Believe it or not, everyone eventually finds themselves in a situation where they can’t find something they need. You make a list of things you need to get from the grocery store, only to find that your favorite brand is out of stock. Thankfully, grocery stores give you plenty of options right there on the shelves, but you can run into long production delays if this happens when you go to manufacture your next PCB.
Sourcing electronic components requires supply chain visibility. Whether you’re manually updating a local database or using a third party service, you’ll need access to the most up-to-date supply chain information. The best way to get the information you need immediately is to use design software that integrates your sourcing tools with your design features.
Database Programs for Bills of Materials and Sourcing
Database software programs like Excel or Access are extremely useful in many applications and provides huge productivity boosts for a number of tasks. The data structure in these programs is largely customizable, but they come with a serious drawback. Without significant programming in VBA or with an external program, you won’t have any real-time access to electronic component supply chain information.
Plenty of businesses, including electronic component distributors and manufacturers, use these database tools to track inventory across their organization. However, using these programs to build an electronic component database software is like reinventing the wheel. Better options are available for sourcing components.
If you’re using a database program to build your bill of materials, you’ll have to manually move data between your electronic component database into your bill of materials database. Unless you are accessing fresh sourcing information and updating your database each time you compile manufacturer deliverable, you risk falling victim to obsolescence and specifying unsourceable components. You won’t even realize there is a problem until you send your information off to your manufacturer.
Individual component suppliers place their inventory database online, allowing you to gain some visibility to the supply chain and helping you avoid obsolescence. Other options are available in the form of third-party web services that can be accessed for a fee. Aggregator services grab data from multiple distributor websites and provide this data to you as a service.
Component distributors won’t charge you anything for this service in the hopes that their supply chain tools will convince you to buy from them. In contrast, third-party aggregators usually charge a fee to access their platforms. Both of these types of services come with the same drawback: you have to manually move information between your design software, bill of materials software, and any local databases. This waste of time that could be used to improve designs, generate more deliverables and choose replacement components.
Testing components on a power supply is necessary for shortage protection
Clearly, third party aggregators are preferable to browsing component distributor websites. These services help save you time since they gather data from multiple distributors for you. Unfortunately, not all of these services gather information in real time. Some aggregators gather data periodically, and you would never know if someone suddenly ordered all the parts you wanted for your PCB.
Because most aggregators only work with a limited number of distributors, you’ll find that your options are limited when you need to choose a replacement component for your board. You’ll have to locate your candidate component in your component libraries, go back to the aggregator to ensure they can source it, and then perform your redesign. Your aggregator may not have information on your replacement component, forcing you to contact other distributors manually. This simple set of tasks takes a huge amount of time.
Not all aggregators provide information on component obsolescence. Component manufacturers periodically stop producing certain models and replace them with newer variants. Information on the component lifecycle can help you determine whether to risk including unsourceable components in your bill of materials, or whether you should choose replacement components immediately. This helps you plan for current and future manufacturing runs.
Instead of settling between two bad options, what if your PCB design software could integrate all of this component sourcing information directly into your design interface and provide it to your bill of materials tools? Synthesizing this information in one location helps you avoid production delays and makes redesigns quick and easy.
Don’t lose track of your component information in the production schedule
Integrating Supply Chain Visibility and PCB Design
Supply chain management and PCB design are two areas that were seldom viewed from the same perspective. But when it comes to sourcing components for your next PCB, your design software can help improve your productivity by placing your supply chain information alongside your design tools and deliverable generation features.
Instead of taking a risk and allowing your manufacturer to source your components or browsing websites all day, you can quickly source your components, view lifecycle information, and choose suitable replacement components when you use integrated PCB design software. You won’t have to manually compile and update local electronic component database software, and you won’t have to pay extra for an aggregator that may not give you accurate information.
When these tools are integrated into a single program, it becomes easy to quickly place your replacement components directly into your layer. You can then immediately compile bills of materials, and all within a single program.
The best PCB design software integrates design, management, simulation, and deliverable generation tools in a single software program with an intuitive interface. Altium Designer 18.1 is the only PCB design platform that integrates these tools and many more into a single program. The ActiveBOM tool makes creating bills of materials and sourcing components for your PCB easier than ever. You’ll never use database software for these critical tasks again.
If you need greater supply chain visibility, as well as the ability to easily select and replace components in a single software program, Altium Designer contains all the information you need to help you design your board, manage obsolescence, and prepare your bill of materials. Now you can download a free trial and find out if Altium Designer is right for you. Talk to an Altium expert today to learn more about preparing for production and supply chain visibility with Altium Designer.
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