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Why You Need BOM Management Tools for PCB Design

Created: May 20, 2018
Updated: September 25, 2020

Electronics all wrapped together

Although, I do not drive as much as I once did being on the road is still one of my most favorite activities. Not many things can equal the thrill and freedom that comes from being behind the wheel. Yet, there can be a great deal of difference in the experience depending on the vehicle you are driving. Almost any vehicle will perform the basic function of getting you from point A to point B, but there comes a time when basic is not enough.

Moving from the basic to something more capable is a necessary step for growth. For PCB designers, it is no different. Basic PCB design software may be alright when you are beginning in the craft; however, you will soon find that you need more capability and functionality and start searching for a more reasonable design tool.

When transitioning up to a more capable board design package you should make sure that it includes more robust BOM functionality. Although, often overlooked, the difference between having a basic parts list generator and a BOM management tool for PCB design can be transformative by reducing design and development time for you, your team and your company.

BOMs for PCB Design

The BOM serves as a listing of the components that comprise your PCB design. Its primary function is to simplify the parts procurement process by providing a detailed listing including reference identifiers, descriptions, quantities, manufacturer, vendor and other information for each component. A basic BOM, such as the one below, meets these requirements.


Basic layout

Although this basic BOM functionality may be adequate in many cases, there are many cases when it is insufficient. For example, most basic BOMs are generated automatically and cannot be edited within the PCB design software, do not allow for multi-user access and do not provide any availability information. By stepping up from a basic BOM to a BOM management tool for PCB design you can gain these capabilities and more.

BOM Management Tools for PCB Design

BOM management tools have been developed based upon an understanding of the importance of component accuracy and information to all phases of PCB design. Not only are component symbols the central elements of schematic design, but component footprints define the PCB layout, as well.

Thus, components provide a natural link between the two principle tasks that are a part of most PCB design processes. Although all BOM management tools are not created equal, there are some distinct advantages that make them far superior to basic BOMs.

Advantages of BOM Management Tools for PCB Design

  • Provide an inventory of parts for all designs

  • Provide up to date parts information

  • Accessible to multiple users

  • Usually, include component cost information

  • Real-time updating

  • Generate customizable BOM reports

The availability, access, and depth of data and information provided by BOM management tools can significantly reduce the time required for board design, especially when your project includes multiple designers or access is needed across projects.

 advanced component details

Component availability data before the PCB build

Altium Designer takes BOM management to a higher level. Altium’s PCB design software includes a real-time BOM management tool that not only provides access to multiple designers and across projects but also is an integral part of their unified design environment. Unified design allows you to work with the schematic, PCB layout and BOM simultaneously.

Additionally, Altium’s Active BOM gives you access to current component availability and cost data, as shown in the figure above, by manufacturer or supplier. This information allows you to more easily manage components and project costs. By having this BOM management tool at your disposal will allow you to create designs faster, manage costs and improve the efficiency of PCB design and development for you, your team and your company.

For more information on BOM management tools for PCB design, talk to an expert at Altium today.

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