BOM’s. Bill o’ Materials. That list of parts that moves across the disco floor like only you wish you could. DID I really just compare a BOM to a dance genre we long to forget? Yes, yes I did, and I’m feeling the nostalgic and stomach-churning affects of doing so.

Nevertheless, a BOM provides that dose of stretchy-pants flexibility that makes a drawing filled with isometric views and obscure callouts more understandable, but just setting one up can have you flailing all over the place like when you try to show your co-workers that new move you learned over the weekend. Let’s fine-tune your BOM moves and get that drawing grooving like you mean it.

BOM madness: Know the Basics
Before we start, I must say, please check out The SW Geek, Alex Ruiz’s, coverage on BOM’s this week. You will walk away a smarter, more adept person with the ability to argue all the benefits of a SolidWorks BOM. This post will hit on some key points he’ll discuss and lean in on the areas that are most commonly neglected when creating a SolidWorks BOM.

Of course, this assumes you are using a SolidWorks BOM as opposed to an Excel-based BOM. I prefer the SolidWorks BOM because I can link views to the BOM and see what items have been called out. I also have a few more options for how I can work with configurations. The one drawback is formatting. It doesn’t work as good as an Excel-based bill, but hey, it’s gettin’ better. Here we go.

1. Avoid Manual Editing
A SolidWorks BOM is automated… or should be, completely. There’s no reason to have to add something manually. You can go beyond the standard Quantity, Part Number and Description columns in your BOM by adding a Custom Property to your Component.

  • Open the part
  • Go to File, Properties
  • Hit the Custom Tab and enter Property Name, Type and Value. Hit OK
  • In your drawing. Right click on a column and select Insert, Column left/right or select right above the column you want to change
  • Choose Custom Property and scroll down to select your new property

2. Avoid Reference parts showing
It’s tempting to right-click on a row and select Delete or Hide for a part or sub-assembly that is for reference only. Don’t do that. There’s a better way.

  • Open your assembly
  • Right-click on the part and select Component Properties
  • On the bottom right, select Exclude from bill of materials

3. Avoid Configuration Name in the BOM
If you have one configuration showing, you don’t need the name to show in the BOM Quantity Column. It’s just silly. For the following options change to work, you’ll have to re-insert your BOM. Also, you’ll want to check this setting when creating new drawing templates. It will store it so you don’t have to keep changing it.

  • Go to Tools Options
  • Select the Document Properties Tab
  • Select the Tables section under Detailing
  • Check the Restrict top level only BOMs to one configuration option

4. Avoid a disorganized BOM
Most of the time we insert a BOM and go with the default setting, but one of those can lead to a disorganized BOM. There’s an option that will make your BOM match how you have items listed in your model’s FeatureManager. You have to have a table already created to access this options.

  • Right-click on the table and select Properties…
  • In the Item Numbers section select Follow assembly order

5. Avoid ridiculously large column widths
There’s nothin’ like a column width that makes the BOM span an entire paper width. There never should be anything like it actually. It very simple to shrink those widths and have your BOM looking much more lovely.

  • Double-click the right edge of a Column
  • It’s that easy

The Final Groove
Personally, I’d like to avoid BOM’s all together. “But that would mean having to use the model to know what all the parts are, Josh!” Yeah, it would. We still use paper and a lot of views to show everything a 3D model already details. Maybe one day and maybe 2009 has a way to put the BOM directly in an assembly. hhmmmm. 🙂

What do you do to make your drawings better utilize the BOM?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.