September 28, 2015      4 min read

Any business looking to seamlessly carry their manufactured products through from concept to customer is going to need an effective and accurate manufacturing Bill of Materials (BOM). It is this one information laden component of the manufacturing process that binds all the relevant departments together and serves as the instructional blueprint on how a product should be put together.

If a business goes to production with a manufacturing Bill of Materials that is inaccurate or lacking in even the slightest piece of information or instruction, it could end up with very costly delays, or even bring the entire manufacturing chain to a complete standstill.

For this reason it is absolutely vital that business owners appreciate and understand exactly what a Bill of Materials is and how it functions, to ensure goods are produced according to spec and on time – thereby boosting overall business efficiency and profitability.

What is a Bill of Materials?

A manufacturing Bill of Materials is essentially a meticulous set of instructions that contains a list of all the parts, items, assemblies and sub-assemblies necessary to build a complete product that can be shipped to customers.

It tells all personnel involved in the procurement and manufacturing chain exactly what to purchase, how to purchase and where to purchase all the raw materials and parts required. Furthermore, it includes detailed instructions on how to assemble the product from conception through to the finished product ready for shipping – including all the packaging and instruction materials etc.

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A team effort

It is not uncommon to have multiple departments working from the same Bill of Materials in order to bring the product through the production process. At any given time personnel from design and engineering, purchasing, manufacturing as well as outsourced contractors can be working off the bill of materials.

For this reason, it is very important for a business to ensure that the Bill of Materials is as detailed, clearly illustrated and accurate as possible. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a manufactured product hinges completely on the quality of the Bill of Materials.

From the purchasing of raw materials and components, to the assembly process on the factory floor – including tooling – during the production run, the manufacturing Bill of Materials informs and drives it all.

Optimally, a business should be able to produce its products as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible due to an accurate, revision-controlled Bill of Materials. This is why it is important to produce a BOM that is very well organized, accurate and up to date.

Little details, big losses – why your BOM needs to be accurate

The dangers facing a business when a Bill of Materials is ineptly put together can be many and extremely costly – both in terms of time-wastage, and through a needless squandering of capital and labor resources.

Any incorrect, unclear or absent piece of information in the BOM spells disaster down the line. If even one component is left un-sourced, the entire manufacturing machinery could grind to a halt. When this occurs, time and money will have to be spent tracking down the cause of the delay, sourcing the component and then restarting production.

Inventory management software can prove essential in such circumstances, as missing or skipped-over components in the production process can be instantly and accurately tracked and traced – down to a single bolt, washer or nail.

Also, if the manufacturing Bill of Materials is poorly developed, recorded values of parts and inconsistencies in quantities can lead to goods being produced that are guaranteed to malfunction.

Further issues associated with inaccurate BOMs include inferior material planning, material shortages, inaccurate product costing and elevated production costs, delays in shipments, lost sales, obsolescence and increased risk of product liability as a result of malfunctioning product.

So, it becomes rather obvious why it is essential to produce a Bill of Materials that is as comprehensive and accurate as possible.

Important considerations when producing a Bill of Materials

It is vital to include everything – including consumables such as glue, wires, fasteners and other non-modeled parts like boxes and labels – that will be used to manufacture the product in the BOM.

If anything is left off the manufacturing Bill of Materials it stands to reason that it will be left out of the manufacturing process too. This means that faulty products could roll off the production line and end up in the hands of consumers, spelling financial and logistical headaches down the line.

Always keep records and supporting documents, such as CAD drawings, part data sheets and work instructions up to date and attached, with their specific BOM level components for easy reference and to ensure accuracy. Also, it is very important to be as thorough as possible with the information contained and attached to the BOM. This is because in many instances process managers will not actually meet face to face with the people assembling the product.

Label revisions to the BOM clearly so that everyone involved is always up to speed on which is the most current version. As revisions occur the newer versions need to be easily distinguishable from previous versions. This way only the most up to date version of the BOM will be used.

The manufacturing Bill of Materials is essential to enable business to bring products from concept to customer. Businesses should take extra care to ensure that the BOM is as accurate and as detailed as possible. This is the surest way to avoid costly mistakes and ensure that product gets to market at the right quality, in the required quantity, and at the appointed time.