Every team starts off with a Bill Of Materials (BOM) in a spreadsheet. Whenever there's a heavy reliance on custom spreadsheets in any business it never ends well, and we've seen lots of missteps over the years that can be traced back to spreadsheet BOMs. The only alternatives today are expensive, old-school enterprise tools that aren't right-sized for today's entrepreneurs.
Product Planner is a cloud-based tool we built to help teams get their product data ready for manufacturing. It's centered around the full product BOM (ME, EE, and packaging) and provides a solid structure, collaboration, and reports that give manufacturing insights. It's better than spreadsheets because it's a tool, not a document, and it's way more affordable and usable than the usual enterprise suspects.
Why We Built The Issues Report
We’ve been taking products to production for a while at Dragon Innovation, and we’ve developed some pretty strong opinions about the best way to approach manufacturing. One of those opinions is:
‘Having the most complete Bill Of Materials information you can is not optional.’
It’s difficult to think of data-wrangling as a priority while trying to get a product to market as fast as possible, but this is a classic case of having to slow down to speed up. The time invested in having a complete BOM with proper structure reaps massive dividends when it prevents miscommunication with partners or unexpected issues that delay production.
Having a complete BOM locked down also ensures that you have a solid grasp on your Intellectual Property. Should the need arise to change business partners, a prolonged and painful extrication from a supplier holding your information hostage costs you time and money, both in terms of person-hours and lost sales.
To help make it easier to see gaps in your BOM data that will cause headaches later, we recently added a feature to Product Planner called The Issues Report. It is available from your dashboard.
What the Issues Report Does with your BOM
The Issues Report scans your BOM for structural issues and incomplete information. This gives you an actionable list that you can use to make changes right in Product Planner.
It’s important to clear up structural issues quickly. Building on a weak foundation is never a good idea. Nine times out of ten, the biggest culprit of a large Issues list is the absence of costs across a variety of order quantities. This brings us to another piece of simple Dragon wisdom:
‘Your costs always matter’
Even if I’m at the Proof of Concept stage? Yes. It’s never too early to begin to understand your path to production so you can identify and manage-down the risks that stand in your way.
Consider the following scenario:
- You’ve decided to design your EE design around a particular semiconductor. Ordering this part in small quantities for prototype builds goes smoothly. However, when it’s time to manufacture you find yourself between a rock and hard place. You can either get the part at an acceptable price point but a long lead time, or you can get the part with an acceptable lead time but a price that will squeeze your working capital. You could find an alternate part, but unless it is 100% identical, changes to your PCB design may be needed.
This scenario is not unheard of, in fact, it’s quite common. Looking into your costs along with the accompanying lead times across a few quantities early ensures that your supply chain is robust and uninterrupted at critical times, even as your build quantity shifts.
The last common pitfall we see in Issues Reports is identical part names (with different part numbers). In the game of telephone that is manufacturing, naming 2 resistors ‘1 kOhm resistor’ despite their having different tolerances is a recipe for fried chips, rework and returns.
The most complete BOM you can muster is your safeguard against unexpected issues down the line. Time spent shoring up your data early in the process, while it may feel like an unnecessary time investment, saves you actual dollars at production time.
Since costs and lead times are linked, understanding each of these early on prevents production issues and emergency redesigns. This is even more critical in light of the ongoing global components shortage.
Lastly, owning your BOM and knowing your components and costs gives you leverage to shop around between suppliers should the need arise.
Jump on over to Product Planner and see how this awesome new feature can help you shorten the path from design to manufacturing.
If you need a hand or have any questions at all, reach out to us any time. We’re here to help!