What to look for in BOM Management Software + 5 Powerful Tools

February 8, 2023

TABLE OF CONTENTS

When building products, it’s key to have the right tools to streamline your product development operations and understand all of the required materials. One of those essential tools is BOM (bill of materials) management software.

BOM software helps you manage your bill of materials. It ensures purchase orders are accurate, informs stakeholders about the various components and assemblies of a product, and provides information on raw materials for procurement teams.

In this article, we’ll explore BOM management software in detail and suggest some powerful tools that you might want to consider.

What is BOM management software?

Bill of materials is a term used to describe the blueprint of a product. It includes the materials, components, and relationships between the components required to create a product. The bill of materials, or BOM, includes everything from the completed product and subassemblies to the part names, part descriptions, part numbers, and material quantities needed to complete the product.

BOM management software helps manage and control the creation and storage of BOMs. Products might be composed of hundreds of parts that need to be listed and tracked. Using software ensures that no materials or steps are forgotten and that users can easily find, update, and manage all the related documentation.

Duro’s cloud-native Product Lifecycle Management platform enables you to manage your BOM with ease to empowers engineers to get to production efficiently.

Schedule a demo to see how Duro can help your team.

The limitations of using spreadsheets for BOM management

When product companies are just starting to prototype and build products, they typically rely on spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to manage their BOM. This is a cost-effective solution and it makes it easy to track components before the BOM gets too complex.

However, as products evolve and the number of components required gets longer, spreadsheets can be hard to manage and have several disadvantages.

No product data centralization

A spreadsheet is an easy way to create lists of components for each product. However, spreadsheets don’t include any functionality to connect components or products into an organized BOM structure. There’s no easy way to view how often the same component has been used or track updates in the instant you need to switch suppliers. Additionally, essential product data including related drawings, specifications, and CAD designs all need to be stored in different locations.

This also results in collaboration challenges. Different team members might be using different spreadsheets or folders. It’s hard to control access, know which sheet is the latest version, and whether or not the sheet is up to date.

BOM management solutions can help you centralize every part of the BOM in one location so everyone has easy access to the latest information.

Time consuming to maintain and error-prone

Spreadsheets inevitably require manual data entry to add each line item and will require careful adjustments if a component changes. This presents a risk of human error from mistyped data or forgetting to update a particular component. Incorrect information can cause issues in your production process later on, with the risk of ordering incorrect parts that may lead to delays and recalls.

BOM management tool will help you connect to CAD tools and get up to date information directly from suppliers.. This will cut down on the amount of manual data entry and help to reduce the risk of mistakes.

Poor change management

When changes are made to a BOM, it can be difficult to find all the relevant lines to update on a spreadsheet. There’s no easy way to link components and products and you might miss erroneous information or forget to update something.

A BOM management tool makes visibility into the data much more straightforward and allows you to track changes easily by linking components to supplier data and ensuring any change is propagated across the assembly.

You can see all the change information and the history of who changed what. This helps improve data consistency and provides a better record for change visibility.

Key features to look for in a BOM management tool

Every BOM management tool will have slightly different features. Some of the key features that should be included in order to accurately manage your BOM include:

Single-level, multi-level and flattened BOMs

There are multiple types of BOMs, and your software should be able to manage them all. There is a single-level BOM, which doesn’t have any hierarchy and is simply a flat list of parts.

There is also the more common multi-level BOM, or indented BOM. This will have a multi-layer, tree-like hierarchy structure that is necessary for establishing an understanding of contents of each level

Indented BOM example

A flattened BOM is similar to a single-level BOM. The difference is that it shows all of the different parts from all levels of your BOM, as well as the aggregate quantities, in a single list. This helps you get an overhead view of your BOM with summarized quantities.

Flattened BOM example

Revisions and change history

Your software should also track revisions and change history. This refers to the record and changes that occur as a product design develops and evolves. It’s important to maintain that record for compliance reasons — and so that you have a general understanding of the changes that have occurred throughout development.

Software that allows you to easily view component changes or how a BOM has evolved over time is beneficial if you need to revert back to a previous design or look into the impact of a new change for example.

User-defined views

Several different people will likely access your BOM software, but not every user needs access to the same level of detail. User-defined views help to configure exactly what information and data are available to each user. This allows you to have different views for different roles in your organization.

Cost management

Another important feature of BOM software is cost management. As you build a BOM, you need to calculate and track the cost of each item. This helps you plan your projects and estimate the costs going into each development phase. Cost roll ups will help you understand the total cost of your product or constituent assemblies. This is useful for finding the most cost-effective components and ensuring your product can be built to the original cost specifications.

Document management

Drawings, CAD files, and requirements specifications should also be linked to your BOM. It’s important to be able to easily find related documentation required for production. Stakeholders from across the business (Procurement or contract manufacturers, for example), need to understand how the individual components fit into the design. Your BOM management software should make it easy for anyone to upload, track, and view related documents.

5 powerful tools for BOM management

Now that you understand which features you should be looking for in BOM management software, let’s take a look at some powerful tools you can use to improve your processes and increase profitability.

1) Duro

Duro is a product lifecycle management (PLM) tool that also provides a complete BOM management module. Duro improves BOM management for hardware engineering companies by removing most of the manual data entry required to copy data from spreadsheets or disparate platforms.

