufacturers can structure their Bill of Materials as single-level or multi-level BOMs. The former is usually a plain list specifying the different parts that form a simple product.

Multi-level BOMs also do the same. However, they go further ahead to display lists of so-called child parts needed to make the parent parts which are ultimately assembled to make the final product.

Typically, a BOM includes:

  • BOM level - denotes the part’s hierarchy (parent or child)

  • Part number

  • Part name

  • Part quantity

  • Part description

  • Type or mode of procurement

  • Phase - showing the design, approval, or procurement stage of a particular part

In the current tech-heavy industrial era, manufacturers rely on digital solutions for BOM management. However, before this, companies usually used spreadsheets and paper documents to list product parts and components.

But with several departments requiring access and making edits to the BOM, manual, paper-based BOM management can be extremely challenging. First off, traditional BOM management relies on manual operator input, creating an opportunity for human error.

Additionally, working in silos hinders efficient information sharing, creating duplicated entries as each department adds revisions. This also means that version tracking is more challenging due to incoherent or inconsistent BOM revision history.

Fortunately, modern cloud-based BOM management solutions alleviate many of these production challenges.

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How to streamline production with a BOM management solution

Production in the Industry 4.0 era has introduced new ways, more efficient ways of managing operations. However, new solutions require additional consideration to ensure efficient productivity and quality throughout the process.

Here’s how to leverage a BOM management solution to streamline a manufacturing operation:

Centralize BOM management system control

Manufacturing businesses usually have several departments that will contribute to an item’s product lifecycle. As a result, they all need access to that product’s Bill of Materials.

Therefore, supervisors need to centralize BOM management system control. Not only does this create a common product data repository, but it also makes for a more collaborative effort when developing workflows for their products and parts.

Furthermore, this centralization also eliminates confusion arising from updates and changes across different personnel groups.

Provide secure access to relevant personnel

In many manufacturing operations, businesses partner with suppliers to provide raw materials, parts, and assemblies. So, apart from your internal manufacturing team, you should also provide these outside parties with secure access to the Bill of Materials.

However, management needs to be able to limit access to ensure that only necessary parties have access to the BOM. As suppliers change and over time, access can then be extended to additional parties involved in the production process.

Provide accountability

Newer BOM management solutions provide a changelog feature that identifies product design edits and revisions and notes the person responsible for making them. This does away with the inevitable blame game when some changes affect the final product outcome. Therefore, the accountability feature encourages individuals to only make necessary changes.

Using Tulip to improve BOM management

By using Tulip as a centralized, stand-alone system, or integrating Tulip with an existing tech stack, manufacturers are able to more effectively manage their inventory to ensure operators have the materials they need to complete their work consistently on an ongoing basis.

If you're interested in exploring how Tulip can help digitize and manage your bill of materials, reach out to one of our team members!

Streamline BOM management efforts to more effectively track assembly.

Improve production tracking across the product lifecycle by digitizing your BOM and inventory management efforts.

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