Optimize your designs with the innovation BOM

Product development is never as easy as going from “What's the market solution” to “what's the engineering design”  - there are many decisions in the middle that need to be made around the general design, tech requirements, and main components. (For example - - How’s the chassis going to come together, what’s the power supply, how is it going to communicate?)

You probably use Excel for this. At many companies, or on startup teams, you might even find yourselves sitting around in a room and brainstorming mission critical questions with an EE, ME and IE, and creating a baking list of supplies.

At that point, you divvy out the tasks, and ask the questions you need to ask, determine problems you need to solve, and as you come up with the solutions, you come up with the bill of materials (BOM) 

But the BOM you keep when you’re prototyping is not the same BOM you keep  when you’re ramping to production—it's a whole different animal. In fact, you probably don't even call your prototyping BOM a "BOM" because it's just a list of parts.

At Arena, we've become very interested in bringing some order to this (usually messy and disorganized) list of parts. 


Well, with 80% of the product's costs being determined by the design, the logic follows that if you optimize your designs for cost/availability, you can design a better product more cheaply. But when early designs are scattered across disparate notebooks, emails and scraps of paper, it's pretty hard to know if you chose a component because it was the best one, or if you chose a component because it was the one you had the most information for. 

That's why we invented the concept of the innovation BOM. 

The innovation BOM provides a framework for organizing the traditionally disorganized process of getting started with a design. It describes the list of parts that engineers are considering for a prototype, and is primarily made up of possibilities for critical components that will define the product, and notes about how these parts may be sourced. 

In a recent Arena blog post, we do a deeper dive into the innovation BOM, and outline 3 ways organizing your early designs into an innovation BOM can hel.... I invite you to take a look. 

We've found that by simply by thinking of this early brainstorming period as a systematic process, you naturally provide organization to your designs and find more opportunities to optimize. Hopefully you think it's useful too.


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Comment by Tad AC Forsythe on July 18, 2012 at 8:18am

We manage our development BOM in our PLM system without revision control as we can document the changes of the design by iteration control.  Once we manage by revision, we must follow our ECO process which does slow things down. Although there is time taken to create the D-BOM with parent-child links, this is the central area for any data regarding engineering design. If purchasing, quality or electrical want to know what mechanical is up to they can download the parts list and any associated documents to their workspace and analyze what they need to. We try to load CAD drawings, CAD models, emails, test reports, supplier provided data into the D-BOM and use the data to optimize our design.  Once we have reviewed, approved and about to release the D-BOM we remove all extemporaneous files and only allow the approved documents for production.

This allows all data to be available 24/7 and fluidity by-passing the ECO process. Having reviews with all departments as needed during NPD is a must and should be scaled accordingly due to the complexity of the design.


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