A list of all the different parts needed to make up an item is known as a Bill of Material, or BOM. BOMs for a configured item are known as Super BOMs which, in turn, make up the component parts of a larger, finished item.
These finished items are then sold through a network of distributors, often having been manufactured to order and configured to meet a client’s specific requirements.
However, differences in regional legislation or in the physical compatibility of certain component parts can often mean that different BOMs are required to meet the orders of customers in different countries.
Additionally, there may be occasions when a manufacturer’s marketing team may not want a particular BOM to be promoted or sold in a specific region, therefore making it unavailable to distributors in that region.
And, as manufacturers continuously seek to improve their products and meet changes in legislation, there will be regular developments and changes in configuration and complexity, meaning that BOMs will constantly need to be updated.
Currently, distributors configuring an item will be presented with the same list of BOMs and Super BOMs regardless of their location. However, some of these may be incompatible or unavailable in that particular region, or may not meet the appropriate legislation requirements. Only once the order has been received by the manufacturer will this be realised, and often after the configuration has been manually checked across a series of spreadsheets, or in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Not only is this manual approach costly and time-consuming, it can be frustrating for the distributor and runs the risk of inappropriate BOMs being overlooked entirely.
ERP systems alone aren’t able to supply the most current and accurate detailed product information for each BOM or Super BOM. Nor are they able to support the business rules governing whether or not a particular BOM is appropriate or available on a particular region.
Integrating a Master Data Management (MDM) solution alongside existing ERP and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems, however, can reduce the risks, costliness and inefficiencies that may result from information being duplicated over separate systems.
Deploying an MDM solution will allow manufacturers to provide distributors with instant visibility into the availability and suitability of the BOMs and Super BOMs they require to configure their item.
When configuring an item, distributors will enjoy an improved user experience, presented with region-specific product catalogues containing more detailed product information and rich media, and based on local rules, stock levels and market requirements. With product knowledge taken directly from the relevant engineers, distributors can have confidence that they won’t be presented with inappropriate products, and that no legislative rules will be broken during the configuration process.
Ultimately, manufacturers and distributors alike will soon see a shift from a generic to a bespoke approach, ensuring speedier delivery of the most accurate and consistent possible BOMs and Super Boms.
☛ Simon Walker is director of innovation at Stibo Systems.