Sending information to other departments and personnel is a regular part of the PCB design process. For purchasing, their part of this process starts when engineering sends them a bill of materials (BOM) for a new design. At this point in the design cycle, the BOM is a preliminary document and it is constantly changing as parts are added, updated, or eliminated during the design cycle. The problem for purchasing is that this constantly changing BOM data impacts their ability to effectively research parts for pricing and availability.
For a moment, put yourself into the shoes of the purchasing staff. They often aren’t part of the design team, so they don’t know all the details about what engineering is trying to accomplish or what the plan is to get there. They typically aren’t part of manufacturing either, and yet the assembly line expects purchasing perfection so that the correct parts are available when they want them. This leaves purchasing staff being stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to balance the requirements of both engineering and manufacturing. They often get blamed for things that are beyond their control. There are ways to make the part inventory component of the bill of materials to streamline part inventory control.
Manually created BOM’s require continual updates to stay current with the design
The problems with a manually created preliminary BOM
When a PCB design is being engineered, all of its parts will eventually have to be ordered for assembly. Traditionally a parts list is developed into a preliminary BOM and this is sent to purchasing for them to begin their research. Although this does give purchasing a place to start, it can also cause a lot of problems down the line as well. This is how a manually created BOM impacts purchasing with respect to the engineering and manufacturing departments.
Engineering: In engineering, the PCB design is constantly changing, which requires the BOM to be updated accordingly. As a result, new copies of the preliminary BOM are being sent to purchasing. If a new copy is delayed or doesn’t make its way to the right people, then purchasing will end up working from outdated data. Any parts that have already been researched and have preliminary quotes may have changed or even been eliminated without purchasing’s knowledge.
Manufacturing: On the other side of the spectrum, manufacturing may have their own part changes. Once again, if those changes aren’t tracked in a timely manner with updated preliminary BOM’s, purchasing may be researching and quoting parts that are no longer required for the design.
For these reasons, part purchasing orders are usually deferred until the final BOM is ready and sent around. In a manual process, this final BOM is usually not available until the end of the design cycle along with the complete fabrication and assembly documentation packages. With a BOM that is manually created and distributed at the end of the design cycle, there may be difficulties with getting the best pricing on parts or in getting the parts delivered in time for assembly.
Here is where automated BOM management tools can be a real asset.
Solutions for your inventory control problems
BOM management tools will help part inventory problems
BOM management tools will help your purchasing department manage the supply chain more efficiently. By having real-time access to the BOM, purchasing can respond to part requests for the design when they happen without any confusion.
As the BOM evolves, purchasing agents will have accurate part information so that they can research preliminary price quotes. In addition, purchasing will have immediate knowledge of any parts that are changed or eliminated from the BOM. This saves time researching parts that are no longer being used in the design.
BOM management tools will also free up the purchasing department from having to wait for a final BOM to be sent to them. As soon as the BOM is flagged in their system as being ready, those orders can be placed. Since the ordering information has already been researched, updated, and prepped in the system, orders can be made without needing to create another set of documents.
BOM management tools position your purchasing department correctly within the product development flow. For easy to use BOM software, check out Altium’s BOM management tools. It will take help reduce errors and time due to an older manually created BOM process, and help your product get to market sooner.
Would you like more information on bill of materials management solutions? Talk to an expert at Altium.
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PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.More Content by Altium Designer