Taking bill of materials management into the cloud allows small engineering companies—such as hardware startups–and contract manufacturers to track and share data and offers easy BOM data import from design tools, said the two co-founders of openBoM.
The openBoM tool is currently in customer beta testing mode. For now, it’s primarily targeted to small engineering companies that rely on contract manufacturers and that draw from online parts catalogs for design and manufacture, said Oleg Shilovitsky, openBoM’s chief executive officer.
The tool automatically links to those catalogs. In the future, the tool will also be able to link to a company’s enterprise resource planning or materials resource planning systems, he added. Larger companies usually maintain ERP or MRP systems.
Shilovitsky and Vic Sanchez, the company’s chief operating officer, spoke at the Congress for the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) held in Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier in April. The event was sponsored by Cyon Research, an engineering software analysis firm in Bethesda, Md.
“The advantage of our system over other, bigger BOM management tools that aren’t in the cloud is that ours is in a configurable environment and is also less expensive,” Shilovitsky said. “It automatically links the engineering and manufacturing BOMs and this becomes the master when it gets to manufacturing.”
Engineers must approve the master BOM before it’s released to contract manufacturers to avoid changes after release, he added.
Users first populate the tool with catalog parts and part numbers, which are used in future BOMs. The tool then makes use of templates or can be populated with part information specific to the user, he added.
The tool also imports CAD data from many popular CAD tool, including SolidWorks, so data doesn’t need to be re-entered, Shilovitsky said.
The BOM tool allows engineers and others in manufacturing companies to work collaboratively and have access to the most updated BOM information across organizational boundaries and geographies. It also helps track BOM historical records and generates change reports, Shilovitsky said.
“With openBoM, engineers can share a read-only BOM with contract manufacturers or can let them edit the BOM,” Shilovitsky said. “They don’t need to set up a BOM across the whole organization and then allow the contractor or supplier access to it. It can be emailed to the contractors.”
With the tool, users can create and reuse part numbers and can control inventory. If a part is out of stock or running low, users won’t be able to add that part to the BOM, he added.
The tool will also be integrated with the recently released cloud CAD tool Onshape, Shilovitsky said.
Behind-the-scenes, Onshape is structured in the same manner as business database applications such as accounting systems, said Hirschtick Onshape’s founder. This allows openBoM to automatically take part information from the CAD design and store it within the BOM tool. When the design is changed, the BOM immediately reflects that change, Shilovitsky said.
The way the CAD application functions means that team members don’t override each others’ changes and the same is true of the BOM tool, he added.
“BOMs are the lifeblood of engineering organizations,” Shilovitsky said. “We believe their future is in the cloud, where they can be easily shared.”