DESIGN DATA MANAGEMENT PART 2 THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Component availability can result in a product being late, missing a market window, or not even producible. Learn now to quickly and easily select components, find pricing, and verify available quantities directly from your design. This second part series will take a look at managing the supplier link, e.g., purchase availability of components for your design.
TOPICS IN THIS SOLUTION
In part 1, you saw that design engineers spend a minimum distance of at least 15 to 35% of their time finding and verifying components to use in their designs. In addition to this, there is still the wall that needs to be climbed between engineering and purchasing.
Figure 1. Full compass of Design Data Management with Altium Designer.
What happens when it is time for re-orders or modifications to an existing design? How do you know that you can still purchase the required components? There are many diﬀerent databases and methodologies from enterprise solutions to manual spreadsheet tracking. What if live supplier data could be directly added to your components to instantly provide this critical information?
This second part of the data management series looks at the component supply chain. According to The Aberdeen Group, 81% of the best in class companies use a centralized built and managed printed circuit board PCB library system. If you have access to a system like this at your company, you can reference your database and make selections based on the information there. However, many companies don’t have access to this level of enterprise-based solution.
It is 3pm Friday afternoon. You have just received the new design specs for the next prototype idea. You grab your set of favorite libraries a pcb stackup of engineering paper and your favorite mechanical pencil. Time to get to work. It looks like you can reuse an existing power supply, but the rest will need to design from scratch. How can you determine what parts will be available for production, which parts will need to be replaced, and which parts of the existing design can be ordered and in what quantities?
The supply chain, also known as Solutions, can be used to bring in purchase data directly into a bill of materials. The supply data information is read directly from the distributor, so these are also referred to as Live Supplier Links. In Altium Designer, several suppliers are available that you control over what will be included in your search and can be configured in the preferences under PCB Design Data Management -> Suppliers.
Figure 2: Enable suppliers to search for components.
From the list of suppliers that you have enabled a set of search results will be returned that includes component pricing, available quantities, etc. Additionally, web links to the manufacturer’s page and data sheets are included for each component link. When suitable parts are found, the Supply Link can be attached directly to the component.
This link is used to pull the associated data from the supplier into the bill of materials report. Quantities and pricing can also be seen directly when inspecting the link directly.
Using the Supplier Panel to search for components will return results based on the selected suppliers and the best choice can be made by simply dragging the link to the component in your schematic. Open the Supplier Search panel from the System panel button and then Supplier Search.
Figure 3: Using the Supplier Search panel lets you search for specific components.
Additionally, right-clicking on a component and selecting Supplier Links will allow you to click Add and perform a search directly to add to the component.
There are several ways to add live supplier links to your design. Supplier links can be added to components in the schematic library, directly to components at the schematic level, to components in a database library, or using Altium Vault. These approaches are outlined in detail in the TechDoc Live Supplier Data — Managing Supplier Links
This approach makes adding supplier data to components in your libraries a little more diﬃcult as you need to maintain individual components with the added supplier links. It can be done and managed, but the number of components and library structure can become fairly involved. The better approach is to add the supplier links at the schematic level in the design. This allows more of a generalized approach, e.g., you can reuse a resistor and add configure each placed component in your design. This method still has drawbacks, as you are now out of sync with your libraries and can be more error prone. True, you can select which parameters not to update during library updates, but it puts a lot of pressure on the designer to not make mistakes.
Figure 4: Ciiva Small Parts and Octopart are now available for Altium Designer.
The best approach is to use a database library or Altium Vault. This way, you can reuse a single schematic library component to represent diﬀerent components which are populated with diﬀerent data and have their own component name, parameters, and company part number. This way, you can have hundreds or even thousands of resistors and capacitors and various other components and reuse the same base graphical model. Altium Vault takes the database approach one step further by allowing revision and lifecycle management to be assigned to components and even to the supplier links. It is a separately option in Altium Designer. Altium Content Vault is free of charge to access and place components from.
Altium is always looking for ways to improve the supplier interaction with the designer, as we realize that this is one of the most crucial parts of electronic design decision making, knowing what is in stock and available, obsolete, or in obsolescence. Hence the acquisition of Ciiva and Octopart. These supplier search tools are now available within Altium Designer and can be installed from Extensions and Updates. Both are available at no charge. Ciiva does require registering and has more advanced paid options, such as design analysis and a subscription based vault access, but are not necessary to use the supplier smart search. The advantage is that either of these search tools can be used to find parts and they compare diﬀerent suppliers side by side in terms of pricing and availability. A separate white paper goes into details on the Ciiva interface and how it can be leveraged with your own Altium Vault, the Altium Content Vault, or a subscribed online Vault.
Figure 5: Using Octopart, clicking See Part Details brings up a detailed list for the part from each of the suppliers.
To perform a search with these tools, once a supplier part is decided upon, copy and use this in the supplier search panel from which you can add links to your components. As time goes on, a more direct relationship between the extensions searches and the supplier search is planned.
With Octopart extension installed, you can instantly get part information by selecting parts in your schematic and selecting Octopart Part Lookup from the tools menu. Here, you can see how many suppliers have that part and which ones have stock. Clicking See Part Details brings up a detailed list for the part from each of the suppliers.
Figure 6: You can access this part’s datasheet under References.
