Ease the Pain of Your PCB Supply Chain Management with Intuitive Design Tools

Created: May 3, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Chip on board with supply chain written on it

Have you ever been writing something and you can’t figure out how to spell a word so you rephrase the entire sentence in order to use a different word? As much as replacing a word can kill your creativity in writing, it is much worse when you have to replace a component while designing electronic circuits. It happens a lot though when you aren’t connected to your supply chain management. Problems like these can kill your creativity and cause time-sucking bottlenecks to your design cycle.

The good news is that there is some help out there now for design engineers that you may not have worked with or even heard of before. Newer PCB design systems often offer cloud-based connections to your component vendors directly through the design tools. This will allow you access to component information and data that can help you to make well-informed component choices up front while you design. No, this isn’t a bottle of snake oil that I’m trying to sell you. It’s real and you can put this technology to work for you. Let me tell you more.

The Pain of Not Having Control Over Your Supply Chain Management

Throwing work over-the-wall and then waiting for someone else to complete it has always been a major irritation for design engineers. Unfortunately, though it is part of the traditional work-flow for supply chain management in PCB design:

  • Research the part.
  • Submit the part to purchasing.
  • Wait for the part to become available to use in the CAD system.

It can be very frustrating to have to wait, but that’s only the start of your pain.

You’ve got a really good handle on the design for a new circuit using some standard parts that you’ve always used, but no one has told you yet that those parts are unavailable. Then when you do find out the bad news, you have to redesign the circuitry to accommodate a replacement part. Not only do you have to redesign that circuit, but you have to check to make sure that your changes don’t affect other areas of circuitry too. Those are the days that you wish that you had called in sick.

Screenshot of multiple schematic windows open in AD18 for supply chain management

You really don’t want to redesign circuitry to accommodate component replacement at this stage of the design

That Initial Pain Could Lead to Other Problems Down the Line

As frustrating as that initial pain is, the problems that can arise from it further down the line could be even worse. Having to wait for part information can be demoralizing. It’s hard to maintain the energy that you started the design with the longer you wait and eventually you will drift into other projects. The longer something sits on the shelf the longer it will take for you to pick it back up and, as we all know, wasted time translates to wasted money.

Without a direct connection to the information on the components that you want to use, you are completely at the mercy of others to keep you updated. You won’t always know which parts are available to use from the vendor or which ones aren’t. Without up-to-date information, there’s also no way to know current pricing or even which parts might already be in stock.

In spite of all of this, you may have gone ahead and used a part that you’ve always used anyway because, let’s face it, you’ve got to get this design done. Then you get the bad news that the parts you were expecting to use aren’t available and you have to start redesigning. The question is now whether or not this redesigned circuit works as it should with the rest of the circuitry. This could potentially cause you even further pain later on.

Screenshot of Active  in AD 18 for supply chain management

Choosing components for the schematic using Altium Designer’s Active BOM

Online BOM Utilities Resolving Your Choppy Processes

As I said in the beginning though, there is good news for this problem. PCB design systems now offer bill of materials management tools with online utilities that can help you with your supply chain management.

These tools will give you an immediate connection with your part vendors so that you will have full and up-to-date component information as you design. Not only will you have access to complete part specification and details for your component libraries, but pricing and availability information as well.

This will take you out of the wait game and back into the process of actively designing. With online BOM tools at your fingertips, you will be able to make solid educated choices about the components that you are going to use while you design. This will greatly reduce the amount of redesign that you will have to do later in order to replace unavailable parts.

PCB Design Tools Can Help with Your Supply Chain Management

These utilities are available to you now in PCB design software like Altium Designer, which has cloud connections in its BOM management tools. Altium Designer’s Active BOM will not only give you another portal into your design data allowing you work directly with your component data but will also give you the online connection to your part vendors like we’ve been talking about.

Furthermore, Active BOM is part of Altium Designer and not a bolt-on accessory. You will be able to start working directly with the component data in your design using Active BOM the moment you start using Altium Designer. Whether you are a designer with decades of experience, or just a few months in the industry, having software you can trust to effectively manage your supply chain information is a must for your sanity.

Would you like to find out more about how Altium's design software can help you to eliminate the pain of replacing unavailable components by giving you current and up-to-date part data while you design? Talk to an expert at Altium.

Start the journey to switch over to Altium Designer today.

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