Walking a tightrope requires intricate balance. Simply visualized as a walker and a rope in space. Simple moves into complexity when the walker’s senses are skewed to balance. Careful placement of each foot pulls from neurological pathways communicating intricate information simultaneously. Should information fail to arrive when the foot is moving may push the walker off the rope.
Managing Bills of Material from early circuit concept through development is currently a retroactive process. Putting design intent together with available hardware turns elegant ideas into a complicated messes with lack of current libraries. Placeholder symbols are required early in the design to get graphical information ported into layout. Failure of PCB libraries to provide current part information leads designers chasing their tails to source parts. Multiple sourcing locations and constantly changing information lead enterprises to the brink of failure with partial BOMs late in the development cycle.
Proactively supplying dynamically updated part information to circuit designers at first concept would simplify BOM management. Providing synced libraries within EDA tools and across the enterprise would pull BOM management into the proactive arena. Early-look BOMs would contain complete information. Circuit designers would choose currently-available parts at first placement, avoiding obsolate parts. First-look BOMs would be synced with enterprise databases enabling procurement teams immediate use of the BOM information rather than having to build their own.
Retroactive Part Sourcing Complicates BOM Management
Historically, parts information for circuits at design concept has been unavailable. The circuit designer knows the microcontroller, the crystal frequency, the biasing component values needed to realize the design. Putting components values together with real-world hardware is the tricky part. Information about real-world hardware is frequently spread across several third-party websites and across databases with incomplete and/or incorrect information.
Keeping the project on track requires use of placeholder parts located in EDA libraries. Biasing values for the circuit design may be noted onto the schematic, and even part diameters may be inferred for commonly-used footprints. Placeholder parts, however, do not map to real-world vendor offerings. Real-world vendor offerings are actual hardware that the enterprise may purchase and solder onto PCBs.
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Disorganized Part Information at Ramp Up Causes Disruptions
First-look Bills of Material run with placeholder parts give procurement departments an idea of what they’ll need to order. But until real hardware is identified, no parts can be ordered. This puts the project at risk for purchasing while circuit designers complete schematics. Once hand-off to PCB layout occurs, the circuit designers are left to perform complicated searches on numerous websites to find parts.
Without a reliable database for all the world’s parts, the task of identifying components for use by the enterprise becomes daunting. Coordination between common databases yields inaccuracies that must be validated and questions that must find answers. When components are found that can be used, a check with the enterprise supply inventory is required to ensure duplications do not occur. Multiple meetings with procurement are necessary to confirm parts are available from approved vendors. If not, its back to the drawing board.
Proactive Part Sourcing Begins With Integrated Databases
Parts sourcing and BOM management are important facets to any manufacturing or supply chain management. Suppliers will be using strategic sourcing for purchasing and ensuring manufacturing continues at its designed pace. Spare parts may help product lifecycle maintenance or product development, and being able to trust your BOM document to help understand suppliers.
A proactive approach would provide access to consolidated parts’ databases during circuit design. Circuit design happens just before, or in parallel with, schematic capture. Using a dynamically-updated parts database during schematic capture while placing components would allow the designer to see if the part was available or obsolete, along with its cost. Additional information such as footprint and solder profile, along with other relevant parametric data, could refine the selection.
With real-world components instantiated into the schematic, the first-look Bill of Material would be complete. A complete Bill of Material allows procurement to source parts early. Early sourcing of components drives competitive pricing for the enterprise. Pulling together parts kits may be fit into the overall build schedule without disrupting normal process flow throughout the plant.
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Altium Vault Contains Vendor Parts and Sourcing Information
Altium Vault is such a database called ActiveBOM. And it is located within both Altium Designer and Circuit Studio. Altium Vault is one repository of all electrical components available for installation onto PCBs to make your final printed circuit assembly. During schematic capture you are able to locate all sourceable parts within the world’s market. The parts have associated datasheets with footprints and 3D models. In addition, there is availability and costing information, preventing selection of hard-to-source parts or parts that are going obsolete.
Rather than keeping intricate spreadsheets needing constant management and update, a comprehensive Bill of Material is available before going into layout. There is no need to schedule weeks of time to search vendor websites for particular parts needed to realize the design. Instead, decisions about parts selection is made during design when ideas are fresh. There is no need for endless feedback loops after procurement has found the items difficult to source or the cost exorbitant for use.
Move into secure selection of parts with solid information about sourcing and pricing. And release your Bill of Material early so production partners can source parts when pricing is competitive. If you’d like to know more, talk to an Altium expert.
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