Build Your Next Engineering BOM With Integrated Design Software

Created: October 24, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Finished circuit board ready for assembly

It’s easy to collaborate on a project with a small number of people. I’ve always found that two or three people can thoroughly hash out the details on a project in person and produce great results. But as a team grows in size, you’ll spend more time reading and writing documentation. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps formalize processes and products across an organization and ensures that everyone can stay on the same page.

Any new product that is intended for manufacturing needs its own bill of materials. Different products have different formats and requirements, but all bills of materials will include a full list of every part that appears in the product. Using the right bill of materials format can help improve collaboration across an organization and avoid production delays.

Manufacturing vs. Engineering BOMs

When folks talk about bills of materials, they are likely referring to a manufacturing bill of materials rather than an engineering bill of materials. The manufacturing bill of materials includes all the information required to fabricate and assemble your PCB. This includes a list of components with tolerances, orientation, part numbers, and specifications. Most bills of materials for various products include packaging and shipping materials as well.

The engineering bill of materials contains all the information that reflects the original design of the product without specific manufacturing, sub-assembly, or packaging requirements. This important document lists each component that appears on the board and details the use and purpose of each component, as well as its cost.

Manufacturing and engineering bills of materials are quite similar, but the information in each document do not always. The engineering bill of materials can contain many component specifications and tolerance requirements that may not be necessary for a manufacturing bill of materials. Your manufacturing bill of materials only needs this information if you plan on allowing your manufacturer or assembler to source your components.

Likewise, the manufacturing bill of materials contains things like material or mechanical tolerances that are not really relevant to electronics engineers except in very particular cases. Designers tend to make their overall choices about the look and feel of the product, component sourcing, and overall PCB layout based on information in the engineering bill of materials.

Component inventory in a warehouse

Component inventory in a warehouse

Using Engineering BOMs for Collaboration

In PCB design, many decisions are made during the design process that affects overall costs and requires collaboration across engineering and design teams. Layout and component changes are likely to be made before production based on component availability and obsolescence, and each iteration requires thorough documentation before moving to production. Drafting a manufacturing BOM with a finished product in mind will require some foresight. 

Working with an engineering bill of materials before moving to manufacturing helps streamline the design process. If your engineering bill of materials includes suitable replacement components for your device, the PCB designer can anticipate potential layout changes and plan accordingly. Any component that appears in a PCB has to meet electrical specifications, tolerances, and sourcing requirements.

Designers need all the technical information about the product and its functionality as early as possible. Compiling all the relevant information into the engineering bill of materials ensures that designers can make the best layout choices and choose the right design rules without searching through component datasheets. Things like engineering drawings, proper BOM management, parts data and supply chain management can all contribute to a completed finished product. 

Designers should be armed with information at the outset if they are to avoid sourcing problems, production delays, and time-consuming redesigns. The engineering bill of materials can be used to give designers a number of suitable component replacement options before they finalize the circuit board design and prepare for manufacturing.

Blue PCB with electronic components

Blue PCB with electronic components

Using Integrated Software for Design and Collaboration

Great design software that integrates component libraries with search capabilities and sourcing informations helps expedite component selection for both the engineering and manufacturing bills of materials. On the engineering side, engineers can quickly locate the best components for their application and suitable replacements. On the manufacturing side, including updated sourcing and replacement information helps prevent manufacturing delays and ensures your device will work as designed.

Great PCB design software doesn’t just unify your schematic, layout, and component data with your bills of material tools. Your software should be useful for collaboration across your organization. Bills of materials for new electronics play an important role in enabling collaboration between designers, engineers, and manufacturers.

An integrated design package quickly and accurately passes information between each of your tools, and all your design and documentation tools are accessible within a single interface. All your product and component information is present in one location, easing collaboration across your organization.

A PCB design software package like Altium Designer 18.1 includes all the tools you need to generate a bill of materials for your device and use it for collaboration across your organization. The ActiveBOM tool is unified with your design tools, allowing you to build the best layouts, generate your bill of materials, manage your components, collaborate easily. You can also export a bill of materials in many popular file formats.

To learn more about how Altium Designer can help you build industry-standard bills of materials, talk to an Altium expert today.

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