Using a BOM Tool Enables You to Create Your Design with Confidence

Altium Designer
|  Created: February 23, 2018  |  Updated: September 25, 2020

 Picture of a confident dog

My dog is so old that he sleeps 20 hours a day and naps the other four. Therefore it was with great surprise the other day when he attacked another dog while we were out on a walk. This other smaller dog had simply come over to say “hi,” and my dog suddenly lunged at him. Fortunately, his bark really is bigger than his bite and the other dog wasn’t hurt in the least. I’ve got to admit though that I admire his confidence because at his age a kitten could take him out.

I really like that “I can handle anything that comes up against me” type of confidence. After designing printed circuit boards for as many years that I have, I have had a lot of times where I’ve approached a new design job with just that kind of confidence. Unfortunately, I’ve also approached some jobs wondering how I will be able to get through it. So often the hodgepodge of parts that gets thrown at me is such a complete mess that I don’t know where to start.

Have you ever felt that way starting a new design? I’ve got some tips here that will help you to approach that next design with a higher level of confidence. You need to start off being as organized as possible followed by using some good software that will help with this organization. You also need to take ownership of your design to make sure that the data is the way that you need it to be. If every dog has his day, then we designers should have our day too.

No Matter the BOM Tool: Organization is the Key to Your Success

There are many ways to approach designing a circuit board and have no idea what processes you are actually following. It’s a sure bet though that in some form or manner, you are going to be given a lot of information to start your design with.

Whether it’s a hand-drawn schematic that you have to recreate or it’s a fully synchronized schematic and layout database, you are going to have to make it work. Do yourself a favor then and set up some boundaries. Document some standards for design input, and don’t accept information that doesn’t meet those standards.

It is up to you to make sure that you understand what is being asked of you. Is the design ready to be worked on, or will there be changes coming down later? Do you have all the design data to proceed? You have to make sure that you have what you need in order to create a successful design. This is especially true when it comes to choosing the parts that will be used. Are your parts being selected from approved vendors? Do you have current library information to use in your design? You will help yourself a lot if you are prepared and organized from the start.

Picture of components on a circuit board
Being organized before you start your design is one of the best keys to success

Use PCB Design Software with BOM Management Tools

When you are starting your design work you will have a lot of part and library choices to make. One thing that can really help you here is to work with PCB design software that has BOM management tools built into it. These tools are much more than the simple BOM generators that you may be used to, they are full database management tools that allow you another point of access to your design.

These tools can connect you with your part suppliers through cloud connections allowing you to manage your parts instead of relying on someone else to do that chore for you. You will also have another method to manage your design data by working directly with the parts that are in use in the design. You can swap parts in and out, plus cross-probe parts from the BOM management tools into the schematic or the layout.

You will also have access to libraries from the BOM management tools and the ability to work remotely as well. Often the well-intentioned efforts to organize the design can get swept under the rug without the ability to actually manage your parts selection. BOM management tools will give you this ability that we’ve needed as designers now for a long time.

Picture of Active  menu
BOM management tools like this will give you better control over your design

A Passive Attitude Won’t Work, Own Your Design

Your design data is now organized, and you’ve got the software in place to manage that data into a good design. You’ve got your processes documented and you are ready to go. Then someone comes along and tells you to change something that will cause a lot of problems. The temptation is to acquiesce to these kinds of demands, but I believe that this is where you’ve got to hold the line on your design process.

PCB design changes will always happen, but it is up to us as designers to have more input into these occurrences in order to create a better design. If these changes are going to cause problems and not work with your design processes, you need to document and voice your concerns. It is time to put aside the passive approach to design and own it instead. With your processes, your organizational efforts, and your BOM management tools, you are the best person to control how your design is going to be worked on.

If managing your PCB bill of materials like this sounds helpful, then there’s good news for you. PCB design software from Altium has these tools built into their system. Altium Designer 18 is a total design solution built on a unified design platform giving you equal access to the schematic, the layout, and the bill of materials. Active BOM will give you this additional access point to your design with all of the functionality that I’ve mentioned here.

Find out more information by talking to an expert at Altium.

About Author

About Author

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

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