BOM Management and PCB Design Data Synchronization

August 20, 2019 Zachariah Peterson

Cloud storage and BOM management
Cloud-based tools for data management can keep your design and production data synchronized

If you lead a design team, then your job is already difficult enough. Your design teams need to adhere to a development schedule and manage requirements changes as they create a new product. Collaboration is key in any environment with multiple players, and your design tools play an important role in creating a productive environment.

Ensuring that all members of a design team have access to a consistent set of design data is just as important as collaboration and basic management. Any team of designers should have access to a consistent set of design and sourcing data for all components that appear in a PCB. This ensures everyone on a design team will be working with the same component models during the design phase and consistent sourcing information when planning for manufacturing.

 

Avoiding BOM Management? You’re Risking a Redesign...

As part of preparing for PCB manufacturing and assembly, there are plenty of documents you’ll need to prepare. From Gerber files to drill instructions and assembly drawings, you might spend as much time typing up reports and exporting data files as you spend creating your layout. Perhaps most important is your bill of materials, which contains a complete list of components that will make an appearance in your PCB, as well as sourcing information for each component. The bill of materials for any PCB should also list reference designators in your design documents so that components can be easily located in your schematic and layout.

When it comes time to plan for manufacturing, you need to make sure your sourcing data is up-to-date and that any obsolete components have been swapped for suitable replacements. This requires keeping your design data updated at all times throughout the design process. The term “PCB librarian” used to be a common job title (it still is in some companies) before the advent of data management solutions that automate component and library updates. Nowadays, component distributors will provide lead time information through their websites, and data management services can grab this information for you as you need it.

The major problems with third party services and application of manual data updates are the timeliness and ease with which new data can be accessed and applied to your PCB libraries. Anyone who has suddenly found lead times for their components change from days to months knows that the electronics sourcing landscape can change quickly. If you don’t take time to keep your component data and sourcing information updated, you risk a redesign once you start preparing for production. The risk of incurring a redesign increases as you move through the development process, as do the costs that come with any redesign.

ICs and signals on a PCB
Each of these components and replacements should be documented in your bill of materials

 

Forget About Manual Management

Keeping design data synchronized doesn’t have to be a manual task. Unfortunately, when you work with a third party management solution, you can pull data updates automatically, but you’ll still have to pass these updates directly to your design libraries. Keeping design libraries updated is extremely important when creating variants of existing designs, reusing portions of old designs, and when sharing design data across your organization. Given supply chain volatility and the rate at which technology advances, your design libraries need to remain updated throughout the design process in order to prevent time-consuming redesigns.

In addition to your design documents and design libraries, data updates also need to pass directly to your bill of materials and other documentation. Not all third party management services will provide updated sourcing information, requiring you to use a different service or forcing you to manually search component distributor websites for these data updates. No matter which of these services you use, you’ll still be forced into manual BOM management.

If you use a data management solution that integrates with your design features and deliverable generation tools, you can address two data management pain points with a single platform. This allows component data and sourcing updates to pass directly into your design libraries and design documents. You can then quickly update your designs with the most up-to-date information and quickly address any potential redesigns. You can also examine the sourcing landscape throughout the design process, allowing early identification of obsolete components and suitable replacements.

This heavily automates many tasks that used to be part of manual BOM management. When your design tools also include an automatic BOM generation tool, your bills of materials will grab this updated sourcing information directly from your design libraries. This helps you control costs and properly schedule production runs around component lead times.

Networking among multiple data sources
Integration among design and management expedites BOM management

When your data management platform is integrated alongside your documentation and PCB design features, BOM management and compiling documentation become easy as your workflow becomes streamlined. The powerful data management and collaboration features in Altium Concord Pro™ are integrated with the full suite of PCB design tools in Altium Designer®. These two powerful platforms give you a complete PCB design and management solution in a single platform.

Contact us or download a free trial of Altium Designer® and Altium Concord Pro™. You’ll have access to the industry’s best MCAD/ECAD co-design, PCB layout, documentation, and data management features in a single program. Talk to an Altium expert today to learn more.

About the Author

Zachariah Peterson


Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University. He conducted his Physics M.S. research on chemisorptive gas sensors and his Applied Physics Ph.D. research on random laser theory and stability.

His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental systems, and financial analytics. His work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written hundreds of technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies.

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