Integrations with your preferred CAD tools automatically synchronize BOM data from your design tool, removing the need for manually transferring BOMs and component data from your CAD tool to your BOM management tool. Unique part numbers are defined in Duro alongside published releases and critical documentation.

Duro PLM also includes integrations to off-the-shelf parts distributors. You can quickly look up relevant part data, including pricing, lead times, and availability to select the most suitable supplier for your components. One other advantage to BOM management within Duro is how easy the platform makes it to compare revisions and see how your BOM has changed.

Learn more about how easy BOM Management is with Duro PLM. Schedule a discovery call today.

Pros

  • Reduces manual data entry thanks to out-of-the box integrations with parts suppliers and CAD tools
  • Allows you to easily visualize how your BOM has changed over time
  • Uses agile workflows and built-in best practices to make BOM management faster
  • Fast integration to CAD tools, including SolidWorksOnshape, and Altium Enterprise
  • No additional fees for implementation, training, or customer support

Cons

  • Suitable for fast-paced companies with electro-mechanical products, including space tech, industrial robotics, consumer electronics, and farm tech companies rather than automotive or highly-regulated medical equipment manufacturers.
  • Currently has out-of-the-box integrations with Onshape, SolidWorks, and Altium, but if you work with other CAD tools you’ll require access to Duro’s API to integrate.

2) OpenBOM

OpenBOM is a collaborative, cloud-based solution designed specifically for BOM management. It helps you manage product data by bringing together supply chain data into its platform. In addition to BOM management, OpenBOM also offers production and procurement planning, change management, and CAD integrations.

Pros

  • Simple user interface makes OpenBOM suitable for small teams transitioning from spreadsheets
  • Quick to set up BOM structure
  • Affordable and offers a free version for individual users
  • Integrates with other useful engineering tools, including Onshape, Altium Designer, and NetSuite

Cons

  • Only available as a multi-tenant cloud solution so not suitable for those with additional security requirements looking for dedicated hosting
  • Limited, email-only customer support
  • Simplified change order process may not meet the needs of larger organizations

3) Arena

Arena is popular for both its PLM and quality management system (QMS). It helps bridge the gap between design, engineering, and manufacturing. Arena offers support for broad customizations, which is helpful for hardware manufacturers that have complex teams and products.

Pros

  • Comprehensive BOM management that allows for easy configuration of multi-level BOM assemblies
  • Streamlined document management with flexibility to attach any relevant information to the BOM
  • Focus on quality and supply integrations ensures organizations in highly regulated fields can source compliant parts

Cons

  • Not suitable for small, agile businesses looking to get up and running quickly
  • Dated user interface means tasks can take longer and processes are slow to learn
  • Complex customizations can make integrations time consuming

4) Excel or Google Sheets

Despite the availability of specialized BOM management platforms, Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are still commonly used to track and manage components. Organizations typically start out using spreadsheets to manage their bill of materials before moving over to a more advanced platform.

These tools have the advantage of being widely available and don’t require monetary or time commitments to implement. While limited in functionality, spreadsheets make sense for businesses that don’t yet have complex products to manage.

Pros

  • Familiar interface for most users; easy to use for all skill levels
  • Low cost compared to specialized BOM management tools
  • Unlimited number of sheets can be created

Cons

  • Manual data entry can lead to typos and errors
  • Related product documents, like CAD images have to be stored elsewhere.
  • No integrations with other manufacturing and production tools
  • Difficult to maintain as there are no set standards

5) Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain

Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain is a cloud-based PLM system that incorporates BOM management capabilities alongside out-of-the-box workflows, and CAD integrations. It can help businesses bring upstream and downstream data together in a single location. It’s also great for helping increase collaboration across teams and managing change orders.

Pros

  • Customization options available for those looking to tailor their experience
  • Dashboards and charts help monitor KPIs across products
  • Pre-built workflows for change orders, BOMs and part numbering
  • Dedicated integrations with CAD tools and APIs to connect with ERP or CRM

Cons

  • Customization options can make the platform time-consuming and costly to set up
  • Can be complicated to use and document and change management processes are not intuitive
  • Following Autodesk’s acquisition of Upchain, the future product roadmap for PLM and BOM management within the platform is unclear

Build better BOMs with Duro

Building a BOM is an important part of the engineering process. Duro’s product lifecycle management platform can help you improve supplier management, reduce product costs, and track the entire lifecycle of your products — from the first idea to the final retirement.

To learn more, schedule a call with Duro to uncover exactly how we can help you build better BOMs.

Duro’s out-of-the-box PLM platform is intuitive for your entire hardware team.

Flexibility to build the hardware tech stack your team deserves.

Protect your work from overwrites without leaving your CAD tool.

API

Duro’s GraphQL API allows you to query rich data on your libraries.

Stay compliant and launch on schedule.

Scale your computer hardware manufacturing.

Get affordable PLM and stay agile

Gain efficiency by centralizing documentation.

Stay up to date with Duro’s latest content, including blogs, videos, eBooks and more.

Watch hardware experts chatting about current topics and showcasing demos.

Read the latest articles on PLM, space tech, hardware trends and more.

Download free information eBooks about PLM and trends in the industry.

View product tours and demos. Plus get tips from Duro’s leadership team.

Learn how to access and use key features to get the most out of Duro.

Get to know Duro and our mission to revolutionize hardware.

News on Duro, including fundraising, team additions and integration partnerships.

See our latest job listings and what makes our team tick.