The Bill of Materials (BOM) is the gospel for product development and an important element of configuration management (CM). But in many organizations the creation and use of BOMs and the existing paper-based configuration management workflow places a stranglehold on efficiency and prevents innovation.
The idea of configuration management is to have a watchdog process, driving consistency in product definition and manufacturing execution. Done right, configuration management provides visibility into the functional relationships in a product’s definition. If changes are required, the CM becomes the guide to final reconciliation of consistency. CM ensures that every person on the team shares a common understanding of what is being designed, approved, ordered, built, sold, and serviced.
CM is especially helpful in situations where:
- Multiple Bills of Material (BOMs) being created within the organization;
- There is constant product evolution;
- When spreadsheets are still being used to create BOMs;
- Product complexity is high;
- Regulatory oversight is high;
- There are higher consequences from product failure.
Configuration Management Nightmares
“Paper creates a configuration management nightmare,” says Andrew Courier, director of integrated electrical systems for the technology solutions group of QinetiQ North America, a manufacturer of security systems for defense, government, and commercial markets. Looking for ways to improve processes throughout engineering and manufacturing, QinetiQ has driven the use of Synergis Adept deep into their workflow. Adept manages more than 17,000 discrete CAD files and related documents.
“We are driven to reduce costs,” says Courier. “It’s one thing to reduce our costs and make us more efficient, but we also need to be able to measure the results. Our goal is to automate as much as possible without adding on more people.” Courier calls this approach “parasitic processes,” in which the company derives new value from existing functions without adding extra work. “A good process is as invisible as possible yet still delivers significant benefits. We need to make sure that a process is driving down cost for our customers or speeding up time to market, or both.”
As with all data management software, the value of Configuration Management is in the reuse and access of the information. The same CM information that defines the starting point for a New Product Introduction (NPI) process can also be used in a product catalog, to guide analysis, and to create product configurations to analyze designs in CAD and CAE. Many manufacturers also use CM to establish and satisfy market specifications, define variant configurable products, and to generate engineering BOMs.
Courier says Adept provides QinetiQ with a self-service approach to configuration management. “They make a document, create approvals on their own, make a number on their own, say where it goes, check it in and out. This self-service approach to configuration management allows us to have great traceability, change control, and quality without adding an army of configuration managers.”
The Adept digital workflow makes it easy for everyone to stay current with product data. “With Adept, no one is asking, ‘Do I have the right version of the drawing?’” says Courier. “‘Did we get that in the ECR?’ The version in Adept is the gold standard.”
You can read more about how QinetiQ North America has improved efficiency throughout its manufacturing operations in a case study on the Synergis Software website: http://www.synergissoftware.com/clients/case_studies/pdf/qinetiq-web.pdf
Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.