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Facilitating real-time cost estimation and tracking for a board design, Altium Designer brings to the table a system that effectively and efficiently aides the designer in managing costs and availability of items used in that design. This system is known simply as ActiveBOM. ActiveBOM offers a live presentation of the design from the outset, providing early and ongoing cost estimation. It allows you to define target pricing at the individual item level. You can then track how actual costing fares against these estimates, and gives a timely flag if any cost blow-outs are on the near horizon. In addition, you can quickly assess item availability, complete with notification if there is a risk in the supply of a chosen part.
Added to the design project as a distinct BOM document (
*.BomDoc), ActiveBOM is delivered as two key structural elements:
The beauty of ActiveBOM is that ultimately it will help electronic designers to play a more strategic role, by allowing costing and availability of design items to become active, real-time element drivers of the design process.
A new BOM document is created for the active board design project by choosing File » New » BOM Document from an editor's main menus. The document, with default name BOM1.BomDoc, will open as the active document in the BOM Editor. Save the document, changing the name to something more meaningful (for example, named after the board design project itself).
For items used in a design, supply chain solutions are sourced in a number of ways:
Manual Part Choices may also be defined for a vault-based component, thus expanding and complementing those solutions already defined in, and gained from, its corresponding PCL Item.
The actual data for the supply chain solutions – Manufacturer (and part number), Supplier (and part number), Description, Pricing, and Availability – is sourced as follows:
This is Altium's managed, cloud-based part catalog database. The Global Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts – the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a Supplier database – an external database (Supplier web-based service). It is this link to the Supplier database that yields real-time pricing and availability data.
This catalog is used when a vault is not being used, or the Altium Content Vault is being used.
This is a managed local part catalog database, provided as a service through the Altium Vault installation. This service is dedicated to the management and tracking of manufacturer parts and their associated supplier parts. It is installed at the same time as an Altium Vault and works only with this type of Altium Vault.
The Local Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts – the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a Supplier database. This can be an external database (Supplier web-based service) or an internal company database (ODBC-based). It is this link to the Supplier database that yields real-time pricing and availability data.
Access to internal supply chain intelligence through ODBC is also configured as part of this list through the provision of a dedicated ODBC Supplier.
The BOM Catalog tab is essentially the 'nerve center' of the ActiveBOM concept. It is here that you can perform the following actions:
Working with the BOM Catalog tab is fairly intuitive, even more so when you break it down into three distinct areas, as illustrated in the image below.
Altium Designer supports Alternative Parts in the BOM. Building on the existing ability to define alternative parts for multi-source components (like discretes), using the Solutions feature you can select an alternative, functionally equivalent component. As well as functional equivalents, you also can split a set of multiple component into smaller groups, which is useful if you need to select an alternative for a sub-set of components.
Alternative parts can be included in the BOM as separate line items, by enabling the Include Alternative Items option.
Support for alternative parts feature can be broken down into the following three areas:
There is often a multitude of alternatives available for discrete and generic components. Resistors, capacitors, diodes, even transistors and op-amps are available from multiple manufacturers through multiple suppliers. To identify alternative Manufacturers/Suppliers, set the Rank for your preferred choices. The first two ranked solutions can be included as detail for any part in the Bill of Materials for BOM report generation dialog, by enabling the Solution 1 and Solution 2 checkboxes in the selection column.
As the designer, you know your design inside out. This means you know that a particular component can be replaced by an alternative part, which might not be identical but for your design is functionally equivalent. To select a functionally equivalent alternative part, right-click on the part then select Add Alternative Item from the context menu. The Choose BOM Vault Component dialog will open in which you can browse and locate the required alternative.
In the BOM Catalog tab of the BomDoc, the alternative will appear as a separate line below the existing solution; click the + symbol to display the details of the alternative part.
To include the alternative part, enable the Include Alternative Items checkbox in the Bill of Materials for BOM report generation dialog. The alternative part will appear in the component grid below the original part.
As you organize alternatives for your discretes, you might also want to break a particular component into a number of groups. For example, you have a large number of 10K resistors, and a large production run. To ensure supply, you would like to break this down and source the 10K resistors from four different suppliers when the BOM is processed. This can be done by splitting that part into four groups, with each group assigned a different Manufacturer/Supplier using the Rank feature.
Another situation where you might want to split a component into groups is when your design includes a component that requires a specific component from a specific manufacturer, but there are also other components that do not require the same restriction to a specific manufacturer. This can be achieved by creating a group for the special-case component to lock it to its specific manufacturer then assign the remaining components to the other group.
To split a component into groups, right-click on the part in the BomDoc then select the Split Item (Add Alternatives Group) command from the context menu. The Edit Alternative Group dialog will open. Name the Alternative Group and enable the checkbox for each component you want in that group.
