Off-the-Shelf vs. Bespoke BoM
With product development increasing in complexity, the need for automotive firms to have the capacity to effectively manage their data complexity is becoming significantly more important. Without this, firms will struggle to maintain market positioning and competitive advantage.
Central to a firm’s product data management is the system used for their Bill of Materials (BoM). These systems represent a significant investment — both upfront and in terms of engineers’ time spent within the system. Therefore, a burning question for automotive firms is whether to implement an off-the-shelf system or create a bespoke system to secure the best results.
Through synergistic collaboration with 128 automotive OEMs and suppliers over the last 17 years, Quick Release has gained unique insights and over two million hours of PDM experience. This study was initiated by talking to subject matter experts and PDM leaders at world-leading automotive firms about what they thought of their BoM system and performance testing based on a distinct set of criteria as referenced in the graphic below.
The manufacturers surveyed range in size, target markets, and either have implemented an off-the-shelf software package or designed their own bespoke system. Our key findings are summarised as:
1. Trends show that larger companies tend to lean towards bespoke systems because of their complex data management needs
Larger companies generally have larger product portfolios and thus, a larger amount of data that needs to be maintained to make it valuable to the end-user. Off-the-shelf software is certainly robust enough to maintain very large and complex data sets, however, large companies have diverse and complex needs combined with significant budget and in-house development teams, meaning a bespoke system often offers itself as the best option.
Comparing off-the-shelf packages to bespoke systems implemented at global, volume vehicle manufacturers, bespoke systems scored better in Complexity Visualisation.
2. Different OEMs have different priorities, influencing what type of system they choose
Even between automotive manufacturers of similar size and market positioning, there are often different priorities when evaluating a BoM system. This is often attributable to a company’s culture or historic strength in a certain area. Also, every firm has its own priorities and agenda. For example, some may value an incredibly robust BoM system security structure, whereas others may prioritise a system that offers an accessible user experience for their engineers.
Overall, bespoke systems score higher in Traceability and Security compared to off-the-shelf systems that score higher in User Interface & Experience.
3. There is no such thing as “better” or “worse” in BoM system comparison
Organisations have different cultures and business needs, and each user of a system will have innate skills and preferences for different aspects of large, complex systems. In today’s climate, a lot of the off-the-shelf systems are robust and can be partially tailored to customers’ needs; accordingly, it is easy to see why many automotive firms would initially turn to these. In addition, off-the-shelf systems will constantly receive back-end development, benefitting from new features and functionality. Conversely, it’s clear from talking to our subject matter experts that in some firms, building a solution in-house is the most cost-effective solution long term given licencing costs from off-the-shelf vendors and further affords an ability to fully align with internal processes and culture.
One thing that applied universally was the impact of human nature on how users perceived a system, regardless of whether in-house or off-the-shelf. When a system is used for a prolonged period and integrated properly within an organisation, users become aligned with how that system works, and its processes and idiosyncrasies become natural. At this point, users may become resistant to change. However, in an increasingly complex world, it may be in the organisation’s interest to review whether the existing solution is suitable for their needs.