Use the returned SKU numbers to search in the Supplier Search Panel. From the Supplier panel results, add the links directly to components in our design by dragging the result for the desired part onto your component which will copy the supplier link and supplier part number. Multiple supplier links can be added to a part to provide diﬀerent supplier purchase information. Additionally, with the supplier search result selected, parameter information regarding the result will be displayed. One or more of these can be selected and added to the part using a right- mouse click and selecting the part to add the parameters to. If there is a PDF link in the Documents section, right-clicking allows adding the document link to the part. The document link provides right-click access to the part to the datasheet under References.
Ciiva Search allows you to search within the Ciiva search panel, accessible from the system panel access button. The search results are shown in the panel. Clicking on the Supply Chain tab at the bottom will reveal diﬀerent distributors, showing the stock and price. Lowest priced selections will be displayed in green. As with Octopart, the supplier part number can be copied and pasted into the Supplier Search and added to a component until a more direct method is enabled.
When searching for new components that have not yet been placed on the design, Ciiva does have an advantage, as it will provide an icon indicator if the part is found in a configured vault, whether that be the Altium Content Vault, your own Altium Vault, or an online subscribed vault as shown in the image below. If an icon is seen, click the ECAD tab which allows for direct placement of the component onto a focused schematic sheet. The associated vault will need to be configured and a schematic in focus in order to place the component.
Figure 7: Searching in Ciiva Search.
The advantage of supplier links added to a component is for the bill of materials generation. If all your components are configured with supplier links, enabling the Supplier Stock for the supplier solution will let you see available quantities directly in your BOM setup page. Each Supplier Solution contains its supplier related parameters and will be displayed in the column section by checking the Show checkbox in the All Columns section.
Figure 8: Example of supplier links.
Figure 9: Checking supplier stock.
The default Excel template, “BOM Supplier Links.XLT” does not include the stock in the generated output, only the order quantity, and unit price.
Figure 10: The spreadsheet does not include available stock.
A document that is useful for providing a real-time listing of all items and processes used in the design is the ActiveBOM document. The ActiveBom document will read in supplier data, but uses the guidelines as described in our technical documents ActiveBOM article:
For vault-based components (managed, or ‘Unified’ components), this data are retrieved automatically from the Part Choice List Items defined and associated with the respective Component Items.
For components that are not placed on a vault (unmanaged components) this information can be:
Defined in situ within the BOM Catalog, through the addition of manually-configured solutions (or ‘manual Part Choices’ as it were).
Sourced through Supplier Links added to a component.
The ActiveBom document will bring in Supplier Links for each component. From a vaulted component, the supplier link data is read from the Vault. The Supplier Links that are brought into the document are called Solutions to which ranking can be assigned from one to three stars, three being the highest and corresponds to solution 1, rank two is solution 2, and one star is the lowest rank or solution 3. The ranking system is useful for determining which solution will be available if there are multiple suppliers but is limited to a total of three solutions. Other non-ranked solutions will not be available in the BOM configuration. For non-Vault components, the components are listed as Core-UnManaged, and vault components listed as Managed. For Managed Vault components, the supplier links are read directly from associated Part Choices in the Vault but additional solutions can only be added within the ActiveBom document. For non-vault components, Core-UnManaged, the supplier choices are read from the supplier links from the components in your design, and addition solutions can be added.
Figure 11: Supplier choices are read from the supplier links from the components in your design, and addition solutions can be added.
An advantage using the BomDoc, in addition to seeing pricing and quantities for the components, but quantity breakdowns are automatically applied by entering the production quantity of board to be built. Additionally, for each component, a Target Price can be set, alerting you if the target is exceeded. From these target prices, the overall target price of the board is also calculated along with the actual component costs of the board.
The ActiveBom is divided into two parts. Above, we saw the BOM catalog, where the supplier links are read in and solutions set. By selecting the BOM Components, or right-clicking on a line item detail and selecting Navigate to BOM. In the BOM Components, the pcb layout is similar to the bill of materials configuration. Here, the columns are enabled to drive the output data for the bill of materials. For BOM generation, the ActiveBom requires the use of an outjob.
To configure your bill of materials you will need an output job file added to your project. In the OutJob panel, configuring the bill of materials job to use the ActiveBOM document as the data source will pull the configured supplier solutions from the BomDoc and not directly from the configured components in the schematic capture pages.
Figure 12: OutJob panel.
In part one of this series, we saw that components in the Altium Vault consist of what is referred to as a Unified Component Data Model. This means that the part is validated and released with a specific revision, the pcb footprints, models, mentor graphics and parameters are locked with that particular revision and cannot be modified unless a new revision is made. Of course, the supplier data can still change, however, the attached “Part Choice” is the supplier link that has been attached to that particular revision of the Unified Component.
Figure 13: Setting the view to Supply Chain, we see the “Part Choice” has three configured solutions.
Part choices behave similarly to live supplier links, just that they cannot be changed, but the data they link to, e.g., price, quantity, and stock can dynamically update. An example of Unified Components configured with a part choice can be seen in the Altium Content Vault. For example, let’s take a look at the Molex part 95501-2881. The vault ID for this component is CMP-0413-00001. Selecting the vault item, it has one part choice. Setting the view to Supply Chain, we see the “Part Choice” has three configured solutions.
These Supply chain choices are pulled into the ActiveBom document when using it in conjunction with the design. The designer still has the flexibility to configure additional solutions for the Managed component in the ActiveBom document.
Hopefully, this document gave a little insight as to the options available for a designer at the start of a design. Additionally, by using Supplier Links to not only help the current design process but to help with future modifications and design reuse.