5 Tips for Ditching Early Excel BOMs to Accelerate Product Development

We’ve all been there… Staring deep into a 100+ line product bill of material (BOM) created in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that resembles a rainbow. As our eyes glaze over in search of the one cell with a formula error causing incorrect product costs, we wonder to ourselves, “Is there a better way to accomplish the task at hand?”

Microsoft Excel is a fine product, but it’s built for flexible one-off analysis, not for repeatedly developing and launching new products with large BOMs, hence the frustration. It’s simply not the right tool for the job.

A Plan for Every Part (PFEP) is an expanded “commercial bill of material” that has been an industry best practice for decades to track information such as component costs, lead times and supplier data in one large spreadsheet. This “spreadsheet of all spreadsheets” often includes more than 35 columns of data, across which can equate to 3,500 data inputs, or more, that need to be added manually. Although PFEP is a wonderful tool, it’s often abandoned due to the immense individual maintenance effort required.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. So go ahead and ditch your Excel BOM, because the below five tips focus on how you can utilize Automated PFEP software to accelerate your product time to market.

5 Tips for Ditching Early Excel BOMs to Accelerate Product Development

1. Foster Cross-Functional Group Buy In

In a recent IndustryStar research study of 124 supply chain professionals, 82% highlighted that their companies plan to increase new product and service development collaboration in the future, yet only 50% were satisfied with their collaboration results to date. Our good intentions to collaborate more appear to be falling short of organizational goals.

Every function — program management, design, engineering, and manufacturing — needs a seat at the early product development table to realize the maximum value add of Automated PFEP software. Historically, each function’s siloed approach to provide their respective inputs as a product advances from idea to production has worked ok, but it’s slow. Automated PFEP software enables multiple functions to view, edit and manage data simultaneously, accelerating product development timelines. Emphasize the time that everyone will save using Automated PFEP software to foster quicker cross-functional team buy in.

2. Establish a Solid Data Foundation

We all have a sour taste in our mouths from our Excel BOMs. Oddly, we also have a sick obsession with them, largely driven by the time we’ve invested in developing and managing them. Using Excel and CSV file import functions within Automated PFEP software can help ease your team’s anxiety when switching from the spreadsheet they know to a new software system. Re-adding data is never a good idea, but with just a few mouse clicks most Automated PFEP software can upload a large Excel BOM in about five seconds. And select Automated PFEP software also has built-in functionality to audit your Excel BOM to ensure a solid data foundation is established.

3. Speed Up Data Exchange with APIs to Automatically Pull Data from PLM

Time is our most precious innovation resource. Free up your time by integrating your Automated PFEP software with your Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software via Application Programming Interface (API) to automatically pull in data. You’ll be impressed by the amount of time you can save by receiving real-time updates on component changes. The amount of time saved by supply chain teams tracking early component revision changes alone can be worth deploying Automated PFEP software. Further, the time saved from not having to manually update spreadsheets can be repurposed to track down product development issues to optimize the product.

4. Bridge the Data Chasm Between PLM & ERP

Manufacturers made compelling strides over the last few decades, using a wide range of software systems to standardize their processes and expedite information flows. An alphabet soup of software systems — e.g., Quality Management Systems (QMS), Transportation Management Systems (TMS) — have generated substantial returns on investment. Replicate this success by giving your team working early in the product lifecycle a software tool to organize large data sets of critical new product data. Forward-thinking companies are saving additional time utilizing APIs to connect their Automated PFEP software to their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. This logical next step bridges the data divide to create an end-to-end automated product lifecycle solution where all data has a home, from idea to production.

5. Automate Executive Reporting with Dashboards

As the late management guru Peter Drucker once said, “making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.” We’re all leaders, regardless of title, so we need real-time access to the latest product cost, timing and risk data throughout early product development to effectively execute our responsibilities. Innovation requires us to make swift decisions based on the best available information. Utilize automated dashboards that present product, engineering design and testing, equipment, tooling and inbounds logistics costs in real time to empower each individual and the collective team to be more effective.

Innovate Faster to Build Competitive Advantage

As you look to bring new products to market faster, use the above five tips to pick up your pace. There are no shortcuts to success, but the more you and your team can take a hard look at your current early BOM process and automate, the faster you’ll innovate.

A crawl-walk-run approach toward BOM automation is a great mindset to have. Every little step in the process that you can automate saves you valuable time, so getting started on your journey is a net positive. Focus on deploying Automated PFEP software first, then connect it to your PLM, and then connect to your ERP. Realize quick-win time savings results to build momentum. At the end of the day, our ideas are only as good as the products we ship. Replace your manual Excel BOMs with Automated PFEP software to bring your products to market faster.




Supply Chain for Tomorrow’s Technology. Ann Arbor, MI.

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