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Managing Parts and BOMs

Managing Parts and BOMs

Managing Parts and BOMs

(OP)
There are a host of ways to manage components and Bills-Of-Material. Smaller companies often use spreadsheets; others use PDM - Product Data Management - systems (I hesitate to call most of them PLM systems yet) which were either internally developed or are commercial (by the likes of Agile, Arena, PTC, MatrixOne, and others).

What do you use? What's good about it? What doesn't it do that you'd like it to? How do you exchange information with your manufacturing partners (if you use contract manufacturers)?

--
Mike Kirschner
Design Chain Associates, LLC
http://www.designchainassociates.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

We are a smaller company, and use Excel. This was started out of necessity, but is a pain to maintain. We use SolidWorks for design and it outputs an Excel BOM. About 5 years ago we spent some time and money looking at using an XML database to store product information and part numbers in. This did not work. After looking at the problem more it looks like an object database would be the best choice. The biggest hurdle in exchanging information with people is naming conventions. The main goal of our project is to allow adding or reordering information by others for their internal use without corrupting the senders database when return information is received. This is similar to having a language interpreter for foreign languages, because each company will develop their own dialect.
One of the other goals was to have this program run in the background so information could be added as a person worked to help document what was done and the resources used for the decisions made. That way reinventing the wheel could be eliminated, and leveraging good ideas made easier.

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

(OP)
Why would you want to design your own database to manage parts/BOMs? It's a pretty complex problem to solve, and others (some mentioned above...there are lots of PDM vendors!) have already done so. By "naming conventions" do you mean part description standards?

By the way, there are some commercial PDM systems that don't cost a huge amount of money and actually interface with SolidWorks.

--
Mike Kirschner
Design Chain Associates, LLC
http://www.designchainassociates.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

When we started using SolidWorks in January of 1996 there was no PDM software at a reasonable price for SolidWorks. The naming convention problem is when different people call the same thing by a different name. The reason we want to create a product it that PDM software as well as SolidWorks, and all other CAE software are empty databases. When you purchase these products you have to start with a blank page and create what you need. This makes collaboration difficult and increases startup costs. We tried to collaborate with another company on design and found that a lot of the information about design, parts manuals, and repair could not be exchanged within SolidWorks or a PDM software. The current buzz is PLM product lifecycle management. In most industries 5 to 20 years is the life of a product, managing electronic data for more than 3 years becomes more costly every day.
We need a company and product that helps reduce these long term maintenance cost. If you know of such a product, I would like to know.

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

(OP)
For PDM systems known to integrate with SolidWorks, look at SmarTeam and Arena Solutions. I don't know much about the former in terms of price or much else. The latter has their pricing on their website and it's on the low end of the scale but has pretty good functionality and apparently good integration with SolidWorks. Pragmax (located in UK but recently opened an office in San Jose, CA)

Most "PLM" systems are just PDM systems...it's more marketing hype than anything else at this point, IMHO. PLM manages all aspects of a product's lifecycle, not just the BOM and associated documentation and ECOs. Most systems don't manage the front-end "stage-gate" process for product development at all, for instance. Agile just acquired a startup called ProductFactory to fill in that blank in their product line.

Regarding the "blank page" problem, that's something we've discussed with several PDM suppliers and many OEMs. It's a widespread problem - every company reinvents their own approach when it's unnecessary in at least 90% of the cases; the PDM suppliers’ customers complain to them about it but they’re software companies – they don’t have the requisite detailed knowledge to be able to define a set of standards their customers can use. So we've just announced availability of a part numbering standard (see http://www.designchainassociates.com/pra/061303ipn.html ) that will be available next month and are also working on description and classification/property standards that will be available later in the year.

--
Mike Kirschner
Design Chain Associates, LLC
http://www.designchainassociates.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

At my company, we use two software packages to accomplish this.  Inventory personnel use MAS 200 by Sage Software.  The user interface can be cumbersome at times, but it is very sophisticated (so much that I don't know every little detail about it).  It can manage purchase orders, inventory control, BOMs, parts, etc.

The engineers at my company (myself included) like using a program called P&V (Parts and Vendors).  I like the user interface to this one much more.  Our company assigns its own part number to any parts we have and assign them to certain catogories.  P&V can manage all of this and keeps track of Manufacturer and Vendor part numbers with each of the company created ones.  You can also track pricing (and price breaks), BOMs, etc.

Do a Google search for either for more specific information.

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

We look at PDM software every year or so, its only real value is vaulting, the rest of the PLM or product knowledge information is beyond the vision of PDM, and SolidWorks. We feel that having a product like P&V is one more database that will not match information with accounting. The more databases that a company has the greater chance of error. I have looked at P&V for years and even started a pilot program in 1997 with it. The limited ability to transfer information between software packages is what stopped implementation.
We are a small company with lots of knowledge and specialty products, most is stored in my head, and fading with age (49 soon). Currently we have over 25,000 SolidWorks files, and market 20 product lines to 4 different industries. Several of these product lines have subcategory products, and need customization. This makes tracking information about the products difficult, time consuming and expensive with current technology.

Mike I spent some time classifying mechanical items several years ago. If you are interested in my methods and knowledge contact me at danzco@thurston.com.

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Ed,
We have helped a small company with a parts selection tool and cleaned up their database in the process.  We are currently working on developing a BOM intagration tool to inteface with the selection tool.  This solution has many phases and might help you as well.  I would be happy to share this information and other ideas with you.  

