Start Your Schematic Right with the Best Way to Organize Electronics Components and Management Software

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

Picture of a model airplane built from a kit

I loved building models when I was a kid. Whether it was airplanes, cars, ships, or tanks, it didn’t matter as long as I was gluing pieces together. You can imagine my disappointment then when none of my sons shared the same interest. In fact we just discovered a couple of old models tossed in a box that they had started and then given up on. The really sad thing is that the instructions for these kits are missing, and I have no idea now what belong to which models making them useless.

Throwing away old model kits because of questionable pieces is one thing, but it’s quite another to figure out how to work through questionable on your schematic. Yet problems like this seem to happen over and over again because engineers do not have the best electronics management for their designs. The good news though is that there are some helpful tools out there that can help you to organize your management. The even better news is that these tools are available to work alongside your PCB design software. Let me tell you more.

Connect Your PCB Design with Your Component Vendors

Unlike a model airplane, whose will remain unchanged in the box until you put it together, the in your schematic are always changing. Their prices and availability information will change on a regular basis, and their functional data may be updated as well. It is easy to get out of synch with any or all of this information and isn’t surprising when a schematic ends up with problems due to out of date component information.

The best way to keep this problem under control is to use bill of materials tools that have a connection to your preferred vendors. With this connection, you will always have the most current component information and data available to you. This way your budget won’t get destroyed by unexpected changes in pricing, and your manufacturers won’t be surprised by that are unexpectedly out of stock. Your designers will also appreciate having that direct connection to the vendor for the latest component data and specifications.

Organizing electronic components can be a difficult inventory to manage. Between manufacturers, suppliers, materials and suppliers, an updated electronic catalog might seem daunting without the right tools to help. Even when pursuing production with contract manufacturers, the electronics industry is not without its obsolescence. Maintain your components and component information effectively to avoid component obsolescence and obtain supply chain management.

Screenshot of AD18 Active  in best electronics  management

Having current component information and data at your fingertips is a real benefit

The Best Electronics Management Software Will Work with Your PCB Design Data

Another benefit you will realize with modern bill of materials tools is that the electronics management software can work directly with your PCB design data. Usually, design engineers have to assemble a list from their schematic, or the layout designers have to generate a bill of materials from their PCB. Although these systems are tried and true, they are reminiscent of the “tail wagging the dog” instead of the other way around.

You will have much more control over your components with management software that interacts with your design data. This system will give you a wealth of new functionality that you didn’t have before. To start with you can open up your electronics database in the tools, and use that list to select specific in the design. This in turn will highlight or select those same in the schematic or the layout. You can also query the tools for specific part information or specifications making design reviews easy. And let’s not forget that tools still have all the functionality to create a standard bill of materials report just as you have always done.

Screenshot of AD18 unified design environment in best electronics  management

Having your tools work together with your PCB design tools is another critical benefit

Bill of Materials Management Tools Embedded in Your Design Software is the Ultimate Solution

What really makes all of this work together in the best way possible is when the electronics bill of materials management tools are embedded within the PCB design software itself. You don’t have to worry about interfaces or translators or whether or not the different data structures will even support each other. Instead, you will have another tool that provides a portal into your electronics part database available as part of your overall PCB design system.

The bill of materials tool that we use for our electronics part management software is Active from Altium. As part of the overall Altium system and thanks to Altium’s signature unified design environment, Active has been designed to work seamlessly with all of the other tools within the Altium PCB tool set. This gives you all the functionality that we’ve been talking about so far; the cloud connection with your preferred vendors, the ability to query and select specific part and highlight them in the other tools, and of course the ability to generate a bill of materials report in any style or format that you need.

Does the ease of working with integrated electronics management software within your PCB design software sound like a helpful solution for you? If so then Altium ’s bill of materials software; Active , might be the answer that you are looking for. You can find out more information by talking to an expert at Altium.

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