The digital transformation of manufacturing doesn’t happen all at once – especially if you’re a multi-site organization. But that inconsistent journey to Industry 4.0 maturity can create small but potentially catastrophic cracks in your engineering and manufacturing bills of materials (BOMs), as we outlined in part one of this series.

If the BOM is so critical and the potential impact so disastrous, why do product defects due to BOM inaccuracies happen in the first place? Based on the experience of Persistent engineers who are called in to investigate product defect incidents after the fact, a few common denominators come up frequently, including:

  1. Large volume runs
  2. Tight production and shipment deadlines
  3. Multiple sites manufacturing identical products
  4. International suppliers and global supply chains
  5. Multiple upstream partners providing source materials, components, sub-assemblies or parts

Each of these characteristics on its own increases the risk of a BOM-related product defect; the more these characteristics match your own manufacturing operation, the more likely you are to be subjected to a BOM-related product defect at some point in the future. And in every post-incident investigation, the manufacturer never saw it coming.

Can you spare some change?

The first place to look to eliminate the risk of BOM-related product defects is your organization’s BOM change management process. BOM changes are a constant in today’s complex product development and lifecycle management environment, driven both internally (continuous improvement, for example) or externally (updated industry regulations, etc.) With that in mind, ask yourself:

  • When any individual in your organization initiates a change to one of your products, how does that change get handled?
  • How are multiple concurrent changes to the BOMs handled in your organization?
  • Do you have a workflow to ensure that information gets to everyone who might be impacted upstream or downstream?
  • Does that process happen digitally or is it still paper-based?
  • Does it happen in real-time? Hours later? As soon as the targets get the email or memo?
  • Does that process extend beyond the walls of your organization to your upstream suppliers?

The smallest cracks in your change management process can have a massive impact on your BOMs — and the smallest changes to your BOMs can have a massive impact in your production environment.

Anything less than a real-time, automated, truly end-to-end digital change management solution simply can’t keep up as products and supply chains have grown faster and have become more global and increasingly complex. The solution is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software.

Mitigate your product defect risk with PLM platforms

It’s easy to see why the PLM software category has grown into a US$43.5 billion market in 2017 and is expected to exceed US$63.2 billion by 2023. PLM solutions are purpose-built to meet the needs of today’s product developers and manufacturers. As organizations become increasingly digital, global and collaborative, they’re also more able to leverage Industry 4.0-driven improvements in intelligence, automation, analytics, and machine learning/AI.

The global PLM market leader today is ENOVIA™ by Dassault Systèmes, one of the true pioneers in the market. ENOVIA offers a dedicated Bill of Materials Management function that lets product engineers create and maintain complete, accurate and up to date BOMs as changes occur through the product development process.

Users across your organization can access a consolidated, fully connected global or site-specific view of the BOM at any time, supported by a common automated development and change process that updates the BOM and notifies impacted users in real-time in order to maintain accuracy.

ENOVIA’s Bill of Materials Management function delivers manufacturing organizations a “single source of truth” that scales easily to support the world’s most complex products with thousands of parts organized across many levels of hierarchy, and the assembly structure automatically updates when new component revisions are released.

PLM platforms like ENOVIA remove the possibility of having BOMs that are obsolete or out of sync, which in turn eliminates the possibility of potentially catastrophic product defects due to BOM errors.

One secondary benefit of platforms like ENOVIA is the best practices that are “baked in” the code. By implementing a PLM platform, not only will you be equipping your users with state-of-the-art software and tools, but you’ll be optimizing your BOM change management processes as well.

Product defects are the bane of any manufacturer; at a minimum, they create distractions, slow time to market, create unexpected expenses and hurt your reputation. For some manufacturers, product defects can cause injury or death, triggering class action lawsuits, punitive damages, and potentially force you out of business.

PLM platforms can effectively mitigate this risk and deliver several other process and business benefits as well, making them an essential element of any manufacturer’s digital transformation ecosystem.

However, the perceived size and complexity of these installations can lead many companies to stall their own procurement and integration efforts, despite the obvious need… sometimes until after it’s too late.

In the third and final post in this series, arriving on October 2, 2019, we’ll look into four of the most common roadblocks that manufacturer’s face on their PLM platform integration roadmap.


Lewis Breeding is a Senior Applications Engineer at Persistent Systems, Ltd. He has more than 25 years of design engineering experience ranging from automation and tooling to Class A surface development. Lewis is a Dassault Systèmes® Certified CATIA™ Expert and is the Data Management and Collaboration Division Manager for the Community of Experts (COE) of Dassault Systèmes solutions.

Lewis has been heavily involved in a variety of successful implementation of CATIA V5 and PLM deployments for customers in the automotive and aerospace industries and has authored a number of methodologies and best practices for these industries based on that experience.