As Bunnie pointed out on his blog, managing the Bill Of Materials (BOM) for a project can become quite complicated. Even a simple project, if it needs to be manufactured by someone else, would benefit from a BOM-specific tool
One such tool is Aligni, a web-based tool that can be used to construct the entire BOM, coordinate with manufacturers and manage inventory. Oh, and Aligni wants to let open source projects use the site for free.
I interviewed Jake Janovetz on what Aligni can do for open source hardware.
Can you give me some background on where Aligni came from and what it’s been used for?
Aligni was created out of a need to manage parts for a small electronics company. Everything on the market was either too big (SAP, Oracle, Agile, Arena PLM), dead (Parts & Vendors), or would not handle inventory (Agile, Arena, etc). We wanted a one-stop shop to handle things from design, part management, BOMs, cost info, inventory, assembly management, quoting, and purchasing. Interestingly, some products out there solved some of these. QuoteFX is a widely used platform for doing quoting via database. I think it runs in the $100’s per month per user. Which is absolutely ludicrous. It’s just a piece of what Aligni does and we do it much better!
What open projects have used Aligni successfully?
Unfortunately, none, really. Some small projects have started and left over the years. We haven’t really pushed hard on Open Aligni. The commercial version of Aligni has lots of successful companies using it.
What do you, or the Aligni team, think about open hardware in general? How do you think it compares to the proprietary approach? Strengths and weaknesses?
We love open hardware. As it has become better defined over the years, it is easier to talk about it. Early on, it was confusing what it really meant. Both open and proprietary are very valid. In particular, a corporate entity will often get a lot of value from using proprietary hardware. It’s simply a matter of motivation and accountability. But Open Hardware is profoundly useful and disruptive (that’s a good thing). We originally introduced Open Aligni because we felt Open Hardware lacked a venue and a proper presentation. The Open Hardware projects out there tend to cobble together some Google Docs or spreadsheets or other things in an inconsistent and hard-to-maintain manner. Aligni is a more structured, disciplined approach to presenting hardware designs and managing them.