Comparing BOM Structures: a multi-faceted need
By Anurag Batra on Jul 08, 2009
The need to compare two BOM structures side by side is almost as old as the concept of multi-level BOMs itself. Use-cases requiring such a comparison have only grown as supply chains get more and more complex. Manufacturing partners who are not plugged into your PLM system still need to know about design changes in an assembly as it goes through minor revisions. Configuration managers need to know the differences caused by variants used in various instances of model BOMs. Service engineers need to know how a customer's installation varies from the design spec that engineering has provided. Planners need to run optimization scenarios on multiple proposed ECOs with complex changes to BOM structures to determine which one has the lowest risk. The list is endless.Most PDM, PLM and ERP systems offer the ability to compare Bills of Material structures side by side. Agile too has had a BOM Comparison report for many years - it allowed for comparison of multiple BOM structures side by side. With 9.3, we've enhanced the report greatly - focusing on the use case of deep multi-level comparison between two BOM structures. Besides enhanced readability of the report through a much more visual presentation, we have included features such as the ability to compare not just two different revisions of the same item's multilevel Bills of Material, but also the ability to compare the same revision of the same item's multi-level BOM as would've been seen by a user on two different dates. These can be different because of released changes on lower levels of the BOM that do not roll up a revision at the highest level assembly. Not just that, you can also compare to a simulated future revision of the BOM that's currently on a pending change order. Finally, the comparison is not just limited to BOM components, but can also include a comparison of manufacturer parts and file attachments on each of the components in the multi-level BOM. The BOM Explosion report has also been similarly enhanced to provide views of past and simulated future revisions of the BOM structure.
Now, while this allows for easy addressal of use cases such as "how has my multi-level BOM changed since the last time I sent it to my contract manufacturer in China three months ago", or "which BOM components have had new design documents attached to them since I last sent the package to my contract manufacturer", what really makes this feature extremely versatile is the fact that these reports can now be called through SDK, and the output captured as an XML. That XML output from the BOM explosion report, for example, can be used to compare BOM structures from other systems such as the ERP to compare the as-designed BOM to the as-built or as-installed versions. The output can then be used to further drive automation such as notifying the customer or service provider of design changes and prompting them to schedule service calls.
I'd love to hear from the readers on how do they compare BOM structures today, and what kind of use cases would they like to see addressed with such reporting.