How can Aerospace and Defense (A&D) companies best meet the needs of product development and manufacturing teams and their unique view of the authoritative source for product information—the bill of materials (BOM)? In other words, how do engineering and manufacturing teams unlock their own data to maximize its value in light of the functionality their PLM software offers (or, perhaps, the limitations placed on them)?

The challenges of EBOM/MBOM management

On the one hand, BOM (Bill of Materials) information must be an accurate, up-to-date, change-managed, and trustworthy source for the product’s definition. On the other hand, different teams in the organization each need a view of the BOM that represents their domain-specific data, including different ways to organize existing information and new information that doesn’t impact other teams. The ability of a software solution to successfully balance both the structure and the flexibility required from the BOM can impact a company’s productivity, compliance, and product quality.

A&D companies typically use one of two approaches to manage these diverse needs. The first, a “Single BOM,” includes engineering and manufacturing data and uses filtering and calculation to generate different views of the same information depending on the user’s role. To accommodate this approach, the two organizations must first agree on how the product structure will be broken down, how information will be added and organized, and how changes will be managed. Then, for consistency’s sake, they can’t deviate from agreed-upon structures and processes throughout the lifetime of the product.

The second approach, a “Dual BOM,” leverages two separate BOM structures for engineering and manufacturing. Both organizations can manage unique information and data structures, meeting engineering’s need to facilitate design reuse and manufacturing’s need to optimize factory operations. However, for the sake of product quality and compliance, every part in the EBOM must be continuously reconciled with parts in the MBOM to be sure the design will be accurately realized in production. When data is replicated between two separate structures, managing traceability and change between them involves a cumbersome process that is not easily modified or upgraded in most PLM software tools.

For A&D companies pursuing either approach, effectivity management is key—that is, assigning a set of information that is accurate based on engineering and/or manufacturing conditions. So, in addition to managing engineering information and data structures alongside their manufacturing counterparts, the complexity of when each set of information is effective—or, accurate for the produced product—must be accounted for, easily understood, and flexible enough to accommodate change.

The Aras approach

Aras believes the best practice approach is allowing for multiple views of the same information, with each view enabling new information and data structures to be managed by individual teams. The two views should be reconciled by logic, rather than existing as duplicate data managed in disconnected tools or systems, so that changes affecting downstream views are flagged for resolution. The Aras platform offers shared services for change management and effectivity across engineering and manufacturing applications, enabling seamless change management that includes both teams’ data and processes, and complex effectivity calculations to account for both teams’ decisions.

Standard functionality in Aras Innovator® allows companies to realize either of the two most common approaches to EBOM / MBOM management, as well as effectively evolve their current approach to match the recommended Multi-View BOM best practice. And while not required as part of this benchmark, the Aras platform offers standard capabilities to uniquely integrate manufacturing process planning with manufacturing process quality—including control plans, process flow diagrams, and risk management—to keep quality and process planning synchronized.

Finally, to take full advantage of the complex business processes required by the benchmark use cases, the Aras approach leverages built-in platform capabilities for creating low-code customizations without compromising upgradability. While some PLM users still shudder when they hear the word “customization,” Aras subscribers know that the platform is built to be customized, ensuring that a company’s data and processes are not “locked in” by the tool being used. Instead, the Aras platform is flexible enough to meet the needs of companies’ ever-evolving business processes—however complex. With each software upgrade, which Aras performs for its subscribers, custom functionality introduced by the company is retained and available to users again, as soon as the upgrade is complete, alongside new platform features.

What else is top of mind for Aerospace & Defense? The Digital Thread!

Recently CIMdata Research’s Aerospace and Defense PLM Action Group did some significant research on the state of the Digital Thread. The findings indicate that digital thread investment within the ecosystem of industrial users, their customers, suppliers, and solution providers has reached an inflection point. Initial implementations of targeted digital thread solutions have provided value proof points and essential learnings. Now expanded investment rounds are ramping up, guided by these early achievements and with expectations driven by the value potential revealed. Read more here.