Lower End of the BOM: Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing Baby!


With respect and proper attribution, I make reference to the great R&B hit “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing (Baby). Sung by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and written by the extraordinary Ashford and Simpson, it peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968.

How could this possibly connect to our work in strategic sourcing and new product manufacturing you ask?

Most covers of this classic (IMHO) don’t hold a candle to the original. Give a listen to the versions recorded by Aretha Franklin, Elton John & Marcella Detroit or even Donnie & Marie Osmond… No comparison.

In the same manner, materials and components that are the “technical equivalent” or “easily substituted” don’t always hold up well in the field (or in your all-in-one printer). We’ve experienced major problems when seemingly low risk or ancillary materials & parts are used in production builds.

New product design teams go to great lengths to define key components and sub systems. This extends to printed circuit board materials, continuous duty motors and pumps, active electronic components, specialty grades of metals, etc.

Second or third tier components and materials such as adhesives, gasket & seal substrates, cable jacket materials, molding compound, tapes and stainless steel tubing usually aren’t explicitly called out and defined in the BOM or specification.

In some cases this is fine. Most standard “B grade” fasteners are going to work in your device. Adhesives that don’t bond effectively to the mating surfaces in a plastic housing won’t.

When you built your first units, the law of “positive unintended consequences” worked in your favor. The multitude of materials and their properties, many knowable, many not, combined to yield functioning prototypes. In the transition to mass production, the law of “negative unintended consequences” can often trip up your supplier. They and we would prefer not to be forced into the role of materials interaction detective.

We ask our customers to clearly define all of the “low risk” materials in their BOM. We’ll probably find reasonable substitutes for many of them, and can move forward in an organized approach, changing one or two variables at a time. It may be necessary to stick with the original and avoid the “cover” versions.


Jack Daniels

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