Current PCB project management challenges.
Project management capabilities that need updating.
How cloud-based PCB project management tools can help.
Project managers play a vital role in the PCB design process
I have always been in awe of really good project managers, especially in PCB design. They have a knack for organization and leadership in order to guide their projects to successful completion. I have seen project managers successfully negotiate an armistice between the management of competing departments before their first cup of coffee in the morning just to keep the project on schedule. But there is one thing that I’ve learned that can bring the management of any project to its knees, and that is a lack of resources to get the job done.
Just as a PCB designer can be slowed down without the best schematic capture or PCB layout tools to work with, the project manager can equally be affected by a lack of good tools. PCB project management relies on data being accurately collected and reported in a timely manner to give the leadership teams the information they need. Let’s take a look at some of the problems with the more traditional systems of project management and how new cloud-based management tools can help.
The Challenges of Traditional PCB Project Management Processes
It used to be that project management relied on a lot of peer-to-peer contact in order to keep moving the ball down the field. One project manager that I worked with many years ago checked in with me every morning for a status update on the PCB layout, and I was only the first of her many stops. She also spent time with the electrical, mechanical, and software engineering departments while also coordinating with the manufacturing and test engineers. Considering the size of the project we were working on, I’m not sure how she covered so much territory each day.
Popping in and out of cubicles and offices was only part of her responsibilities. She also took careful notes of everyone’s status and then updated those notes to spreadsheets and reports back in her office. Those documents all had to be continually updated and then corrected again to deal with design changes or incorrect data. Once that part of the job was over, next came distributing all of these documents to the different management teams and reporting the project status in various meetings.
If you’re in project management yourself, you know all of the difficulties of this process:
Incomplete, incorrect, or unavailable input from team members.
Unreported design changes or updates to work in progress.
Poor communication with external partners.
Report format changes to satisfy different management requirements.
The list can go on and on making the job of the project manager extremely difficult. The next question is what can be done to streamline the management of PCB design projects?
How online cloud-based tools can interface with a PCB design project
Project Management Capabilities That Need Updating for PCB Design
Many areas of project management could be updated in order to increase its overall efficiency. For example, the traditional process of maintaining an updated schedule by collecting project status reports and then processing that data into useful metrics is very cumbersome:
In order to successfully manage any project, a schedule must be developed and published in order for all the stakeholders to hit their project milestone dates. To keep the schedule current, however, requires constant data updates that must be collected from each team member. Those that don’t have up-to-date schedule information can miss important milestones, meetings, or other project-specific dates.
The traditional methods of data collection have been through emails, shared documents, standardized reports, and even contact by phone or in person. All of these methods require that the information be collected and then processed in another document or system, which is a time-consuming process. Not only does this assume that the correct information was reported in the first place, but the transfer of data from one format to another can introduce new errors as well.
Once the data is collected, it needs to be processed and reported. This requires transferring the collected data into spreadsheets or other media and then preparing it in a format that can be presented to management and redistributed to the team. The manual aspect of this process takes a lot of time and has to be recreated each time a new report is required. In addition, multiple reports may be needed for different levels of management to analyze different project metrics.
These areas alone can create a significant project management bottleneck depending on the amount of data and the complexity of collecting, processing, and reporting it. This is where cloud-based project management tools can really help.
A view of Allegro Pulse from Cadence for managing PCB design projects
How Cloud-Based PCB Project Management Tools Can Help
With an engineering development system that is connected with cloud-based project management tools, you can bypass many of the problems that we’ve been discussing. As each engineering step is completed, the system will automatically update the status of the job into the tools. Collecting the project status data will then become automatic, negating the possibility of errors or even missed reports. From there, the project manager will have access to a host of capabilities including:
Automated project tracking.
Automated analytics reporting.
Data for work in process changes and improvements.
Supply chain metrics to track component usage, manufacturing, and quality.
Design complexity reporting including PCB technology usage, issues, and defects.
To augment the best PCB design system with the best cloud-based project management tools, take a look at Allegro Pulse. The Pulse data platform will centralize all forms of PCB engineering data and project stakeholders through a server-based web application for efficient project management. Pulse features a workflow engine, unified search capabilities, work in progress data management, and security roles and authentication.
If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.