How PCB BOM Management Tools fit into a Paperless Manufacturing BOM Software

Altium Designer
|  Created: October 16, 2017  |  Updated: September 25, 2020

Tablet on top of open book

My wife is an avid reader, and we have a large selection of her favorite books filling the bookshelves in our family room. Lately though, she has been purchasing more and more E-books to read on her tablet. E-books are easier for her to store and transport, and she now prefers that format over the traditional printed book. 

This transition from paper to electronic format has been going on for a while now, and E-books are just a small portion of this change. Printed newspapers and magazines have diminished in favor of online delivery, and similar changes are being made in the business world. More and more companies are reaping the benefits of electronic documentation and this includes the design and manufacturing of printed circuit boards. 

The traditional paper documentation processes on the PCB manufacturing floor are being replaced by paperless systems. In order to function though, a paperless system has to be driven by electronic documentation. PCB BOM management tools can provide online bill of materials and other electronic documentation to drive the paperless manufacturing processes. Once in place, your company will see new benefits and improvements from using a paperless system.

What is paperless manufacturing?

The manufacturing process of a PCB requires a lot of documentation. Parts lists, build instructions, and safety procedures all need to be documented for use on the manufacturing floor. A paperless manufacturing process removes the paper documentation that is traditionally used and replaces it with electronically distributed documentation. 

The distribution of electronic documentation to devices on the manufacturing floor can be classified in three categories: 

1.    Mobile devices for individual contributors.

2.    Desktop workstations for data management.

3.    Large wall-mounted displays for group announcements and information. 

Adding electronic enhancements to a traditional paper documentation system will provide some benefit, but it isn’t the total solution. To be truly paperless, all aspects of the manufacturing documentation process need to be designed from the ground up to work together as one system. The completed system will need to connect with and support each device as well as interface with other company systems. 

Document management
Paperless processes help with document management

How PCB BOM management tools can help a paperless manufacturing process

As we’ve discussed, a paperless manufacturing process requires electronic documentation instead of paper based forms and spreadsheets. The traditionally created PCB bill of materials is a printed copy of a spreadsheet, which is unacceptable in a paperless system. This bill of materials may even have to be manually re-entered depending on spreadsheet format compatibility. The ideal solution for a paperless manufacturing BOM is for the data to be available online. 

PCB BOM management tools provide online data that can readily be used in the paperless manufacturing system. These tools provide the ability to search for parts, make part requests, track inventory, and ultimately generate a bill of materials. All of this is done in real-time from within the PCB BOM management system. With design, purchasing, and manufacturing all interacting together in the same system, interdepartmental communication is improved. This reduces the chance for human data error, and speeds up the BOM generation process. 

On the manufacturing floor, the electronic bill of materials data from the BOM management tools can go directly into the paperless manufacturing system. Instead of having to scan BOM data or recreate it from paper documentation, it is instantly available to the paperless manufacturing process.

Paper documentation being turned into data
Using a paperless system can benefit your company

The benefits of a paperless manufacturing BOM to your company 

A paperless manufacturing process can benefit your company in several areas: 

Paper costs money: The manufacturing process can create thousands and thousands of documents. The cost of paper for each of these documents over time can be substantial.

Distributing paper costs time: Paper has to be manually distributed, and that takes time. Each delay due to late or lost documents can contribute to schedule slip.

Managing document files costs labor: All of those thousands and thousands of documents that you will collect over time will need to be cataloged and stored. This is a very labor intensive activity that is magnified when documents need to be updated for engineering change orders or scanned for electronic storage.

Paper documentation errors costs profit: Ultimately all of these different costs will end up costing your company profit. 

A paperless manufacturing process will reduce or eliminate these costs. Paper will not have to be purchased, time will not be spent in distributing paper documents, and labor will not be needed for document management. In addition, a paperless manufacturing process will give your manufacturing personnel immediate real-time access to important data that is critical to their success. 

Just as the transition from paperbacks to E-books has helped at home, your manufacturing processes can also benefit by switching to electronic documentation. Not only will your company profit from eliminating paper documentation, but you will also help to reduce the overall dependence on wood and paper resources. The key is to adopt systems and processes such as PCB BOM management tools that will work with a paperless manufacturing process. 

Does the creation of electronic documentation with BOM management tools for a paperless manufacturing process sound like a helpful solution to you? Then Altium’s BOM tools might be the answer that you are looking for. If so, find out more information by talking to an expert at Altium.

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About Author

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

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