BOM Configuration Management Key Practices: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

By Mark Heinrich

With BOM configuration management, or more generally with BOM management, there is a wide variety of solutions and methodologies for effectivity, product variability and multiple representations that leave even the most experienced PLM users wondering what the differences are and which tools would work best for them.

Anyone designing and building a product will understand the adage: “Use the right tool for the job.” A modern home builder will use a pneumatic nail gun to frame a structure – it is the best tool for the job. But suppose the carpenter needs to nail trim, framing lumber, siding and shingles intermittently throughout the job site. A nail pouch and hammer loop will be easier to carry around all day than an air hose and four pneumatic tools – a claw hammer is the right tool for that job. The choice is a balance of conflicting needs – speed, flexibility, skill requirements, cost, etc.

A diverse culture of many industries and their business practices have fueled the evolution of a tool box full of BOM configuration management tools. Choosing the right tool for the job is the key to success.

My colleague, Susan Zimmerlee introduced our overall view of BOM management, including BOM configuration. Her article attracted the attention of Oleg Shilovitsky, and we’re now following his Beyond PLM blog discussion on BOM management. Let’s take a closer look at the topic and consider some of the capabilities of Teamcenter and the circumstances when they are the right tool for the job.

Product Variability

Across industries and the niches and individual companies within those industries there is a broad range of product variability. Some have a small number of standard products, some define a platform with a spectrum of customer offerings. In the extreme, each customer order is engineered to a unique set of requirements.

As part of our BOM and configuration management solution, Teamcenter has provided configure-to-order capabilities using options and variants for quite some time. We are excited to bring this capability to the next level as we streamline the discipline of authoring and managing the variability information. Our options and rules capabilities support that discipline with their own lifecycle decoupled from the engineering content.


For companies engineering a product and releasing it to production, the application of release status to control the release of content is sufficient to reliably manage the configuration of content in production. In industries where products take considerable time to assemble and where the product evolves through engineering changes while in production, effectivity configuration management techniques are critical.

Effectivity configuration management communicates the implementation planning decisions for a change to the bill of materials (BOM), or product definition.

Multiple Representations

How many bills of materials (BOMs) do we need? There are CAD structures, EBOMs, MBOMs, Service BOMs, As-Built, As-Maintained and many others. This is one of the most common questions I encounter with customers. Each organization often sees their view of the product definition as the center of the BOM universe with the rest revolving slowly around it. The best overall BOM configuration management solution balances the needs across organizations to control their content and collaborate.

The three key questions I use to guide this discussion are:

How different are the representations? If, for example, the manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM) is in lockstep with engineering (EBOM), there may be little business motivation to derive and relate multiple structures. The few exceptions can be managed with simpler techniques. If manufacturing planning is more efficient with a significant amount of restructuring and additional content, then multiple representations of the BOM are certainly warranted.

Does the same group manage more than one representation? If interfacing organizations have specialized needs to express in their structures, the ability to independently manage and control their content provides efficiency and value that overcome the additional steps of deriving and relating content between the representations.

Do the representations have their own lifecycle? If a derived representation will have its own lifecycle and most changes will be made directly on that representation (isolated from its source), then that separation provides efficiency and value. For example, an As-Built representation captures a configuration for a physical asset based on the EBOM. Subsequent changes to the EBOM do not impact the physical bill of materials. Specific changes to a single build do not add to the complexity of the EBOM configuration.

Now that you know your choices for a Teamcenter toolbelt, I look forward to discussing each of these topics – product variability, effectivity and multiple BOMs — in future posts to help your organization choose the right tools for the job.

About the blogger:

I am the product manager for Teamcenter bill of material (BOM) management / product structure. Drawing upon over 20 years of experience in aerospace, automotive and machinery engineering organizations, I have been an engineer, CFD analyst, test engineer, manufacturing planner, software developer, solution architect and manager.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at