What is BOM?

Written By: Mark Taber
  • 11/16/2020
  • Read Time : 3 min

Your digital transformation starts with the Bill of Materials or BOM. In fact, a BOM is the key to manufacturing agility.  

The BOM is the digital representation of a product that can be developed for lots of different use cases. Examples include: 

  • Connected manufacturing and service
  • Automated simulations
  • Artifact creation
  • Product performance feedback and traceability
  • Any kind of downstream operations in the product development process

A Digital BOM Enables Agility

Like most manufacturers, you are likely grappling to ensure speed and agility in the face of a growing number of product options and variants. Homegrown BOM management tools and processes make it challenging to find and ensure traceability and associativity of the right product information. To become fully agile, you need a seamless flow of information between the teams designing and developing products, planning for the manufacture of the products, and selling and servicing the products. A digital BOM that fully represents the product is the answer. 

This complete digital representation of a product(s) and a single source of truth for all related artifacts (e.g., CAD models, drawings, requirements, part structures) delivers many benefits. It can help optimize key business processes, enhance product quality by eliminating mistakes associated with duplicate or incomplete data, and identify problems earlier in the development process. Simply put, a digital BOM yields numerous benefits, including organizational agility, faster time to market, simplified processes, and lower costs.

A BOM Must be Fit for Purpose

What is the perfect digital product representation (or BOM)?  It needs to be fit for purpose for your product and company. On one end of the spectrum is a company that designs and manufactures furniture. On the other end is a company that designs and manufactures CAT scan machines. It’s easy to understand that the digital definition of a sofa or chair is far different than one representing a CAT scan machine – the latter will include far more information about the product. 

With that in mind, the goal is to create the simplest perfect digital representation possible and then make it fit for use across the enterprise. After all, each stakeholder – from engineering, manufacturing, and sourcing to sales, marketing, service, and quality – will need to use the BOM in different ways to suit their purposes.

Enter the Part-Centric BOM

By adopting a part-centric approach to managing your BOM, you can satisfy all stakeholder needs while fostering collaboration from the point of product conception through manufacturing, device connectivity, and field service. The first step is integrating product data – including that in CAD and ERP systems – in a single repository. 

This consolidation makes it much simpler to develop a BOM because it minimizes the number of interfaces to manage, eliminates data latency, simplifies data structures, and more. Moreover, a single source of data truth makes it easier to consistently manage the BOM throughout the entire product lifecycle, and ensure that BOM information is accurate and timely.

Many manufacturers are achieving this by using Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software that includes BOM management and transformation capabilities.

Streamline Critical Processes and Interactions

With this approach, your product designers create and manage a part-centric digital product that can be leveraged at every step of the product lifecycle. Mechanical, software, electronic parts and related artifacts can be integrated into engineering BOMs

This provides your organization with a single interface for collaboration between domain systems including CAD and ERP. The PLM system ensures that everyone from the shop floor worker to the service technician to the seller configuring a customer order is using the correct product information. That’s because everyone will be referring to the same data, regardless of product form, fit and function and stage in development. Plus, this approach – supported by single sign on and role-based access to a single data repository – even streamlines discussions and collaboration with customers and partners.

Visibility into products while they are in digital form allows your organization and its partners to make decisions that most impact the cost to produce, assemble and service those products downstream. Downstream teams can more easily learn about planned changes and weigh in on the potential impact. Simply put, changes at this stage come at far less cost than changes made once the product has been created or assembled.

Elevate Your Manufacturing

To scale operations and remain competitive in today’s world, your organization must move beyond a drawing-centric product development process to one that focuses on the actual parts that make up products. With the right PLM strategy and system, your organization can capture, configure and manage product information during every step of the product lifecycle in the form of a complete digital BOM. It’s the first step to agility today and meaningful digital transformation tomorrow.

Ready to get started? Download our e-book, “A Getting Started Guide to a Part-Centric BOM”.


  • PLM
  • Windchill
  • Digital Transformation

About the Author

Mark Taber

Mark Taber is Vice President of Marketing. In his current role, Mark is focused on helping manufacturers drive digital transformation, with a foundation of PLM and the digital thread, within the enterprise and across enterprises.

Mark has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of process automation, application integration, cyber security, and development. Prior to PTC, Mark was CEO of Active Endpoints (acquired by Informatica), a process automation firm. A graduate of the Wharton School, Mark currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.