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EDA Software Supports PCB Supply Chain Visibility

Key Takeaways

  • Issues such as customer demand and counterfeit components complicate supply chain visibility.

  • The lack of supply chain visibility can lead to higher costs, the possibility of procuring counterfeit components, poor product performance, and delays in bringing products to market. 

  • EDA software functionality enables the selection of verified suppliers and allows design teams to track components through the supply chain.

supply chain graphic

The motif of invisibility has driven storytelling throughout time. In Greek mythology, freed cyclops gave Hades the “helm of darkness”, a helmet that gave Perseus the advantage of invisibility when he fought Medusa. 13th-century Welsh stories speak about the “mantle of invisibility” owned by King Arthur. And, of course, we have more modern stories about invisible men and cloaked spaceships.

Although no one has built a device that can render humans or spacecrafts invisible, research continues into finding methods to suppress light scattering for visible frequencies. This capability may make hiding objects—such as military hardware—easier.

While invisibility may be desirable in some cases, it is highly undesirable when it comes to supply chain management. Ensuring PCB supply chain visibility is essential to the efficient manufacturing of PCBs.

PCB Supply Chain Visibility is Essential to Production Processes

Within PCB design and manufacturing, we need the ability to follow components, parts, and products as those items move from vendors to manufacturers. As we seek to shorten time-to-market and remain aware of both competitors and the many vulnerabilities of globalization, supply chain visibility gives us an immediate advantage. From a supply chain perspective, visibility improves and strengthens the capability to respond to errors or changes, and as a result, also builds competitive resilience.

Unfortunately, achieving supply chain visibility can be a complicated task. In this article, we will discuss some common challenges to supply chain visibility and how EDA software helps remove those complications.

Supply Chain Decisions Require Accurate Data Analysis

Our ability to design a PCB hinges on our ability to make decisions. For example, at one level, decisions about responding to customer demands may push us to choose a multi-board, rigid-flex design that conveniently folds into some type of wearable device. Other decisions about design requirements may point to specific types of components. The need to prevent RFI may lead to other decisions about components, trace design, and shielding.

Supply chain decisions depend on data analysis and rapid, precise communication between vendors and manufacturers. Much of this combination of analysis and communication has roots in managing unstructured and structured data. Corporations and businesses that make up the supply chain use big data to analyze trends and interactions. On a large scale, those corporations and businesses use artificial intelligence and machine learning as fulcrums to leverage the advantages of building volume, enlarging variety, increasing velocity, handling variability, and providing value.

How EDA Software Can Help

EDA software brings the power of big data to your desktop. With the functionality found in the software, you can almost instantly access sourcing information, study life cycle analyses, and monitor component availability. In addition, you can quickly integrate supply chain information into your design while answering questions about the suitability of components for specific design requirements.

Regional Conflicts or Disease Outbreaks Impact Global Supply Chain Visibility 

Design, vendor, and manufacturer networks stretch around the globe. While operating on a global scale yields great advantages, it also poses some challenges. Regional conflicts or disease outbreaks can interrupt the supply chain and delay shipments. In addition, newly defined regulations, initiatives, trade agreements, or tariffs can affect the ability of the supply chains to provide key materials or components.

Supply chain visibility ensures that a clear view of component or assembly availability is maintained. Because of competition and customer demand, our ability to monitor component availability—and to change from one supplier to another without worries—is essential. Our ability to comply with regulations such as RoHS and REACH also depend on supply chain transparency.

How EDA Software Can Help

EDA software allows us to move between different dashboards, databases, and supplier information to find the right components, and most importantly, the right distributor. Having this information at your fingertips assures that production can occur at the desired scale and that products meet design criteria. Each step involves an appraisal of cost, time, and volume. As we work to complete our bill-of-materials (BOM), EDA software saves steps and time by giving the access that you need to make better decisions.

Counterfeit Components Impede Quality Designs

At the risk of making an understatement, high-speed, high-performance designs fail without the correct components. A cascading effect of a critical component failure may lead to accidents that cost money or even lives. Many times, the initial failure traces to counterfeit components. The door to counterfeit components can open because of shortages, a lack of supply chain diligence, or a business’s desire to make a quick profit.

When a manufacturer provides a counterfeit component, you and your team pay the legitimate component cost while sacrificing oversight and quality. However, hidden costs may also exist. For example, a counterfeit may contain hazardous or toxic components.

The impact of counterfeit components on our industry becomes apparent through the measures that we take to intercept the counterfeits. After all, counterfeiting is a billion-dollar industry that employs talented experts. Catching a batch of counterfeit components requires diligence. In general, counterfeit components may have incorrect labeling information, odd parts or date codes, incorrect packaging, or indistinct country of origin codes. While those measures may work, many companies also employ X-ray inspection to detect physical inconsistencies or toxic materials, scanning acoustic microscopes that catch attempts to resurface old components, or the actual destruction of samples with abrasive acids, acetone, or by scraping. Other techniques include using intrinsic light emission combined with electrical tests to capture below-average light emission from active devices.

How EDA Software Can Help

EDA software can assist with avoiding counterfeit components by listing only verified suppliers. Information about the suppliers allows you and your team to build databases of approved suppliers. Many EDA software packages also provide the capability to trace components through the supply chain.

PCB Supply Chain Visibility Helps You to Complete Your BOM

Fabricators and manufacturers depend on accurate bill-of-materials information. The BOM should contain information about the quantities of components, the references between the components and PCB designations, sourcing information, and any information that you or your team have added about your design. Manufacturers inspect the BOM for the purpose of discovering inconsistencies or errors. Without an accurate BOM, a fabricator cannot match the design data with component data or ensure that reference designators in the BOM, schematic, and layout match the nets.

All this flows from the capability of EDA software to maintain supply chain visibility. A unified EDA allows you to effectively align your design information. Your EDA software may also verify that distributors can fulfill orders for specialized or critical components. As a result, a manufacturer can spend less time reviewing or solving problems.

For EDA software to improve PCB supply chain visibility, check out Cadence’s PCB design and analysis software. Allegro PCB Editor has all the tools you need for accurate, quality designs. You can also use InspectAR to accurately assess and improve PCBs using augmented reality and intuitive interaction. Inspecting, debugging, reworking, and assembling PCBs has never been faster or easier.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts