How to Create a Bill of Materials That Meets Your Needs

February 6, 2018 Altium Designer

Cartoon picture of a stack of 100 dollar bills

Sometimes when pressed to answer a question that I’m not prepared for like, “what do you want for your birthday”, I’ll respond flippantly; “small stacks of hundreds please!” I don’t even remember where I got this quote from, but I tend to use it a lot. It often kills the conversation and in the case of my wife, it earns me an immediate “annoyed wife glare” in response. Wouldn’t it be nice though if just for once someone actually honored my request?

Well, it’ll probably never happen but there are many other things in life that we wish for that are much more likely. Take a PCB design for example. There are tools and functionality available to us today that we could only dream of 20 years ago. Today there are tools and functionality that we are hoping for that are closer to actually happening than you may realize. One of those wishes that I have is for a PCB bill of materials () tool that better fits my needs.

I’m not an extravagant engineer, I don’t need much to work well. I don’t like to have to look around through hundreds of suppliers and manufacturers, and would rather have a clean communication system between them all.  Perhaps you may be experiencing some of the same pain points that I am and we can commiserate together. But then you need to understand: these needs can be met today.

The Functionality of My Design Tools Creates My Bill of Materials

When working with PCB data, here are some of the needs that I have that would be really helpful to have software solutions for:

  1. Not being constrained by inaccurate or inaccessible data: When I’m trying to get all of my data set up for a bill of materials, it is exasperating to bump into that issue where I don’t have accurate and detailed information.
  2. To know the availability and details of new in the design: When I’ve specified a new part in the design based on my limited research, it is really frustrating to find out after-the-fact that the part that I was expecting to use is not actually available.
  3. Access to that doesn’t take a magic wand to figure out: When I’m trying to organize my bill of materials, I want to be able to find components that I want to use in my design without having to search through multiple systems using multiple browsers. There’s got to be a better way.

Close up picture of PCB with components on it 

In a perfect world, my management tool would interact with my layout tool

The Moving of a Perfect World

In a perfect world, these needs would be taken care of through my design software. I would be able to conduct part vendor research while working on my without having to go through a lot of different search engines. This research would allow me to have immediate access to the part data that I need, and it would also easily tie into the CAD libraries that I am using.

Above all this system would be intuitive and productive to use. It would be part of my entire design system and configured to work together with the other design tools. I would be able to have access to my data as well as work with that data while working in the other design tools. This would be a vast improvement over the only consisting of a report that is generated when the design is complete as other design systems have it now.

Picture of Active  menu

Managing your PCB as another design tool will give you more power and flexibility

Create Bill of Materials Management Software that Meets Your Needs

Keep in mind, the ability to manage your bill of materials with your design software is already here. With management software you will be able to work with the bill of materials information as part of the overall design. This manager is another tool alongside your schematic capture and PCB layout tools in the same unified design environment.

When you select a part in the management tool and make a change, the same in the schematic and the layout will select and change as well. Not only is the manager going to be useful to you for regular design functions, but it will be a great tool to use during design reviews as well. You can also conduct your part research through this manager, and get up-to-date part details and availability information.

Since the manager is part of the same unified design environment as the rest of your design tools, it fits seamlessly into the design flow along with the rest of your design tools. In addition, being part of the same design environment means that you will have a direct tie to the BOM as well. This will allow you to create a bill of materials that meets your needs, as well as the needs of everyone else in your design flow.

PCB design software, like Altium Designer, has the advanced bill of materials management software that I have been talking about here. It will give you better access and control over the bill of materials in your design like you’ve never had before.

Find out more information by talking to an expert at Altium.

About the Author

Altium Designer

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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