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Does your company rely on spreadsheets to keep track of all the materials used to manufacture its products?

Although spreadsheets are suitable for a wide variety of business applications, they become time-consuming, error-prone, and ineffectual over time when used for listing, revising, and sourcing materials for an expanding portfolio of products.

Fortunately, today’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems provide even small and medium-sized companies with proven methodologies for managing standard data libraries that reduce data redundancy, improve data quality, increase data visibility, and offer real-time data access to all stakeholders.

To build and maintain a reliable foundation of standard material and supplier information for your company’s products, focus on these 6 essential components of efficient product data management:

1. Set up a hierarchical Material Library.

First, define all of the standard material types that are characterized by unique combinations of specific attributes.  These material types form the top level of the library’s hierarchical structure, which facilitates attribute inheritance by all materials associated with each material type.  Whenever a change is made to a shared attribute of a particular type of material, that change propagates automatically to all materials connected to that material type.

For each material in the library, include its primary source as well as the applicable unit of measure and base unit price.

RetailPLMSolution_FeatureImage2. Assemble materials.

Create a Bill of Materials (BOM) for each product, listing its material structure along with the required amount of each material.  Define a separate BOM for each material assembly that is a common structural component of multiple products.  For increased efficiency, place material assemblies into other assemblies to create multi-level assembly structures where possible.

Associate each material in the BOM with its current supplier; if necessary, override the supplier information carried over from the Material Library.

3. Track material usage.

Identify all products and material assemblies in which each material is used.  Roll up the data to determine how many different sources provide each of these materials to your company on a seasonal or annual basis.  Use this information to reduce raw material costs by purchasing larger volumes from fewer suppliers.

Monitor material usage and make bulk changes as needed in response to fluid market conditions or new material requirements.  Examples include material swaps as well as changes to material quantity, quality, supplier, color, etc.

4. Establish a Material Suppliers Library.

For each of your suppliers, maintain a detailed record of pertinent vendor relationship data including delivery lead times, order minimums, units of measure, pricing structures, etc.  Track the historical performance of each supplier as well as all results of material quality and conformance testing.

Stipulate a set of standard performance criteria that all suppliers must meet or exceed in order to be designated as approved suppliers.

5. Set up a library for Quality Assurance Test Specifications (QATS).

Define specific quality requirements and related testing specifications for each material and/or material type.  Use these quality assurance standards in conjunction with the information in your Material Suppliers Library to request testing from suppliers, monitor their compliance, and maintain thorough records of test results.

6. Read-Zweave-PLM-ArticlesDefine material/color relationships.

Specify all valid relationships between each material and one or more colors in the Color Library.  Then, identify the supplier(s) for each material/color relationship to associate other attributes such as price, quality testing results, lead times, etc.

Clearly, spreadsheets are inadequate for fully implementing the 6 fundamental components of standard-based product data management as described above.  Instead of spreadsheets, PLM systems utilize web-based data libraries that function as single, shared sources of up-to-date information about all of your products, materials, and suppliers.  Data redundancies are eliminated, data entry time is reduced, consistency of data across products is assured, and real-time access to data is available to all stakeholders, both internal and external.

When integrated into a well-designed PLM system, your company’s product data becomes a driving force for making the informed, proactive decisions that result in increased profitability.

If your company uses spreadsheets for recording each product’s Bill of Materials, sourcing those materials, and monitoring material quality, we encourage you to consider implementing a product data management system as part of an overall PLM strategy to streamline the process and increase operational efficiency.

Zweave offers consulting services for companies of all sizes that are interested in exploring the benefits of converting to a PLM model.  To learn more about our proven approach and extensive experience in implementing PLM systems, please contact us or download our whitepaper “15 Reasons to Choose Zweave for Your PLM Project”.

15 reasons for choosing Zweave - PLM for Apparel Industry

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