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In this interview with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team, Whizz President Muhammad Irfan shares his 20-plus years of experience by breaking down the bill of materials process in today’s challenging environment. Irfan describes what that means for his team and suppliers, and how we move forward in a post-pandemic climate.
Barry Matties: We’ve been looking at several areas where there’s room for improvement, including the bill of materials (BOM) process. When you look at the BOM process, starting with quoting and going through the process, what challenges are there, and what improvements do you hope to see?
Irfan: Right now, there are multiple solutions that are not cohesive as one solution. Typically, you’re getting a BOM and tying it electronically into all the distributors’ networks to check stock and inventory. But once they’re present in the system, in reality, that is one pain point. Because, in parallel, there are other transactions that could be going on where the system is showing stock, but within 30 minutes, maybe two large POs came in and the stock is not even there anymore.
In the BOM process, one challenge is checking it and tying it to the real inventory stock with the distributors. Second, it is getting a snapshot and report to the customer, but by the time the customer places a PO, it could have totally changed on the distributor side. We tell our customers, “If you act quickly, it’s more likely going to be very close to what we are showing you here as available, and here is that pricing.” Customers must understand that they need to make quick decisions on one purchase authorization. If they take days or sometimes weeks, you redo all that work. On top of having the tool to electronically tie into the distributor check of the system, it’s about calling and making sure it’s there.
Then there is end-of-life components. We have a subscription to a parts database service. It is an expensive subscription, but we maintain it because it gives us a lot of visibility into parts, their specs, and help with replacement issues. If there’s an end of life, what other parts are identical, and which one could be a direct replacement? We still do our engineering check on it, but the parts database service is only one tool; there are other small tools that build out our distributions, and utilities that tie into the network. We compile all that data to come up with a realistic picture of that BOM. Then we see if there was a way to update the availability automatically.
Matties: We hear that much of the data coming in on the BOMs is mistyped, or there isn’t complete data, leaving your team to figure it out; or you spend a lot of time going back to the customer for clarification. How accurate do you think most BOMs are? Do they all require some sort of communication back to the customer before you can complete the process?
Irfan: On the ones we design, when the BOM is under our control, our BOMs are pretty organized, but with the BOMs we receive from customers, we always have questions due to missing information or incorrect part numbers. Almost always.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the September 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.