How Online BOM Management Helps Build Teamwork

Created: November 7, 2017
Updated: November 23, 2020

Businessman leaving with personal items in box

Last week one of my co-workers, a brilliant guy named Phil, quit his job for a position in another company. Phil was amazing, and losing him was a tremendous blow to our department and the company. The tragic thing though is that Phil didn’t leave for a better job, he left because he felt that he no longer added any value.

It is amazing at how many truly exemplary employees end up quitting because of workplace frustrations and feeling unappreciated. How is it that people who are so talented end up feeling that they no longer have any relevance or are part of the team? One of the causes is communication problems that cause delays and re-work. When people put their heart and soul into what they are doing, and that work ends up in the dumpster, it can motivate them to start looking elsewhere.

Take my company for instance, who design and manufacture printed circuit boards. There is a design side and a manufacturing side of the company. What ties the two sides together is the documentation process. Key items, like the bill of materials (BOMs), are essential for creating a final product. When the documentation process is broken, errors can creep in. This causes schedule slips, re-designs, and entire projects being scrapped.

Let’s take a look at how these kinds of problems can negatively impact the self-esteem of both engineering and manufacturing personnel. Then we’ll look at some ways to improve communications in order to build teamwork within the company. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid the same pitfalls that caused us to lose a key person.

PCB’s on the assembly line
Don’t let communication problems slow down the assembly of your PCB’s

The impact on engineering

The engineering department usually has people with a creative flair in their personality. Their goal is to create the best product possible so that it works the way that it is expected to. These people thrive in an environment that allows them to achieve that goal.

However, when that environment is disrupted by broken processes or bad communication, the creative process is interrupted. Take for instance a part that is no longer available even though it is still listed as a viable part. A problem like this could cause an engineer to partially or totally re-design what they are working on in order to replace the part. Engineers aren’t just working on what’s right in front of them, they are actually working several steps ahead. With a re-design, all of that could be lost. Additionally, the work that has already been done may have to be scrapped. A situation like this kills motivation and leaves engineers feeling like their skills could be better used elsewhere.

The impact on manufacturing

The manufacturing department is full of people who are motivated by success. They have a healthy “can do” attitude, and they always want to get the job done better and faster. These people are at their best when the assembly line is up and running well.

When the assembly line goes down though, these folks tend to take it hard. Take for instance an incorrect PCB BOM. A misidentified part can cause the assembly line to be delayed or even stopped, which will keep these people from hitting their manufacturing goals. Unattainable goals often create job frustration, which can lead people to look for job success elsewhere.

Computer screen with 3-ring binders in it
Improve communication with online tools

Improve communication with online BOM management for PCB Design

As we have seen, broken processes and bad communication can erode teamwork and cause people to lose their sense of self-worth. This can lead to dissatisfied employees and a greater than expected turnover rate. However, this trend can be changed by fixing processes and improving communications.

The core of the communication between engineering and manufacturing is in the documentation between the two departments. There is the bill of materials, inventory lists, and part requests that are all part of the process of designing and manufacturing a printed circuit board. Online BOM management tools can help improve the documentation process in the following ways:

Part inventories: With part inventories listed and maintained in the BOM management tools, engineering can have immediate access to them. These will be up-to-date eliminating problems due to incorrectly listed.

Part requests: Engineering will be able to file part requests online through the management tools. With immediate access to current part information, they will know which are available for ordering instead of having to wait for approval.

Bill of materials: Manufacturing will have confidence that the BOMs that they receive will be accurate and ready for the assembly line.

Online access and distribution: All personnel throughout the company will have the same online access to the BOM management tools. This will ensure open communications and timely distribution of all required documentation.

Online BOM management tools can solve many of your company’s process and communication problems. With everyone having immediate access to the online information, the opportunity for miscommunication is greatly reduced. Engineering won’t have their creative processes shut down because of faulty information, and manufacturing won’t be derailed in their drive to success.

With improved communication, everyone will have more ownership of the processes and a greater sense of being part of the team. Teamwork, in turn, will help people to have a better sense of self-worth, which will ultimately help your company to retain key personnel.

Does the use of online BOM management tools to help your company improve communications and processes sound like it would be helpful? If so, then Altium’s BOM tools might be the answer that you are looking for. Find out more information by talking to an expert at Altium.

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