How to Address a Messy Bill of Material

It happens to Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) companies all the time. A new customer you’ve chased for a year finally gives you the chance to bid on a job, but the documents they send you with the request for quote (RFQ) look like a flashback from the 1980’s: A bill of material (BOM) is in the form of a scanned pdf with coffee stains on it or worse; assembly drawings have blurry, shorthand footnotes that are hard to decipher. Here are four options on how you can handle these situations without losing the customer:

1) Ask Your Customer for the Spreadsheet

It never hurts to ask. In a recent meeting with an original design manufacturer (ODM) who was seeing CalcuQuote for the first time, the CTO asked the director of manufacturing if he prepares the BOM with the required field and structure. “No one told me this is what they need. We have all this data in our BOM, but we strip it out because we don’t want to burden the EMS companies with it. Turns out, their EMS partners whom they’ve worked with for years, never actually went back to them with a recommended RFQ structure. If they had simply asked for the BOM to have certain data in it, the engineers would have gladly provided it.

2) Use a PDF Converter

Sometimes, you’re not so lucky as to have a customer that can provide the bill of material in a spreadsheet. It may be due to a legacy product or it may be due to a bureaucratic mess. Either way, if the customer cannot provide the information in the correct format, then you have the option to use a PDF converter. There are many programs to choose from. PDF conversion can only be so effective. If the PDF was digitally generated, then you’re more likely to have an accurate output that only needs minor cleanup. If it was scanned or e-Faxed, then it is a different story.

3) Hire a Data Entry Clerk

In this case, rather than bogging down your engineering team with manual work, try engaging someone with basic data entry skills to recreate the BOM in a spreadsheet. Depending on what is allowed by your customer, you might look to temp agencies or websites like to provide someone who can quickly and affordably type up the BOM. Be aware that you should always double-check the work for quality.

4) Engage and Educate

The most important step you can take is to build a long-term relationship by using this opportunity to engage with your customer. Offer your insight and expertise. Help them clean up their design documents in a well-structured format, identify obsolete or incomplete part numbers, detail quality standards and so on. Chances are that your customer will appreciate the time you spend with them, and you may even be able to sell them those types of services and become a true supply chain partner.

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