Service Bill of Materials: What it Is and How You Can Use It



A service bill of materials (SBOM) is a list of all of the serviceable parts needed to maintain an asset while it’s in operation. As the name implies, it’s applicable to individuals concerned with servicing or using a product, whether they be end-users, mechanics, technicians, dealers, or the like.

An SBOM serves several critical functions, all of which impact the successful service of a product:

  • Creates a product structure that’s intuitive for service.
  • Establishes a foundation for accurate, accessible service information.
  • Automatically updates the product’s parts catalog whenever engineering applies changes to the product. 
  • Provides information that’s relevant to service-specific roles and end-user concerns.

Defining a product structure for service

Manufacturing BOMs, engineering BOMs (EBOMs), and other kinds of BOMs are all designed for their specific roles and functions. For instance, an EBOM lists every single part within a product because engineers need to know exactly what a product’s made of.

The problem with giving an EBOM to a field service technician is that doing so provides him with more information than he needs to fix whatever it is he’s trying to fix. For example, a mechanic may just order a new caliper assembly if he needs to fix a disc brake instead of ordering the pad retainers, outer pad shims, and the other components that make up a caliper.

Bottom line: A service bill of materials will only contain information that’s relevant to people using and servicing products, such as:

  • Where a part is within a structure or assembly.
  • Part supersessions.
  • Replacement parts.

Automatically updating parts catalogs

Product developers change part designs all the time. Some changes occur within months after the initial release, but those adjustments may not be reflected in parts catalogs until the next time you print them.

As a result, customers may order the wrong parts, or order multiple parts because they’re not sure which ones they actually need. Either way, these issues lead to poor customer experiences.

Not all SBOMs address this problem, but those that can contain associative links to EBOMs. An associative link is a connection (usually through a product lifecycle management system) between a part file in an SBOM and an identical (or nearly identical) file in an EBOM. You create these links by transforming EBOMs into SBOMs.

Without getting into the technical details, associative links allow you to automatically update part catalogs or trigger a notification workflow whenever product developers make changes to parts. That means if your catalogs are accessible online, they’ll contain the latest parts data.

What sort of parts information issues is your company facing? Do you think an SBOM would solve those problems? The checklist below lists six criteria for choosing a service information management solution:

Extend PLM to Service Checklist Infographic