BOM Management – How To Escape From Old Excel Ideas?

Oleg Shilovitsky
Oleg Shilovitsky
25 May, 2022 | 4 min for reading
BOM Management – How To Escape From Old Excel Ideas?

Manufacturing is always changing and evolving. To keep up with the latest trends and changes, companies need to be able to adapt quickly. One of the ways that many companies are doing this is by implementing better BOM management practices. A modern digital BOM is a foundation for efficient product development processes. If you’re still using old Excel ideas for your BOM, it’s time to upgrade. 

Change is hard. And even a company understands how bad and unreliable Excel can be, to make a switch requires an effort. The real difficulties lie not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. Modern cloud technologies create a huge acceleration to think about new PLM development and escaping old Excel ideas. However, as much as companies moved forward, old Excel ideas kept the systems at the same place, and ideas deteriorated towards only using Excels and old document servers instead of modern cloud-native PLM systems.

Working with OpenBOM customers, I can see how companies are upgrading their minds and methods of work to stop using old Excels to manage data and switch into a new data-driven world. Here are a few tips I captured that can help you to make the switch.

Kill “Excel For A Project” Idea

One of the most typical ideas is to keep an “Excel for each project”. The idea comes from the time when companies were looking for encapsulation of the data about a specific product (or project) as a single Excel file with everything you need. 

The practice is super dangerous because it acts in a way that prevents you from cross-linking data between multiple modules and products. Isolation plays a bad game by not allowing a company to optimize their component-based, modular reuse and many other processes that are increasing efficiency. 

The right question you need to answer is how to focus on data and not on files that hold this data. To do so, companies should think about databases – eg. Items and BOM and how they are incorporated into product data. 


Excel (and any other spreadsheet) is bad for a structural relationship. This fundamental thing is often forgotten in the willingness of engineers to create multiple “data constructions” to model relationships between assemblies-sub-assemblies and components. Even if you can, it will have tons of limitations, will be poorly supported, and stuck in many “exceptional situations” So, therefore “structure in Excel” is a big No Go. 

Instead of Excel data hierarchies, moving to OpenBOM is a breeze, says our customers. OpenBOM supports an infinite number of sub-assemblies and allows you to change them based on some hierarchical rules. When you see something like hierarchy in Excel, be ready to jump off that idea asap.


A very typical sin in BOM management using Excel is excessive usage of various ‘predefined files (so-called templates). While a template is a good idea, to have data spread using file-based templates is a bad idea. You will be losing control, but the most important thing, using old Excel template files is the “best way” to introduce old data in new BOMs. Instead, use the OpenBOM catalog system that creates a single source of truth and eliminates the need to repeat the data again and again. 

Excel Spaghetti Links 

Spreadsheets can be very complex and allow you to build variety of rules. At first you can think about it as a powerful and time saving mechanism, within time they turn into clumsy, inefficient, and prone to mistakes data management practice. Usage a powerful Excel methods to link various pieces of Excel together and connecting multiple Excel spreadsheet is dangerous practices. It create set of file dependenceis that hard to validate and to hard to check. 

Instead of relying on a set of files, organizations need to think about connected data sets and building semantic data layers helping to create a logical model of the product data and related information to build product information pieces together. 


When you decide to move from Excel to a modern BOM management software, it is super important to set up a new mindset and avoid the “old” Excel thinking. The last one will hold you back and won’t change your mind and help you to create a new data management system. What you need is to create a new digital BOM paradigm, instead of old Excel ware with complex tables, convoluted logic, tons of duplicated data, and the absence of hierarchical relationships. 

REGISTER FOR FREE and check out how OpenBOM can help you today. 

Best, Oleg 

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