Putting the brakes on Excel:
Why the electronics manufacturing industry must embrace BOM management tools
By Amanda Martin, Silicon Expert Technologies, www.siliconexpert.com
The electronics manufacturing industry has often relied on spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel for the creation and management of its Bills of Materials (BOMs). But the always-fluid, always-changing landscape of the industry has given rise to a new
method for managing bills of materials – the BOM management tool.
Managing BOMs with Microsoft Excel: A costly mistake
In the electronics manufacturing industry, proper BOM management
is essential to productivity. Product data must be continuously updated
and always available to ensure that all parties are acting on current information. But despite this need for BOMs to be fluid, living documents,
many businesses still rely on static tools such as Microsoft Excel. Cost
restrictions and familiarity often are the driving factors behind the selection of Excel as the BOM manager of choice. But the use of Excel and
other static tools for BOM management results in a number of issues
that limit productivity and create widespread inefficiencies. Live BOM
management tools offer a better solution, one that can at last help businesses generate and maintain the live, fluid BOMs the industry requires.
Data is automatically populated and updated
Populating BOM data manually can be difficult, and keeping that data up to
date poses an even greater challenge. Since part information is always changing, a single day or even a single hour can mean the difference between an
accurate BOM and an out-of-date one. The delay between the issuance of
product change information and the manual entry of that data into the
BOM can result in lost revenue, wasted time, and misdirected efforts.
By contrast, a BOM management tool is kept up-to-date by a third-party
specialized, dedicated staff who can apply data changes at a rapid pace without any user input. When the manufacturer issues a PCN or other information regarding product change, it can be quickly updated appropriately
across all BOMs, ensuring minimum delay between the effective date of
the change and the reflection of that change within the BOM. In this way, a
BOM management tool offers so much more than error elimination – it offers access to a virtually always-true data set that otherwise would be nearly
impossible to create or maintain. Many BOM management tools also can
automatically generate charts, graphs, and other visualization aids to help
empower users with this increased electronic component intelligence.
Alerts: Going beyond BOM management
The relationship between BOMs and change alerts is a close one – or
BOM management tools are convenient and efficient
Using Excel is an inefficient, inconvenient method for managing BOMs. Manually updating data is time-consuming and
prone to error. As BOMs often are disseminated via email,
multiple versions may exist and the latest version may not be
available to those who need it when they need it.
By relying on a live BOM management tool, businesses can
ensure that their BOM data is always available to the right
people. The BOM exists as a single collaborative version, which
can conveniently and immediately be accessed by anyone who
needs it. This eliminates the versioning problems created by
Excel while also improving document security by reducing the
amount of trafficking the BOM will undergo.
Most BOM data is populated automatically by a third
party, reducing required man hours and eliminating the costly
mistakes of manually managing BOMs. While Excel BOMs
are often filled with misspellings, incomplete information, or
outright inaccuracies, BOMs created with a management tool
offer always-complete, always accurate data sets that can more
easily be accessed, manipulated, and interpreted.
An easy transition process further heightens the efficiency and
convenience of a BOM management tool. When Excel BOMs are
uploaded into the tool, they are automatically “scrubbed,” repairing inaccurate information such as partial or incorrect part numbers. And if a manufacturer has been acquired or has changed
names, the BOM is automatically updated to reflect this – even if
the initial Excel BOM uses the previous nomenclature.