Why BOM Management Matters

Late product introductions and wasted time are a couple of the negative consequences of a problem oft preventable with more proactive bill of materials management practices.

Late product introductions and wasted time are a couple of the negative consequences of a problem oft preventable with more proactive bill of materials management practices.

The worst time to find out that a two-cent part or any of its substitutes isn’t available is after the product has been sent for manufacturing. The business impact can be substantial in most cases, if not disastrous.

 

Late product introductions, delayed marketing programs and wasted time are only some of the negative consequences of a problem that is largely preventable with more proactive bill of materials (BOM) management practices.

Electronic components are foundational to electronic designs. However, designers that choose them also inherit characteristics largely beyond their control, including availability, cost, lifecycle, performance-to-datasheet, authenticity, quality and reliability, which represent touchpoints of risk. Combine this with component markets fluctuating in real time, and the increasing impact of counterfeits, and it’s easy to see how undetected BOM surprises can tangle projects in a web of late-cycle delays, cost escalations and even redesigns.

Although nothing is completely risk-free, here are four practices designers can implement for additional insulation from component-related risks:

  1. Put BOM Management on Par with Schematic and PCB Design Domains. The best, highest performance printed circuit board (PCB) design will be practically useless if suitably priced parts are unavailable to manufacture in volume. The BOM has traditionally been relegated to a late-cycle post-process, with characteristics that are typically viewed as someone else’s responsibility, such as procurement or component engineering. Recognizing the BOM’s importance as well as the significance of schematic and PCB design is an essential first step to mitigating the risks associated with electronic components selection and sourcing.
  2. Improve The Designer’s Situational Awareness. The term “situational awareness” is rooted in military and life-critical environments—where margins for error are tight and consequences of failure are extremely high. Getting the right information to designers early, in the right place and with negligible impact to their design activity, is paramount. The design environment is the place to inform the designer on electronic part dynamics such as counterfeit risk, availability or cost, where the information is most relevant and actionable.
  3. Check Your BOM Status Early, Often and Throughout The Design Cycle. Electronic components are similar to airline tickets. The availability and price you see today may be different tomorrow. It is imperative for designers and down-cycle collaborators to monitor the status of their BOMs early and often. Although the use of Electrical Rules Checks (ERC) and Design Rule Checks (DRC) for schematic and PCB designs has long been a staple of electronic design automation tools, automated BOM checks are a relatively recent capability. Adding real-time BOM checks to the conventional ERC/DRC used throughout the design process and at manufacturing release time is a prudent step to identify and mitigate component related issues before they can affect manufacturing.
  4. Establish Contingency Early for Risky Parts. There is more competition for the available global supply of parts, particularly widely used components. Although design organizations are familiar with the various “design for” initiatives including design for test and design for manufacturability, organizations may want to consider including the idea of designing for availability of components, or designing for component substitution as an initiative.

Consider contingency plans for critical design components. This will enable the substitution of the preferred manufacturer part number with the next highest ranked manufacturer part number choice. Establishing part choices early, or making them part of a centralized component library, can pay big dividends by building in dynamic response to changing component supplies.

Proactively Addressing Risks

Although some component-related risks are unavoidable, many can be overcome by augmenting design methodologies to move the visibility of component supply dynamics into the designer’s workspace. Today’s cloud component data and associated design environments, which enable real-time collaboration, provide a unique opportunity for organizations to reinvent the way they design and manufacture products.

Early risk identification through situational awareness is essential for overcoming the consequences associated with component supply problems. Improving design environments with these objectives can give a considerable competitive advantage to those who adopt these practices.

Vincent Mazur is a Product & Persona Marketing Engineer at Altium. Prior to that, he co-founded a scientific electronic instrument business where he architected and designed handheld, battery-operated products using Altium Designer.

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