In the BOM Catalog tab of the BomDoc, the Alternative Group will be shown as a new line below the existing solution, with the group name appended to the solution's Description. Note that the Group is displayed in the BomDoc differently than an Alternative Equivalent Part is displayed. This is because you are effectively breaking down a single, larger group of identical parts into a number of smaller groups. Each smaller group is then displayed as a separate line entry in the BomDoc and also in the BOM.
To include Alternative Parts in the BOM, the Bill of Materials must use the BomDoc as its Data Source.
To display the alternative manufacturer/supplier details in the BOM, enable the required Solution checkboxes in the Bill of Materials for BOM Document dialog.
To display the alternative functionally equivalent parts in the list of components, enable the Include Alternative Items checkbox in the Bill of Materials for BOM Document dialog.
To cluster like-components, drag the DesignItemID or the LibRef label from the All Columns list on the left of the dialog into the Grouped Columns region. Include the Alternative Group Name label to separate out those entries that belong to an Alternative Group.
The BOM Components tab presents the BOM itself, which is a listing of all instances of components used in the design (core catalog items, managed and unmanaged), along with instances of extra items added from the BOM Catalog as required. Use this tab to fully-customize the appearance of the data and to obtain the BOM content you need in your preferred layout.
The tab is essentially divided into three key regions:
Costing at the board level is available regardless of the active tab in the BOM document. Read-only fields displaying this information can be found at the top-right of the document.
Use the Production Quantity field to see how the actual per-board pricing is affected, depending on the number of boards required in a production spin. Typically, the greater the Production Quantity, the lower the actual per-board pricing will be since Supplier-stipulated price breaks for the items used in the design come into play – it is always cheaper to buy in 'bulk'.
The BOM document can be refreshed in the following ways:
Refresh updates the BOM document from all available sources, taking into account:
Refresh has dual purposes. First, it ensures that Core-type catalog items (Core-Managed and Core-UnManaged) are re-synchronized with placed instances on the source schematic documents. Secondly, a refresh is needed to ensure the latest supply chain data is retrieved from the applicable source (Part Catalog and Supplier databases).
The BOM document provides a simple string-based search facility that can be used to search across the main item grid on the BOM Catalog tab or the main grid on the BOM Components tab.
Use the search field located below the Refresh button to enter the required search string. As you type characters, matches within the searchable areas listed previously will become highlighted in yellow. The first instance of a matching string is highlighted in green. You can narrow a search by typing more characters in the search string.
Cycle through the matching instances by using the F3 key or clicking the icon, to the right of the search field. The next instance will become highlighted in green.
The total number of matching instances of the search string, on either tab of the BOM document, is indicated in brackets, to the right of the tab name as shown in the following image.
The BOM document provides strong navigational support that enables you to quickly view an item in its source vault or library, jump between an item in the BOM Catalog to an instance of it in the BOM itself, or jump to an instance of a BOM component directly on a source schematic sheet within the design:
With the BOM Catalog tab active, select the catalog item of interest then use the relevant command from the menu associated to the Navigate to control (above the Item Detail grid):
• For a Core-Managed, Extra-Managed, or Extra-Reserved item – use the [<Design Item Id>] in Vault Explorer command. The vault-based catalog item will be presented in the Vaults panel.
With the BOM Catalog tab active, select the catalog item of interest and click the Navigate to control (above the Item Detail grid). The applicable navigation command will appear in one of the following two forms:
With the BOM Components tab active, select the BOM component of interest and click the Navigate to control (above the Item Detail grid). The applicable navigation command will appear in one of the following two forms:
The BOM document takes full advantage of the inter-document cross-probing capabilities between a source schematic and PCB. As you enter cross-probing mode from either the schematic or PCB document and click on a component, not only will that component be highlighted on the target PCB/schematic, but also its corresponding item entry will be highlighted on the BOM Catalog tab.
Once you are happy with the content of your BOM document, on the BOM Components tab, you can use that document as the data source when generating a BOM for use by manufacturing. This is performed through an Output Job Configuration File (*.OutJob) – either directly, or as part of the board release process. Use of the BOM document does not replace the ability to generate a 'static' BOM report for the project or a specific document (schematic or PCB). These can still be generated through an OutJob file or from the Reports menu. Simply add a Bill of Materials output generator as part of the Report Outputs section of the OutJob and ensure the Data Source is set to be the BOM document (*.BomDoc). Double-click the output generator to access its associated configuration dialog. The settings from the underlying BOM document are transferred to the BOM output generator (component data and display settings (columns, filters, sorting, grouping, etc.). You are free to modify the BOM as part of the output generator's configuration. Should you wish to revert back to the original settings in the BOM document, use the Restore from <BOMDocumentName> command from the right-click menu or the menu associated to the Menu button.
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