BOM: The Path to Managing Parts

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Throughout the process of developing this issue of SMT007 Magazine, I kept thinking of the opening lyrics to a song recently recorded by a well-recognized blues singer I’m proud to call my friend. The song is Anni Piper’s “24 Guys Named Dave” and starts with: 

“I’m fine, fun and fickle; so many needs which must be met…”

It’s a humorous song about dating multiple men at the same time, and how she develops an ingenious system for balancing all her beaus, each of whom have their own unique value to her. Of course, this issue of the magazine isn’t about dating, nor is it about the blues. In fact, this month we’re considering bill of materials (BOMs) and the unique challenges facing procurement and manufacturing under current conditions. I kept thinking about Piper’s song because there are some similarities.

In the magazine this month, we start with some higher-level discussion about BOMs in the 21st century manufacturing world. We look at questions like “Who owns the BOM?” and “What makes up a BOM?” The reality is that BOMs are often oversimplified down to the component parts list when, in fact, a full-fledged BOM includes information on how to put the pieces together in a finished product as well. Think back to the last time you assembled flat-pack furniture, for example. The instruction sheet contained: a parts list and quantities; perhaps some necessary tools; safety information; and assembly steps. All these can be considered components of the BOM. The documentation is just as critical as the actual components. I’m reminded of the sales pitch I hear at the stadium from the program hawkers: “They’re just a bunch of guys with numbers unless you have a program.” Indeed, it’s just a pile of parts in plastic baggies unless you have a set of build instructions.

As we set out on this topic, we suspected that BOMs and parts procurement was an urgent issue. When we talked to you in the industry, you not only confirmed but amplified our suspicions. The semiconductor shortages are well-documented, even in the mainstream news, and as is the norm when demand far outstrips supply, we’re seeing lead times and pricing on the increase. OEMs and EMS providers are scrambling to find substitute parts for BOMs that have been stable and predictable heretofore. But it runs deeper than that.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the September 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.


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