Most – if not all – engineering service or manufacturing companies require parts in Bills of Materials (BOMs) to manufacture products, create a build, and collaborate with contractors and suppliers. Over time, the complexity of products and their parts grow. And here’s the rub, BOM spreadsheets are by far the tool of choice for managing part lists.
At the same time, manufacturing companies are undergoing tremendous transformation as they learn and try to cope with the convergence of global internet connectivity, distributed manufacturing and supply centers around the globe, and e-commerce. Add to that consumer demand for build-to-order, speed, and product support and you get manufacturing companies rushing to lower product costs to remain competitive.
Engineers and their collaborators require new tools that avoid the pitfalls of managing BOM spreadsheets and effectively communicate with design tools such as Fusion 360 and the wider connected manufacturing ecosystem. Here are a few reasons why BOM spreadsheets fall short of modern manufacturing trends:
- Searching for and identifying a part and adding a new one is hard to accomplish across a network of contractors and suppliers. New parts should be added and old and outdated ones should be removed in ways that avoid confusion over BOM versions and costly mistakes.
- Updating product cost, lead times, manufacturer and other pertinent information is hard maintain in a fast-changing distributed environment. You lose control of what was updated, who did what, and who validated the information.
- There is no practical way to connect changes made in spreadsheets. Managing BOM versions is impossible. Creating Excel copies with version numbers and the magic words “Last version don’t touch” is an exercise in futility.
- People begin to add comments to the data or start adding their own personal columns (oh, the horror) to a spreadsheet. You can try to fight it but in the end, it’s a losing battle giving you no choice but to lock the Excel for Read Only. Doing so makes you the official CEO (Chief Excel Officer) for BOMs; only you know how to manage this spreadsheet hell and how to get data in and out – good luck with that.
Which brings me to openBoM, a Fusion 360 software partner. Fusion 360 provides an excellent CAD design platform. openBoM provides a unique alternative to managing BOMs with spreadsheets by extending the ability of Fusion 360 designers and engineers, to control the manufacturing process more effectively. Here are a few points you may not know:
- openBoM is integrated with Fusion 360, on the desktop and on a browser.
- It’s possible to export a Fusion 360 BOM directly to openBoM.
- In openBoM, you can manage changes, track their history, create and revise, change reports, and collaborate in real-time on the same BOM; completely unlike spreadsheets.
- Search for data, track it, and manage its relationship in other BOMs in many different ways such as assigning part catalogs to a BOM, using “Where used” and “Composed of” queries to track relationships among different BOMs, and perform search queries that literally track every detail of a BOM and all its dependencies.
Here’s a short video showing how a BOM is imported from Fusion 360.
When it comes to helping Fusion 360 users adapt to new additive manufacturing processes, openBoM provides support for handling multi-disciplinary BOMs and sub-elements. These can be sourced from engineering, printed or mechanical parts, or from standard components.
Moreover, a BOM with the right information will help realize an online global repository of BOM recipes that enable push-button manufacturing. For example, the openBoM flexible data model gives a manufacturing team assembly instruction lists with elements of data that control and indicate the readiness of an assembly for manufacturing. This is how an online accessible BOM recipe could help coordinate push-button manufacturing.
Fusion 360 and openBoM create a powerful combination that helps usher in push-button manufacturing and more effectively manage part manufacturing and assembly. Moreover, openBoM removes the pain of managing BOM spreadsheets – yay!!!