Design your Digital Thread using Attribute Based Planning

A Digital Thread is a link between all the different Bills of Material used in a product’s life cycle and horizons of supply chain planning. This includes engineering BOM, Sales BOM, Manufacturing BOM, Production BOM and Service BOM. Maintaining several different BOMs in potentially different systems (Engineering, S&OP, S&OE, or Service planning) and having the ability to link the properties and specifications at different levels of detail is critical for effective planning and requires much effort and coordination between many different functions and processes. Different views of the same item in each BOM and having different product numbers or part numbers for the same parts make it hard to maintain the data and avoid duplication and confusion.  Like a strong Demand Planning process, an effective process and methods for maintaining the different BOM’s will translate to hard business benefits since the accuracy of the different BOM’s translates what you think you will sell into what you think you need to make.  This means better customer service, reduced inventory, lower operations costs, and lower obsolescence costs.

Engineering BOM’s are straight forward and define what needs to be designed.  Sales BOM’s work directly with Demand Planning especially in Engineer, Configure and Make-to- order environments to translate sales of product models into stochastic selling configurations.  Think of ordering a PC or custom furniture where both the product family and customer define the probabilistic deliverables.  Manufacturing BOM’s and Production BOM’s can get complicated as configuration alternatives on orders and process alternatives can have explosive alternatives.  Two products could have the same Engineering BOM but different sales BOM for Demand planning, and mBOM or pBOM for S&OP Planning and S&OE planning. Or even spares planning depending on the specs and if it is a forecast, order, or replacement demand.

The current approach in most systems is to create totally different BOMs for each need rather than having a generic one and then attach attributes or properties depending on the type of demand or customer.  A unified BOM structure with attributes uses the needed data in the BOM based on the task at hand. Attributes leverage the unified BOM for S&OP and S&OE planning since they can define the demand type, forecast or sales order, as well as the customer to designate what parts of the unified BOM needs to be used.  Attributes can designate specs such as tolerance, temperature, speed, voltage range, replaceability, amongst others so that the need for alternative BOM’s can be avoided. Changing how the unified BOM gets used only requires changing the attribute values. For example, a change in the temperature range in the design BOM enables a site to change the temperature range of the manufactured part; and the sales can use the attribute values to offer the new range of temperatures to customers. A forecast demand could use a statistical BOM while an order can carry a defined spec.  Note that no other changes are necessary for creating new BOMs or part numbers etc. Only attributes are changed and applied to a generic BOM and made visible to all parties.

Unified attribute-based BOM’s are not just for the BOMs, they are also used for equipment to define their precision capabilities or the carbon footprint of different locations or processes. If the design BOM specifies the speed requirement of a product to be ultra-high, then the production BOM will have this as a requirement in its BOM which will automatically select an equipment or process that can deliver that level of precision. Same goes for ESG requirements defined in Sales BOM or eBOM.

Availability and use of such attributes from PLM to manufacturing eliminates the need for storing routings and BOM in ERP. One can have direct links from PLM to planning and execution systems. Attributes also make maintenance of data easier by orders of magnitude eliminating the maintenance of so many different substitute and alternative part#s, and their related BOMs and routings.

A simple example of a Configure to Order product line would work as follows.  The Engineering BOM would define only what is required to design the product.  The Sales BOM would have product models and a stochastic BOM with configuration probabilities for major customers and a “rest of market”.  Manufacturing BOM’s would be attribute based and the BOM would branch based on those attributes.  Production BOM’s would add processes to the definition and attributes would define things like qualified sources and processes.  Service BOM’s would define what would need to be delivered when a particular need is made since not every part in the Manufacturing BOM needs to be replaced if one is broken.  It is all managed by attributes on the demands, supplies, processes, and suppliers.  Finally, use of attribute-based BOMs enable planning and execution much easier, since an Attribute-Based Planning system would automatically assign the manufacturing to the right processes, resources, suppliers, and locations by comparing demand and methods of making it. For more information on unified BOMs and attribute-based planning visit Adexa.

Design your Digital Thread using Attribute Based Planning

A unified BOM with attributes eliminates the need for maintaining multiple versions of BOMs; and allows automatic propagation of change through the Digital Thread.