This week was again a week with several customer visits and discussions around PLM implementations. As analysts like CIMdata, AMR Research, the Aberdeen group are all claiming that PLM will be the next thing for small and medium manufacturing companies, the discussion around PLM is on-going. Of course PLM vendors are adapting their messaging and sometimes their products towards the SMB.

Some vendors like PTC and UGS try to downscale their existing products mainly by changing the packaging of the product (but it remains a PLM system originally designed for enterprises) others like Dassault Systemes have a special SMB offering with full PLM capabilities, ENOVIA SmarTeam.

But let’s assume we have the ideal PLM solution for an SMB company. This was the startpoint, I had during my meetings this week.  How would you motivate a company to implement PLM, knowing all the constraints of SMB companies. Miki Lumnitz wrote about it in his blog -PLM for SMB who are those companies ?

I noticed one of the main issues for discussion is the handling of the MBOM (Manufacturing BOM). So let’s look at the different view points in a company.

EBOM (Engineering Bill Of Materials)

 “The EBOM reflects the way a product was functionally designed”

When engineers define a product, they design (or reuse) assemblies (modules) and add new parts and assemblies to the design. When working with a 3D CAD system, saving the product results in a document structure which resembles a lot the engineering BOM. Traditionally companies got the impression that by changing this EBOM structure a little, they would have a structure ready for manufacturing, called the MBOM.

MBOM (Manufacturing Bill of Materials)

image “The MBOM reflects the way a product will be manufactured”

The MBOM is a structure derived from the EBOM. Main changes from EBOM to MBOM are:

  • removal of subassemblies that do not exist in the physical world. For example a grouping of two parts which are logically grouped by the designer, but as a group do not make sense for manufacturing (Assembly B). And in addition of non-design items which are needed for manufacturing the product. For example paint or grease. (Item F)

Traditionally – and also in the companies I was visiting – the EBOM is domain for the engineering department and with additional modifications they provide a BOM (is it EBOM or MBOM ?) to the ERP system.  Some companies add non-engineering items to their design – they draw a can of paint in their design to make sure the paint is part of the BOM . Some work with phantom production order to address the usage of subassemblies by engineering.

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Both EBOM and MBOM definition are preparations before production can start. The EBOM and MBOM contain the product knowledge how to build and how to manufacture a product. For that reason they should be handled in the PLM system. The main reasons for that are:

  • during process engineering there is a need to use, analyze and sometimes adapt engineering data. This can be done in the most efficient way within one system where all product data is available
  • PLM systems, like ENOVIA SmarTeam contain tools to create quickly based on certain rules a MBOM derived from the EBOM and when changes occur even compare both structures again, to adapt to these changes
  • Having a single environment for product definition and manufacturing improves the total product understanding

So where is the MBOM ?

Ask yourself as a company ” where do I handle the MBOM ?”  Some of you might say, we do not have an MBOM as our EBOM with some modifications is already good enough for manufacturing.  Many companies might say, we manage the MBOM in the ERP system as this is (was) the only system we had where we could define such structures. These companies are candidate for improving their Concept to Manufacturing process, as for sure either users or working methods are compromised to work with the MBOM in the ERP system.

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Some might says: Do we still need ERP systems ?

Yes, as ERP systems are built to schedule and execute the production of well defined products in the most efficient way. ERP systems are needed for the execution, often the core activity for manufacturing systems.

PLM systems are reason that ERP systems can execute, they bring the product definition and information to produce a product. And in case the company designs and manufactures excellent and innovative products the future is bright.

But we should not consider engineering activities in the same way as production activities.

Einstein once said (and he is not an expert anyway):

Innovation is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure

I am curious to learn where your manage your MBOM

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