This is a guest post by Linda Ballard, MBA, a business analyst with over 30 years of experience in accounting, management and software implementation.
The purpose of this article is to explain how manufacturing companies are often faced with the dilemma of where to store Bill of Material information for parts along with associated drawings and specifications. If your company is using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or any manufacturing software that is highly integrated, and you use a PDM system you will be faced with the decision of how to track and store changes to the Product Design.
What is meant by Product Design? In the simplest of terms a Product Design is the process of creating a “new” Product to be sold to customers. The overlap in the systems which will record and store the Product Design documents, CAD drawings, and other related documentation is called Product Data Management (PDM). In ERP software systems there is usually a module where Engineers will actually build (Design) the Bill of Materials using an “engineering workbench.”
In most manufacturing companies the PDM system and ERP Engineering are integrated, but there is always the question of which system will provide ownership of the Bill of Materials, and which will own the CAD drawings and associated documentation for the Part design. When customers request changes to their product specifications and it impacts the design of the Part or alters the material components, these changes should be completed within the ERP system.
Which System will be the Master?
The Estimating and Engineering Department usually has ownership of the PDM system. On the other hand Manufacturing Managers will ensure the Bill of Materials is updated within the ERP software. This holds true for documenting revisions to customer’s drawings and specifications as well as product configuration part changes.
Some examples of PDM systems are CAD Link, Solid Works, Agile, and Procad. The same Software that provides the storage vault (PDM) for customer product specifications and documentation may also provide the engine needed to integrate the PDM system and the ERP system. For example, Solid Works provides 3D Design, PDM, and the Technical Communication needed to support both systems.
As manufacturing companies become more customer focused it is very important to store the customer’s documents and revision changes to the product drawings in the PDM system and ensure they are copied to the Bill of Materials (BOM) in the ERP system. Most ERP systems have a bridge program to aid in the communication between PDM and the ERP software system, where the Bill of Materials is configured and produced (fig. 1).
ERP systems have an Engineering workbench, or a place within the system where the Manager/Engineer can configure the part and create a Method of Manufacturing. It is the recipe for how to make the part one operation at a time. Sometimes the product or part is new, and requires a new design, and other times it may just be an update to the bill of materials on a part that has already been manufactured and shipped to the customer.
Product Life Cycle (PLC)
The life cycle of the product will flow from the inception of the Design of the product to the obsolescence of the product. In the early and slower phase of the product life cycle, Engineering will create a prototype of the product with just a few sales.
Next, if the product is successful there will be a growth phase and sales will increase, new distribution channels may open and the return on investment can be substantial. In the mid phase the product matures, sales stabilize and profits slow.
Lastly when the time comes that there is a marked decline in the sales, and perhaps the product design has been replaced by a new product, the Product is at the end of its life cycle.
Documentation of Revisions
Revision is the term used to describe the evolution of the product by tracking the product changes and the storage of these changes. When the revision evolution requires releasing a formal revision or a new inventory part number this information needs to be stored and managed. If the proposed change is minor, and has no impact on the form, fit, or function and there will be no impact on the Method of Manufacturing structure. On the other hand if the change is major in that it does have an impact on the form fit or function it will require a part revision or the Method of Manufacturing.
There may be different reasons for a design change. It could be a customer requesting a change to the specifications and drawings, or it may be a change due to the normal steps in the design process. In any ERP environment there can be changes to the simplest of Product Designs. Some of the possible changes are listed:
A simple change to the Bill of Materials:
In this instance a minor change is made in the ERP system so neither revision nor approval from the customer is needed.
- Raw material parts may need a color change or a change to quantity per parent change.
- A deviation to an existing Bill of Materials which doesn’t change the revision – this could simply be a version change.
- A raw material included in the BOM configuration may be discrepant or has become obsolete.
New customer requirements:
If the customer makes a product drawing change or specifications it will require changes in both the PDM and ERP Systems.
- This will require a revision change to the customer drawing.
- This will require a revision change to the company’s drawing.
- This requires an Engineering Change Order, ECO to the Customer’s controlled drawing.
New Revision to the Bill of Materials (Internal):
- New Revision to the Bill of Materials Engineering change to the Bill of Materials.
- Response to Regulatory Requirements.
- Improve performance and or functionality.
- Correct a usability reliability or Safety problem.
Processes What and Why
The configuration management effort required for a complex product is significant. If your company is going to use a PDM system, it is the Engineering Workbench within the ERP software that should manage the product changes and store pertinent documents of these changes.
Even though some of the intermediaries (engines) will allow the flow to go in both directions, see (fig. 2) there should be one system that rules in storing and retaining the new product designs as well as any changes to the current product design. While the idea of integrating PDM to ERP information through file transfer is a commendable idea it breaches the principle that all data should be stored in one location to ensure data integrity.
Most ERP systems can transmit BOM information to the PDM system but it is difficult to link the Routing information as well, which is also a part of the Method of Manufacturing. It is okay to store the information on how manufacturing is going to create the part in PDM but the” master” of the Method of Manufacturing” should be in the ERP software.
About the Author
Linda Ballard, MBA, has over thirty years business experience in, Accounting, Management, and Software Implementation and Business Analysis. Her experience includes fifteen years implementing ERP software for manufacturing, construction, and service industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rule is the basis of enterprise material management systems, ERP, Product Data Management (PDM) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems. Business Dictionary, Form, Fit and Function Definition Federal Acquisition Regulation Section 52.227-14 “Rights in Data – General” (Dec 2007)