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Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Bill of Materials Configuration Management System

This approach to the smart eBOM can increase manufacturing efficiency.

This approach to the smart eBOM can increase manufacturing efficiency.

Many companies have a bill of materials (BOM) with an emphasis on mechanical components. However, it can be overwhelming to reflect each engineering discipline with more complex configurations and added dimensions.

For machine engineering, the BOM, or configuration management, goes back over thirty years; however, it is reaching a stress point due to highly customized machine engineering and production processes. An integrated nature of the mechanical, electrical, and software solutions requires the bill of materials to include all domains for modern, sophisticated machines. Furthermore, it's vital to incorporate the many variants that are essential to satisfy customer needs. So, the emerging challenge for machine builders in addressing smaller lot sizes requires superior adaptability and flexibility in machine design.  

When considering all the customer constraints, variants, and requirements, every order a machine builder receives is essentially a new project. Subsequently, there is a need for robust change management, focusing on engineering or platform management, coupled with clear visibility to view the impacts of change in a managed environment. Likewise, it is crucial to trace the effect of alteration to every project the company executes from a change management perspective, which is essential for field reliability and service revenue opportunities.

Therefore, it's vital to trace both the customer and internal requirements, including the design engineering. This process includes tracing the high-level customer specifications to the BOM structure of a particular task or deliverable. The goal is to manage the entire machine-building operation in a single environment while comprehending all the options and variants. Similarly, this process includes integrating requirements, projecting change management, and managing the comprehensive bill of materials throughout its product lifecycle — from the original engineering design to manufacturing. 

Further factors include an environment where many machine builders operate in a climate of cumulative industry regulations. This scenario is even more poignant as companies address restrictions on energy consumption, plant cleanliness, and autonomous machine behavior in man-machine collaborative environments. Accordingly, there is a configured-to-order menu selection process for various components and subcomponents and assemblies chosen in machine building, based on the customer's requirements and the BOM compilation of various sub-assemblies working together with its partners. Therefore, discipline is required from a machinery builder to develop, maintain, and leverage the configured-to-order process for a brief delivery schedule timeframe.

Leveraging a Multi-Disciplinary Design

Machine manufacturers leverage a multi-disciplinary design to increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process. A multi-disciplinary design assesses the complexities of machine building, including design engineering and manufacturing. In the past, most smart machine manufacturers focused on computer-aided design (CAD) and parts manufacturing within tolerance for everything to function mechanically within the structural arrangement and machine assembly. 

These machines were primarily mechanical pieces of equipment, like the automobiles or airplanes of yesteryear. Therefore, the mechanical design was in one area, including the electrical design, while the schematics and software development were in another area. 

Subsequently, the mechanical and electrical designs were also separated by the project phase and its focus. Historically, the mechanical engineering phase is a “race to the drawings.” At the same time, the electrical and controls begin after all the electrical devices and motors are selected by the mechanical design team.

Thus, the electrical team can find themselves ordering parts while the machine is being wired in the engineer-to-order world. Though this example may seem extreme, it can happen when electrical parts are procured as commercial stock components. Yet, the industrial machinery paradigm is changing. In recent years, electrical motors and rotary equipment that move camshaft gears are now driven by software and PLC codes to accelerate performance-based programs.

The multi-disciplinary design blends these capabilities and skillsets in a more collaborative environment. This concentrated effort pays dividends in the superior quality output of smart machine design, working collaboratively in its own space. It is an art form, not merely a bolted-on electrical mechanism with sensors and cable runs, but an integrated solution. Therefore, harmony exists in the multi-disciplinary design that is not present when disciplines are in separate silos, thus transitioning into advances in simulation.

Implementing Smart eBOM Configuration Management 

An engineering bill of materials is a configuration of the product, portraying the assembly or design. Being able to join and manage these two areas cohesively is vital when alterations to the product design prompt a corresponding change in manufacturing the BOM process, which is an essential part of an effective PLM implementation. Therefore, the BOM reflects the input from the various engineering types of configuration content in addition to the design.  

Competence planning is essential to all engineering disciplines to achieve a solid balance for both design and assembly to promote greater agility. Therefore, it is necessary to trace customer and engineering requirements, including activities performed by the design engineer, electrical engineer, and controls engineer for project execution. This process is a broad journey starting with an elevated customer specification document, using the BOM architecture, and applying it to essential delivery tasks. This method encourages competence for ensuring less risk to meet customer requirements.

Tronrud Engineering Bill of Materials

Tronrud Engineering, which develops, manufactures, and supplies innovative machines and equipment, is a prime example of using a bill of materials successfully. The new machine's digital twin allows the designers, engineers, and programmers to work in parallel, interact, and share their knowledge continuously. This process positively impacts the bottom line by reducing and compressing the commissioning and engineering times.

“By working on the design, mechanical components, and programming simultaneously, we can drastically reduce the time to market. In another project, this approach allowed us to save about 20 percent or two months,” says Erik Hjertaas, General Manager Packaging Technology at Tronrud Engineering.

In response to the parallel execution of development steps in an interdisciplinary team, Tor Morten Stadum, PLM Manager at Tronrud Engineering, states, “We shortened the design phase by about ten percent and commissioning by 20 to 25 percent.”

These advanced machine engineering capabilities enable a truly comprehensive digital twin with multi-disciplinary design, virtual machine simulation and commissioning while utilizing a multi-disciplinary bill of materials. 

A Comprehensive Solution

Siemens Digital Industries Software is driving transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing, and electronics design meet tomorrow. The Xcelerator portfolio helps companies of all sizes create and leverage digital twins that provide organizations with new insights, opportunities, and levels of automation to drive innovation.

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About the Author:
Rahul Garg is Vice President of Industrial Machinery and the SMB Program for Siemens Digital Industries Software. He and his team are responsible for identifying and delivering strategic initiatives and developing solutions for the industry, working closely with industry-leading customers and providing thought leadership on new, emerging issues facing the machinery industry. Rahul’s experience and insights are derived from a 25-year career of delivering software-based solutions for product engineering and manufacturing innovation for the global manufacturing industry. He has held leadership positions in multiple areas, including research and development, program management, sales and P&L management, having focused exclusively on the industrial machinery and heavy equipment industry since 2007. Rahul holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from Wayne State University, with a concentration in Operations Management and Strategic Marketing, as well as a Bachelor of Computer Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from Bombay University.

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