Altium Vault Primer - At 10,000 Feet: Project and Data Management
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Does the prospect of managing all of your design data overwhelm you? That’s how I felt every day back in my engineering days. I had a great team of designers, all solid guys that got their projects done right when we needed them. But at any given moment, I was always waiting for the next data management crisis to occur. And when that crisis struck, I was never fully ready for it, always scrambling to glue things back together. The more it happened, the more often I asked myself - am I really the only one that’s tired of how we manage our data?
Every project I worked on, the story was always the same. I got a handful of my engineers at my desk all at once on the day of our deadline, needing me to sign off on their completed part at 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon. The rest is like clockwork. I’m the last guy out of the office, the sun had already set in the distance, and every time I pulled my car out of the parking lot, I wondered - isn’t there a better way to be doing this?
Here’s the real problem with our data management processes - we are limited to what we see at the end of the line. Everything before comes in scattered bits and pieces, if at all. Here are some of the problems that I faced every day as I managed the design data for my team:
- Limited insight. More often than not, I only got the full perspective of a design when a manilla folder was slapped on my desk, requiring immediate approval to get aboard manufactured the next day.
- Unknown details. When that review process began, I immediately went into crisis mode. Are all of the BoMs validated with approved components? Are we even passing RHOS, REACH, or the myriad of other certifications that we need to meet?
- Scattered organization. What if a change needs to be made to a design? I’d be managing numerous email threads in an already overfilled inbox. And then there’s the spreadsheets and folders to track revisions. A manager’s worst nightmare.
The more this cycle repeated itself, the more I realized we needed a different solution. Are we really still relying on emails and spreadsheets to track the most critical of our design process?
What we really need from our data management process is three primary components:
- More control over how our design data flows through our engineering workflows.
- More visibility over what changes are made to our design data and what state they are in at any given moment.
- And more organizational power to allow our teams to all remain on the same page and share information freely.
Ultimately we need a way to tie all of the disconnected elements of our data management processes into one unified system that captures and controls data from its conception to completion. How can we do this? With the Altium.
Altium has an incredible degree of flexibility, allowing design teams to implement a fully automated data management system. But since there’s no right or wrong way to manage design data, there can also be a rather steep learning curve to get your foundation started.
To solve this learning curve, Altium has teamed up with Petr Tosovsky to create the Altium Implementation Primer, a complete step-by-step guide for building your own data management system with Altium from an engineer’s perspective. Here’s a quick overview of what’s inside:
- Management. This section will teach you how to start getting your design data in order including symbol and footprint creation, file organization schemes, and workflow organization.
- Project Management. This section deals with the higher-level management of an entire project, including utilizing templates, storing design data in a centralized location, and guiding the project development process to a final release.
- Lifecycle Management. This section will deal with the day-to-day management of lifecycle states for your component libraries. Here you’ll discover how to create a system for adding specific states to a component to avoid the placement of any obsolete or end of life on your boards.
Keep in mind, the views and opinions expressed in this primer are solely those of the original author, not Altium. While the information presented in this primer is incredibly valuable, it’s also one individual’s method on how to set up an Altium, but it’s not the only way. When reading the Altium Implementation Primer, we encourage you to experiment, explore, and see what works for your own data management needs.
Ready to get started? Stay tuned next week where we’ll be introducing the first section of our Altium Implementation Primer.