What is a Bill of Materials (BOM)? A BOM is a comprehensive list of raw materials, assemblies and sub-assemblies, components and other critical items for product engineering and manufacturing. Engineers, manufacturers, suppliers, etc. depend on the information included in a BOM to build a given product, so the more detailed and accurate the information is, the better the overall outcome will be.
Creating a detailed BOM takes time, depending on the complexity and size of the program build and information; however, it’ll make the production process much more efficient. A BOM can also prevent costly mistakes, especially when it comes to more complex designs. The process to prepare a BOM is relatively straightforward, but finding the information can be challenging, which is why we recommend the six steps below for properly preparing your BOM to set your next product launch up for success.
6 Steps for Preparing a Successful Bill of Materials
1. Answer the Critical Questions
Before creating a BOM for your next product, you should have the answers to the following questions:
What’s being built?
The design is really what kicks off a BOM in most capacities. Depending on the complexity of the program or build, there will usually be multiple BOMs. These will create the finished assembly BOM. Start by compiling as much information as possible about the parts you need as the designs progress. Understanding what’s being built and/or the program design will be the key to creating a successful BOM.
How will the BOM be managed?
As the BOM is created, it’ll likely go through multiple revisions and touch many different departments and people. Before creating the actual BOM, establish a system for managing it and ensure the latest version is used. Always track changes and create identifiers for the different versions. The less people allowed to interact with or edit the document, the better. It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time who’ll be responsible for what tasks to avoid confusion down the road.
Who can access and use it?
Due to the range of information the document includes, it’s likely multiple departments – including but not limited to design, engineering, purchasing and manufacturing – will use it at some point during the production process. Having an idea of who requires BOM access will help maintain that the correct information is included.
What information should be included?
Although the specifics aren’t required at this point, you should have an idea of what categories the document will include. Every BOM should consist of some basics, such as part name and quantity, but other items are optional (we’ll cover these in another blog in the future). Regardless of the information determined to include in the BOM, keep in mind that it should be as detailed as possible.
How should the BOM be organized?
It’s helpful to decide on basic organization strategies before you begin. Consider the following: amount of levels and sub-assemblies; items assembled, separately, and then attached to the main assembly; and outside processing or other special designations. Ensure parent and child parts are aligned accordingly.
What program will be used to create the BOM?
Before a BOM can be created, you need to decide which software application to use to maximize your team’s productivity. Excel is probably the most used, but not necessarily the most effective. As projects become more complex, there may be a need for more advanced spreadsheet-style and/or collaborative web-based applications specifically designed for BOMs, like Plan for Every Part (PFEP) software.
2. Create the Document
Open the program planned for use and create a new spreadsheet document. Name the file and put the name of the project and any other important identifying information in the title and at the top of the document. For example, “Company Name – Program Name – Assembly – Date”
3. Organize the Document
Establish user permissions, set up change tracking, and create any levels required. Organization throughout the BOM process will be necessary as it’ll be an ongoing activity. Be consistent with organization.
4. Fill in the Columns
Populate the names of the categories at the top of the columns. These titles will include things such as part name, quantity, part number, etc.
5. Fill in the Rows
Populate the rows with information according to the category of the column. Each assembly, sub-assembly, part, process, etc. will have a separate row. Ensuring that information is accurate and up to date is critical to the success of the project.
6. Update as Needed
Update the information in your BOM as necessary. As the file is prepared, remember to save it often and keep a record of changes. As more information is learned on a given project or build, changes will be required. Flexibility is key throughout the production process.
Keep an eye out in the near future for a follow-up “BOM 101” blog post, where we’ll talk in more detail about what items to include in your BOM and provide tips for creating a more effective one.