Inventors Should Spend Time Designing and Less Time Writing a Bill of Materials

May 30, 2018 Altium Designer

Building a bill of materials for your product


There’s a beautiful sense of satisfaction that comes with building something great. You took the time to think through the concept, perfect your design, and translate your vision into a functional prototype. You’re driven to bring your product to market, but you don’t want to spend time worrying about documentation.


Your bill of materials (BOM) is like a recipe and a shopping list for your new product, all rolled into a single document. The bill of materials explains what and where to buy the materials and components you need to manufacture your device. It also includes instructions on how the product should be assembled. Manufacturers in every industry start building new products by referring to the BOM provided.

The Challenge for New Inventors

You don’t have to be an engineer to invent a new product. Sure, being a professional engineer or a serial entrepreneur doesn’t hurt, but people with all levels of technical skill can succeed as inventors. Bringing your idea to life takes diligence and dedication. You’ll want to document everything about your device throughout the entire process.


The final step before starting your first manufacturing run is creating a thorough BOM. This document is one of the most important accounting items you can produce when designing a new product. This document contains a list of required components, part numbers, quantities, prices, and availability information.


Inventors trying to bring their great idea to market have to continuously balance their time between developing their product and building a business around it. Writing a BOM manually takes precious time away from designing and improving your product. If you make last-minute design changes prior to beginning a manufacturing run, your BOM will need to be updated. With this in mind, it is helpful to have software that can automatically generate your BOM.

Building Your BOM

In the old days, inventors and product designers used “over the wall engineering” to turn their new ideas into products. A designer could throw a design at a production team and let them worry about manufacturing. As manufacturers have become more specialized in fabrication, the onus falls on inventors and designers to outline manufacturing requirements. This is where building a BOM comes in.


It’s understandable that no inventor wants to spend their time planning for production. Your time should be spent improving your design and building the best possible product. Using an integrated design software package not only saves time on design, but it can also save time when planning for manufacturing.


Instead of surfing through electronic component distributor websites, your design software should generate a list of required components. Your design software should allow you to manage your components with a thorough component library that lists suppliers and availability information. Keeping manually written documentation by hand takes a huge amount of time and leaves you prone to errors, especially on boards that have a large number of components.


Documents in orange folder

Forget about paper documentation


A thorough component library integrated into your design software can be a huge time saver. With this tool built directly into your design software, you won’t have to spend time tracking down component suppliers, determining parts availability, or reading through specifications. Your design software should be able to import this information in component libraries directly into the BOM.

Beyond BOM: The Things Inventors Forget

Most good hardware inventors have two things – a CAD model with their design and a BOM. They may also have a working functional prototype that was cobbled together using whatever parts they could get on short notice.


However, little things can get lost when preparing a BOM. Inventing a new electronic device or product goes beyond the circuit board. Costs and sourcing of packaging materials, assembly fixtures, adapters, and the like should also be taken into account before moving to manufacturing.


Component placement on a PCB

Using tools to help analyze and test your circuit board


There are other assembly steps that can be specified in your BOM. Using PCB panelization, you can optimize your manufacturing and assembly process so that your yield is maximized, giving you the most bang for your buck. With this information in your BOM, you can be sure that estimates from your manufacturer and assembler are more accurate. This lets you focus more on building a business around your product.


Altium Designer can help you efficiently manage your BOM and your supply chain. This gives you more time to worry about designing the next revolutionary product and spend less time worrying about sourcing the components you need to make it a reality. The ActiveBOM tool gives you access to real-time communication with suppliers and component updates.

If you need an easier way to keep track of your BOM, talk to an Altium expert today.

About the Author

Altium Designer

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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