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    How Integrated Libraries Help You Manage Your PCB Supply Chain

    Altium Designer
    |  December 13, 2018

    PCB manufacturing and assembly

    If only sourcing PCB components worked like e-commerce. Recommendation engines are great in that they can help you decide what to buy when your preferred item is not available. Most PCB design packages don’t have this type of functionality, which would save a massive amount of time when planning a manufacturing run.

    Whether you’re sourcing electronic components or some other parts for your next product, you’ll need access to updates supply chain information. The information is already out there, it just needs to be aggregated in one place. This is where design software with integrated component libraries can provide a huge productivity boost.

    PCB Supply Chain Visibility

    Look through any electronics distributor website, and you’ll see that there are a massive number of components on the market. Some electronics only care about getting your cash and moving on: they quote you for an order, take your payment information, and ship the product to you or your assembler. This is the most pedestrian part of supply chain visibility, and planning for PCB production goes far beyond just ordering parts from distributors.

    Preparing your next design for manufacturing requires more information than a single distributor could possibly provide. Scheduling production requires working within constraints that exist in the supply chain. Information on lead times for parts helps you properly schedule your component orders and manufacturing runs. No one wants to be left waiting for a production run to finish due to a delayed component shipment.

    Supply chain visibility also requires information on component obsolescence. You need to know when component manufacturers plan to stop producing certain components and replace them with newer variants. Having this information close at hand helps you plan for current and future manufacturing runs and ensures that you have access to the components you need for your board to work properly.

    Once you have lead time and obsolescence information readily available, you might find that you need to source replacement parts in order to complete your manufacturing run on time. Lead times and available quantities from distributors might require using different components with comparable capabilities just to complete your manufacturing run. This means you’ll need to compare replacement components, lead times, and obsolescence information simultaneously.

    An IC being placed on a green PCB with tweezers

    An IC being placed on a green PCB with tweezers

    Taking all of this information and compiling it in a single location with an intuitive interface is no easy task. Separate tools and online services can help you address each of these issues individually, but this information needs to be synthesized in one location.

    Some online services only give you access to a portion of the information you need. Those services that compile everything in one place will charge an arm and a leg for access to this critical information, and the information still won’t be integrated into your PCB design and deliverable generation tools. Keeping everything organized and current can consume a significant amount of time, energy, and sanity. As they say on late night infomercials, “there’s gotta be a better way!”

    Integrating Supply Chain Management and PCB Design

    Obviously, managing component sourcing is integral when planning for PCB manufacturing, but what does it have to do with design? These two activities have always been separated into different silos by PCB design software companies and component distributors, to the detriment of anyone planning a manufacturing run. So why should they be integrated, and what would that even look like?

    Your component libraries contain all the information your design software needs to accurately place a component in a layout and simulate its behavior in a circuit. Component libraries and library packages contain a massive amount of information that is impossible to memorize. A PCB design platform with search features help you identify the components you need for your design to function as intended.

    But once sourcing problems rear their collective ugly heads, you might find that your preferred components are simply not available anymore, or your preferred components are not available on your timeline. Worse yet, your components are available, but not in the quantity you need, creating a situation that was cause anyone to start pulling their hair.

    This obsolescence, lead time, and suitable replacement information needs to integrate directly into your bill of materials. Your bill of materials generation tools should give you the power to include all this critical information into your manufacturer deliverables. You won’t have to rely on your manufacturer sourcing your components, and you’ll have full control over every aspect of your device.

    Once you’ve determined suitable replacement components, you’ll need to ensure that they will fit into your existing layout and maintain your intended functionality. This means that supply chain and component information should integrate directly with your design tools, as well as your bill of materials generation tool. A great component replacement locator ensures that won’t have to run and rerun simulations when verifying your device.

    Stack of finished PCBs in a factory

    Stack of finished PCBs in a factory

    PCB design software that integrates your component sourcing information directly into your libraries and your bill of materials takes the headaches out of  sourcing. Combine this with convenient search features, and you’ve got the tools you need to quickly source components alongside suitable replacements and deliver this information to your fabricator in a standardized format.

    The new paradigm in PCB design focuses on integrating design, management, analysis, and deliverable generation tools all in a single software program. Altium Designer 18.1 is the only  PCB design software program that integrates your sourcing information and design tools into a single interface. The ActiveBOM tool makes sourcing components for your PCB a breeze. You’ll have full supply chain visibility when preparing your bill of materials.

    If you want to see how Altium Designer can give you greater supply chain visibility, help you manage obsolescence, and help you prepare your bill of materials, you can download a free trial. To learn more about supply chain visibility and preparing for production with Altium Designer, talk to an Altium expert today.

    About Author

    About Author

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

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