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Q&A: How to Manage Bill of Materials throughout Product Life Cycle

Updated on February 14, 2014

Manage electronics Bill of Materials

Why Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet is not enough to manage my BOMs?

Why it's so difficult to be error free? Check out the common challenges of managing bill of materials using excel spreadsheet:

Problem: Obsolescence and Lifecycle

Why: If you can't source a part, you can't build a product. Just imagine that when you finally finished your product development, one of your key component is reaching end of life. It might cause a disaster to your production plan if the component happened to be hard to find ones in the market.

How: Instantly check obsolescence and availability information in time to make design changes or find alternatives. As an engineer, you should always be alerted to the lifecycle of your components. Excel doesn't help that automatically.

Problem: Availability and Pricing

Why: Time consuming to visit multiple supplier websites, searching part numbers and checking stock. Today, there are more than a dozen of popular online suppliers who offered the most of the components in the market. Are you choosing the most reliable suppliers? with best price on your volume? and best delivery term? Of course you can build an Excel spreadsheet to do the comparison manually. A BOM with 100 components could cost you hours, even days.

How: Instantly compare real-time pricing and stock information from multiple suppliers. Well, obviously you need a piece of dedicated software to do the tedious job.

Problem: Alternatives/Substitutes

Why: Time consuming to identify possible alternative or substitute parts. There is always surprises in your life. Every engineer has bad experience that in the last design stage, your selected component failed, or hard to source. You have to find a good and reliable substitute. Cry for help in forum? Excel is not your saver in this case. Often you need to rely on some professional advises.

How: Instantly find potential alternative/substitute parts from a well established cloud database. Only a professional software solution can help you with it.

Problem: Data Fragmentation

Why: Impossible to get important overviews and see the big picture (i.e. total component quantities across multiple products). You are often working with your colleagues parallel on project. You need to be updated with the resource used in your company. This is not possible with multiple Excel spreadsheet.

How: Single data source, elliminate fragmentation. If everyone is working on the same database, problem solved!

Problem: Where-Used

Why: Time consuming, error prone to get an overview of what component is used on which designs. In case of one failed component was polluted to your whole product lines, you need to dig it out.

How: Instantly see what product and version a component is used on. Again, you need a good overview on each specific component.

Problem: Traceability

Why: Uncontrolled changes can be made to documentation, changes are not correctly recorded. Everyone made mistake, but you need to be able to trace who made the mistake and why. When an Excel sheet has been modified hundred of times, you simply lost your trace.

How: Fully revision controlled, every change to a component or bill of materials is recorded. Like source code control, every change need to be recorded with all details.

Problem: Error Propagation

Why: Information fragmentation causes error propagation and repeated mistakes. One mistake could lead to multiple issues.

How: Central component library, single information source for component data, fragmentation cannot occur.

Problem: Sourcing

Why: Uncommon, non-stock, obsolete parts can be difficult to source. Often it's no longer available on online suppliers, or the lead time is too long to be accepted. You cannot afford the production line stopped because of missing component.

How: RFQ (Request For Quotation) feature submits quotes to all related distributors globally. Obviously you can't send hundreds of RFQ by emails, or fill the RFQ form on those specialized distributor website one by one manually. Here, a professional software with all distributors information can help you out.

Bills of Material for a Lean Enterprise


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