Great data management unlocks new opportunities for your business, simplifying your team's workflow and keeping you a step ahead of potential problems. Your process is only as good as your data — and your data is only as good as your ability to access and analyze it.
On the other hand, bad BOM management software is more than just a headache to use. It also makes it impossible to do the kind of intelligent, automated data analysis that's essential to keep up in the current market. As the supply chain continues to fluctuate, the BOM is an increasingly crucial component in avoiding bottlenecks and identifying potential markets.
So what is it that makes BOM compliance software great? And what should companies look for when evaluating the many options out there?
We're going to dive into the essential features of a great BOM software, which is often part of a larger ERP or MRP system. We'll also discuss the signs of a rock-solid technology company, as well as red flags to look for.
The bill of materials, or BOM, is the definitive source of what goes into your product. It lists all the components, including chemicals and materials, required to produce the product. Often called the "ingredients list" for your product, the bill of materials is used both internally and externally. Various versions offer different levels of detail and focus on different types of information to inform various business functions.
The bill of materials is crucial for everything from regulatory compliance to inventory management. And because BOMs are so integral to the manufacturing and distribution process, they're almost always tracked as part of the ERP or MRP system. Some teams choose to use the BOM module packaged within their primary system, while others look for a more specialized tool that can integrate with their other software tools.
What to look for in a BOM software solution
The complexity of materials and regulations in today's manufacturing environment requires technology to keep careful track of all the information. However, not all BOM software tools are created equally.
What should companies look for in a BOM software solution? These are our top 7 picks for the most crucial elements. Some of the features are specific to bill of materials processes, while others are marks of any solid enterprise software.
Easy to use.
In order to keep the data stream clean, the people using your software need to be able to input that data correctly. Overly complex software leads to mistakes, or to people failing to use the software at all.
Of course, we're talking about enterprise tools here; there will probably be some amount of a learning curve, especially for more advanced features. But well-designed user interfaces and smart software design can go a long way towards helping users catch on quickly.
Basic functions in particular should be intuitive. This is why we encourage anyone interested in our tools to set up a free account and play around a bit to see how intuitive it is to add materials and create reports.
Again, if the tool isn't being used, it doesn't matter how great the features are. Users should be able to log in via a web browser, without complicated downloads or limited numbers of machines to manage. Look at the technology access your team has throughout the manufacturing process and evaluate how accessible the tool will be.
Good accessibility leads to better success with data being added, as well as better use of that information to fuel data-driven decision-making.
Internally, people will need to be able to see materials at a glance, as well as export and drill down into that data for analysis.
If the data can't be accessed, edited, and shared by the people who need it, it's useless. Your BOM list is the definitive "source of truth" on the product's components; it needs to be stored centrally, in an easy-to-access format.
Various versions of your bill of materials will exist for different teams, with an engineering BOM, sales BOM, manufacturing BOM, and more all drawing from that same definitive list. Your software needs to be able to pull out the relevant information for all of these parts of the team.
In addition to being accessible internally, your BOMs must be able to be shared with suppliers and other stakeholders. Ideally, this is more than just the ability to export a finished list.
Look for tools that allow you to grant access to current BOMs so that your partners are always looking at the most up-to-date information.
The BOM itself is a data framework, serving as the single product data source for the entire organization in a single location. It must integrate seamlessly with other tools so that the data can inform the rest of the business processes, from engineering to purchasing to manufacturing to sales.
Automated data analysis, the ability to generate custom reports, and compatibility with other programs are all good signs of a software's ability to integrate with your larger business processes.
If your business wants to grow, you need a software solution that can scale with you. Look at the solution you're considering and think through what would be involved if you suddenly needed to scale up your use.Questions to ask include:
- Would this system be able to handle a much greater amount of data? What about increasing levels of complexity?
- Would this system still work if the business were to expand into a new country or region? What about a different industry?
- Is the system usable in different languages? Does it adhere to privacy and data laws in different countries where we might someday employ people?
Different versions of the materials list will serve different parts of the business. One static bill of materials isn't enough; different teams will need different data, from development to production to sales.
What to look for from a technology partner
While the software and features are hugely important, the team behind them is just as important. We're talking about software that your team will rely on for huge decisions around purchasing, inventory, safety, logistics, environmental impact, and more. Your choice of ERP or MRP management software is a big one.
- Secure. Data security is a huge deal. Your technology suppliers need to be well-versed in all forms of data security and privacy, as well as laws and regulations in various parts of the world where you do (or may someday want to do) business.
- Updated. As technology constantly evolves, software that isn't being continually updated will fall behind by standing still. Look for technology companies that regularly release updates, are on top of bugs, and keep things running smoothly.
- Supported. If you run into a problem, you need to know that your technology partners are ready and available to help. A software snag can hold up work on your end; you don't want to be wasting time waiting for someone to get back to you.
When you're considering different software solutions, don't be afraid to ask questions. Your prospective partner should be able to give satisfactory answers.
This is why we schedule individual demos with teams who are interested in trying out 3E's bill of materials, ESG, compliance, and materials reporting tools: so that we can hear your questions and give insight into the features that are most important to your team.
Bill of Materials template software should be more than just an afterthought
Proper tracking of what is in a product is an absolutely essential part of manufacturing and distribution. Getting the BOM right is crucial for:
Traditional, linear industrial practices affect human health, food production, and the overall environment in three main ways:
- Compliance with laws and regulations. Depending on what substances your product contains, you will run into requirements around labeling, handling, and more.
- Safety for manufacturing, transportation, and recycling. Everyone involved in the supply chain needs to be able to know the proper procedures for safe handling.
- Consumer health and safety, as well as materials compliance in different regions.
- Collaboration between internal and external pieces of the supply chain.
- Visibility of all BOM items throughout the product lifecycle. This is an essential element of circularity, allowing the finished product or its individual components to be safely recycled, reused, or repurposed.
Safety in products, product innovation, collaboration on product lifecycle management . . . all of this begins with a clean, accurate BOM.
Try 3E's Powerful BOM Tools
Our tools offer visibility on all BOM items throughout the product life cycle by integrating supplier surveys, materials passports, a wealth of pre-loaded materials lists, and other innovative tools that help you maintain incredible materials data. Smart, automated analysis helps you identify risks and opportunities in your supply chain.
If you want to see for yourself how our software is leading the industry in data infrastructure and materials tracking for the circular economy, set up a free account here.