Dynamic BoMs Paramount for Preventing Manufacturing Supply Chain Disruption

Author : Sarah Eddowes, Agile Electronics

02 December 2023

Securing continued product manufacture requires constant attention and unfaltering diligence. Component shortages and alterations in material supply flows (caused by geo-political influences, as well as changing infrastructure, plus rising energy and shipping costs) are affecting sources right across the globe. What does all this mean for equipment manufacturers?

Procurement managers have a more complex job than they did in the past. It's no longer enough for them to go out to tender in order to fulfil the requirements of the bill-of-materials (BoM) associated with manufacturing a product, then subsequently placing orders, before filing everything away and moving on to the next project. The rules of the game have changed, with various factors now needing to be taken into consideration. For example, circumstances that have arisen over the last 2 years mean that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and contract electronic manufacturers (CEMs) can no longer single source their semiconductors from the Far East. To ensure ongoing supply integrity and safeguard against exposure to serious risks, second and even third fabrication sources in different geographical locations must be found. 

Both new and mature product BoMs have to be placed under continuous scrutiny - so as to avoid production delays or even complete stops, due to component scarcity and obsolescence issues. The vendors of components used in a product must be regularly interrogated to determine supply chain problems or uncover any end of life (EoL) concerns. 

It is essential for purchasing staff to have the ability to make a last time buy (LTB) of components as these come towards their EoL. Alternatively, engineers can factor in design changes before EoL occurs - thereby ensuring production is not affected and can continue as normal.

Defining a better supply chain strategy
Shortages and changes in component supply flow have consequences for new designs, as well as for longer standing product manufacture. Design engineers creating next generation products should be encouraged to engage with their purchasing departments as early as possible - so that they can then check with the relevant vendors about how secure the supply of key components will be. 

New designs will often have evolved from existing products to keep up with changing standards or market demands. Whether this is the case, or a completely different design is being developed from scratch, it is not unusual for engineers to continue to utilise components and topologies they have prior experience of and are already comfortably familiar with. 

By the time a new product reaches the component procurement stage it will have passed through a number of design iterations, along with EMC compliance and safety testing. If the product has not been designed for manufacture or employs vulnerable components it may require costly circuit and PCB redesign, plus additional testing.  

Figure 1: An example of BoM scrub data
Figure 1: An example of BoM scrub data

It is not just a matter of having the prototype evaluated for desired performance. In addition, the BoM should be checked to make certain of prolonged component supply for the expected lifetime.

Addressing the problem with maximum effectiveness 
A practical solution is to carry out a regular BoM scrub. This will reduce the risk of possible manufacturing disruptions caused by any inconsistencies, errors, or component shortages. It basically ensures the specified part numbers are correct and procurable. Both OEMs and CEMs should implement regular BoM reviews - so that they have timely notice of any component problems.

Reference points for a BoM scrub should include:
  •   A detailed life cycle report for each component (thus allowing for obsolescence issues to be discovered early on).
  •   Data on the quantities of the specified components available via franchised distribution outlets.
  •   Cross reference and alternative component options that can be considered if required (and their estimated lead times).
  •   Ensuring correct manufacturers’ part numbers have been used (so there is no confusion).
  •   Commodity codes and chief operation officer (COO) data.
  •   Information relating to RoHS and REACH compliance.
  •   Market lead time data.
  •   LTB updates on components nearing EoL.

Working with a specialist supply chain solutions company can avoid component shortage vulnerabilities with regard to both new design concepts and existing products too. Agile Electronics is now able to provide its OEM/CEM customers with a comprehensive BoM scrub service. Through this, the entire component list can be thoroughly scanned - in order to identify any anomalies, errors or possible part shortage hazards. This significantly reduces the potential risk of manufacturing disruptions occurring.

BoM scrubbing is a vital procedure for any manufacturer given the current supply chain landscape. It should be conducted as part of attaining lean front-end processing activities. Through this work, buyers have the reassurance needed that all the constituent components which have been listed in the BoM are correct, authentic, traceable and readily available. This ensures they are prepared for delays in manufacturing due to obsolescence’s, short supply or allocation, and can take appropriate steps to mitigate them. 

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