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    BOM Management Tools and Real Time Part Access: How It Will Help Your PCB Design for Manufacturability

    Altium Designer
    |  September 12, 2017

    Picture of assembled PCB

    Have you ever been so ready to take off on a new project that you can’t wait to jump into it?  Of course you have. As engineers that’s part of what makes us tick. We’ve got so many ideas running around in our head that we would rather forego sleep or food in order to create a design. Then it happens, some kind of delay forces us to lock up the brakes on our creative process. There are many scenarios that can do this, but one of the worst is when we get stopped by a fouled up part selection process. 

    A delay due to a poorly managed manual part selection process can completely break the creative flow that you initially started out with. The possibility of forgetting an important aspect in the creation of the design while you wait for the delay to be resolved is a real concern. Then, once the problem is resolved, there will be a lot of wasted time as you have to go back and reacquaint yourself with all of what you were thinking and doing before the delay. On the other hand, if you had immediate access to your part inventories instead of going through manual processes to find the parts you need, this is one obstacle that will no longer stand in your way.

    Woman overwhelmed by too much documentation
    A fouled up manual part selection process can kill design creativity

    The frustrations of a manual part selection process

    Traditionally, the availability of parts for engineers to select from is manually managed by using a process of spreadsheets and other paper documentation. Here are some of the ways that this process can fall apart if it isn’t managed efficiently: 

    1. The design engineers may not know what parts are available in stock or which ones need to be re-ordered: An un-stocked part can at best slow down the production of the board while waiting for it to be re-ordered. At worst an un-stocked part can force a redesign of the board or even kill it completely if the un-stocked part is no longer available.

    2. A manually controlled part selection process is prone to human error: Errors are par for the course when you are Manually compiling part information from different sources into a master inventory. If there are part detail errors in the list of stocked parts, engineers may unknowingly specify an incorrect part. Imagine a part that mistakenly has a slightly different value than what it should have. The part will look and fit correctly on the board, but the board itself may have intermittent errors in its operation or perhaps not work at all.

    3. Design cycle delays: Engineering may have to wait for an unacceptable amount of time for new parts to be researched and qualified. This causes delays to the design cycle.

    4. Temporary parts used by engineering may cause problems later on in the design cycle:  Engineering typically won’t wait for a new part to be qualified, so they will often use a “dummy” part instead as a placeholder on the schematic. This dummy part will then be used until the actual part data is available for this new part request. This can result in a lot of wasted time as eventually the schematic and even the board end up getting re-worked in order to replace the dummy parts with the real ones. 

    If you’re new to PCB design then you might not have run into these difficulties, but some of these issues might have struck a chord in those of you with more experience. Now, let’s talk about solutions.

    Engineers working together
    Management tools can help you focus on the creative process

    BOM management tools to the rescue

    The source of the frustrations that design engineers experience with a manual part selection process can usually be narrowed down to two areas: the overhead of managing all of the documentation and human error. To combat this, BOM management tools have been created specifically to help to help with the heavy lifting of the part selection process. 

    Engineers will no longer have to be concerned if their part inventory lists are correct and up-to-date, nor will they have to worry if the details of the part listings are actually correct. BOM management tools will give the engineers real-time access to the part inventories without the worry that human error has caused a discrepancy on the master list. 

    With BOM management tools connecting different functions within the design process (engineering, quality, layout, purchasing and manufacturing), engineers will find that new part qualification will have less of an impact on their design cycle time. Since all concerned are plugged into the same system, new part requests can be processed much faster. Additionally, access to new part information through the BOM management tools will give engineers accurate part data immediately. This will eliminate the difficulties associated with working with dummy parts that may not be correct. 

    Could BOM management tools help reduce your frustrations with your manual part selection process? For easy to use BOM software, check out Altium’s BOM management tools. In addition to streamlining and taking the worry out of your part selection process, there are many other benefits to it that you can explore. Talk to an expert at Altium to find out more.

    About Author

    About Author

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

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