BOM (Bill of Material)

What is a Bill of Material (BOM)?

A bill of materials (BOM) is a document that lists all raw materials, parts, assemblies, and other items necessary to build a product or complete a project. In telecommunications, BOMs are commonly used for the construction and maintenance of network infrastructure, such as data centers, fiber-optic networks, and cell towers.

A BOM in telecom plays a critical role in network expansion and maintenance, including:

  • Ensuring that all required components or materials are ordered in the right quantities so projects can continue as planned.
  • Cutting costs by ordering the right components and quantities the first time, avoiding excess or wrong components that may have additional costs to return.
  • Allowing engineers or project managers to ensure high quality materials and components are ordered to make sure the end result is reliable and offers the necessary speeds.

Common Types of BOM

There are several types of BOMs that a telco may need throughout operations, each catering to a specific need. Some common types of BOMs in telecom include:

  1. Manufacturing (MBOM): Sub-assemblies, components, and raw materials involved in the manufacturing process are detailed on an MBOM. This type of BOM may also include specific instructions and requests for the vendor to follow.
  2. Engineering (EBOM): This type of BOM breaks down a complex design or project into specific components and materials. The engineering team typically creates an EBOM, which allows them to plan for infrastructure maintenance or construction.
  3. Sales (SBOM): An SBOM is a simplified version of other types used for marketing or sales purposes. This type of BOM lists finished products and sub-assemblies but typically does not include specific materials or individual parts for clarity.
  4. Service (S-BOM): A service BOM focuses on components and parts necessary for repairs and maintenance. While similar to an EBOM, it’s focused on maintenance and repair rather than new projects. The added hyphen differentiates it from an SBOM.

Every type of BOM may have different purposes, but they all share the common goal of itemizing necessary goods for the given task.

The Core Functions of BOM

The above types of BOM demonstrate some of the ways these itemized lists are used throughout telecommunications. However, it’s worth diving deeper into the overarching functions of BOMs to demonstrate why they must always be accurate.

Inventory Management and Cost Estimation

The BOM management process largely focuses on managing costs and ensuring the right components are on hand. Technicians and managers are able to fine-tune costs when putting together a BOM, making sure only necessary parts are ordered.

This process also allows for cost estimation and reduction whenever possible. Only ordering what’s necessary avoids having unused components that aren’t sitting in storage. Additionally, many tasks will need the same or similar BOM, allowing for cost projections throughout a tower’s life cycle.

Planning and Project Management

A BOM in project management allows managers to ensure only necessary components and materials are ordered. Detailing exactly what’s needed for a repair or series of repairs helps manage costs while also ensuring technicians have everything they need to avoid delays.

Creating the BOM serves as an opportunity to fine-tune the planning process, allowing project managers or lead technicians to review the specific task and optimize the order.

Regulatory Compliance

Telecommunications is subject to compliance requirements that must be considered throughout operations, including during maintenance, repair, and construction. While the specifics will vary based on jurisdiction, the quality of components and materials is commonly subject to regulatory requirements.

The BOM process allows managers and technicians to ensure all parts meet or exceed stated requirements. The order process can also serve as documentation to prove compliance, combined with verifying the correct components were received.

How Digital Twins Enhance BOMs

A common issue for telecom technicians is reaching the project site only to discover errors in the BOM, which delay maintenance, repair, or construction. These delays can affect services, revenue, and operation costs.

Now, advanced digital twins have helped improve the value and accuracy of BOMs to avoid costly delays. Digital twins are always updated with the latest information regarding their current state. As a result, they can give teams the specific prerequisites for maintenance or repair tasks.

This capability allows technicians to arrive with all the right parts and materials for the task at hand, reducing or eliminating site revisits caused by missing or incorrect tower data.