Paul Veenstra
Electronic Component Solutions
peveenstra@ecs-ol.com
319-270-3588

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

(OP)
EdDanzer, I agree that having too many databases is a problem and unfortunately that seems to be the state of the industry today. CAD data (breaking down further into mechanical and electrical...and probably even further into layout models, schematic models, 3D models, simulation models, electrical/mechanical properties, etc) isn't managed in the same system as manufacturing part or BOM data, which has to link to downstream supply chain systems (MRP/SCEM/etc.) and accounting systems (ERP) and so on.

Yes you can tie them together but making sure you capture the right information accurately, manage it correctly, and can quickly and easily find and update it is the challenge (as is making sure systems don't go out of sync; you don't want engineering to be thinking manufacturing is building rev C of a board when rev B is what's in production...or worse - at a previous company the engineering system of record updated the manufacturing system on a weekly basis; it was awful). A good part of that is business processes, not just depending on software (which has to be designed to support your business processes...).

--
Mike Kirschner
Design Chain Associates, LLC
http://www.designchainassociates.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

As a small company and CPA, we initially started using Excel spreadsheets for our BOM.  Then I wanted to apply it to cost accounting uses for determining pricing etc.  We are now looking into MAS 200 which is made by Best Software.  There is a module for BOM and I have only been examing the demo.  So far it looks promising.  We wanted something that the engineers & purchasing dept. could use as well as the accountants.  For a small company it is more affordable than some large packages.
good luck
 

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Cjl222
Quick Books Pro has a BOM function, but it will not tie to any CAD software. We have been slow to use this feature because all the SolidWorks BOM information has to be input manually before it is functional. It does work and is inexpensive compared to MAS products.
Mike and Paul,
I will be contacting each of you soon to further discuss you solutions.

Ed Danzer

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

(OP)
Electronic Business Magazine has an article in the current (8/1/03) issue on "PLM". It's interesting in that it names a few key players (but misses others) and has some example price points for some of the tools as well as a discussion of some of the problems PLM tools can solve. But it's not just the tool that solves problems like quickly identifying the design-in an obsolete part; I know many companies that have Agile and similar tools that have had this specific problem. If it's not caught until proto buy, it can cost on the order of US$30K every time that mistake is made (stock to cover + relayout + engineering time). So you can "have an efficient means of communicating the changes" but if the business processes (that aren't always well implemented by the system - see the Agilent part of the story!) aren't in place the tool won't be used as efficiently as it can.

Article is at http://www.reed-electronics.com/eb-mag/index.asp?layout=article&stt=000&articleid=CA312956

--
Mike Kirschner
Design Chain Associates, LLC
http://www.designchainassociates.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Take a look at "partsandvendors.com", it is BOM manager, inventory and suppliers list, it is inexpensive and you can purchase licenses as you go.

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Gentlemen,
I am looking for information pertaining to a program for monitoring of Age related degradation of electronic and instruments. It would also help if someone knew which Nuclear power plant has an existing program in place.

Regards,
Sam Reddy

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Whew, a lot of responses but none on use of a full blown ERP suite. Well we use a product called Visual Enterprise which has an interface to a number of CAD packages. It is a full blown ERP suite of the tier2 level, tier1 being SAP and the likes. We don't use the interface for the CAD package as we have no need (Though we have written a maintenance program that works better than theirs, but interfaces with the database and we have written an interface for Inventor to this program). I have been led to believe that their program works well by the users of the software who do so, and there are a number of advantages such as vaulting which is due soon as well as Engineering Change control.

Cheers

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

Interesting how many responses are on this thread.
I too, like others, believe that standard descriptions and in particular orderable parts numbers the true secret no matter what PDM system or method you choose. For this reason we created a product for the cleansing and analyzing of information over many databases. As one user mentioned keeping yet another database is tough. By opening a BOM and then associating to other data sources, one can effectively find all sorts of information. Keeping aliases becomes a key success then of finding other pertinent information. Only after a BOM is *cleansed* for supply chain orderable part numbers does it become effective when linked to other information in or out of the vault.
Ken Auga
http://www.partlogic.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

I agree with Ken, creating another part database is a hassle and probably already existing in some internal PDM/ERP/EDA database. What would be valuable is to leverage these existing uncategorized databases, and also industry standard electronic component databases such as Partminer for a given list of part numbers of a BOM. At the same time having the ability to view all the merged information in a clear concise manner in real time or on demand. This means ability to check existing BOM data against a good industry electronics lifecycle database, and pull in all the supply chain parameters. Most companies have tons of parts data but cannot access "similar" drop in parts, procurable part numbers, and link to external supply chain data. There are several low cost packages out there that can help reduce the BOM qualification, and organizing component information. Our customer are evaluating several low cost solutions in this area, if you are interesting send me a note.

Ahmed Khan
Precience, Inc.
www.precience.com

RE: Managing Parts and BOMs

The software my company uses for all aspects of company information management system works well for components that are purchased but we run into problems with finished goods. For some reason they switched from a "number" for different catagories to a "name on fg's. I think they let the sales people create the FG #. This makes filing engineering documentation difficult. My current issue has to do with a drawing that is used internally that was inserted into a word doc "assembly procedure" AutoCad dwgs, and Assembly proceedures have been filed separately in the past, and dwgs used internally only, have never been given any kind of part number. If the assm proc chgs nothing flags me to rev the AutoCad dwg. I'm considering creating a whole new catagory of part numbers for Documents; adding those numbers to the bom's so that I will be able to run a where used report for internal use dwg's. Does anyone have a better idea for numbering engineering documents that have been created for use in-house?

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