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Editor’s Pick: Control Data from Prototype to Production

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:


Data may be our prized asset, but it’s often treated casually in the haste to get things done. Take when it comes time to build the actionable BOM (bills of materials) for purchasing, production, supply chain, and document control. A lot of engineers arrive at that day with a spreadsheet that’s really just a columnar pile of parts, sketchy vendor details, and links to data sheets, component information, and maybe pricing. Reaching back and straightening this out slows down the process and enhances the chances for communications failures, which clears the path toward scrap, rework, general confusion, or all of the preceding, none of which are cheap.

Arena Solutions, the SasS (Software as a Service) developer of cloud-based BOM and change management software, recently came out with an app to address this situation. Called PartsList, the idea here is to make it easy to turn a messy list of parts into a clean, fully documented actionable BOM that you can share with doc control, purchasing, or potential vendors. So, what does it do?

PartsList stores your collection of data sheets, sourcing info, and part information together in context. You can map columns from your BOM to its complementary PartsList columns then import your BOM into PartsList directly. What’s really neat is that it has an auto-fill feature that pulls together data sheets and component information for your BOM. That means, if you have the manufacturer and manufacturer part number, PartsList pulls in full descriptions, data sheets, cost information, and the links to the vendor pages. It also has a bookmark feature that captures critical component information during your online research, and PartsList can export BOMs to CSV or PDX (Product Data eXchange) format.

Speaking of PDX, Arena announced at the same time a free cloud app called PDXViewer. It gives you the ability to display and filter PDX build packages in an easy-to-read, navigable format. You can use PDXViewer to break down build packages into supplier-specific part bundles or remove unwanted or private data, all of which helps makes communications with suppliers and colleagues clearer and free of ambiguity. BTW, the link to PDXViewer from today’s write-up has an excellent synopsis of PDX and a nifty demo.

It seems to me that both small and mid-size manufacturers should be able to benefit from PartsList. OEMs can use it to document and share designs with contract manufacturers earlier in the process. And small outfits, even just you in the kid’s old bedroom, can afford to use it to tame data since there are no installation charges (it’s running on Arena’s servers) and it costs about $10 a month. When coupled with PDXViewer, startups and small tech companies have some pretty good tools to get up and running quickly. I should also add that a contact at Arena tells me a bunch of new features for PartsList in particular are in the pipeline and will soon be released.

You’ll find lots of links about Arena, PartsList, and PDXViewer from today’s Pick of the Week write-up. Hint: You can use PartsList free for personal use, so no excuse for not taking it for a ride to see for yourself.

Thanks, pal. — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

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About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.