- Product vs. process--what is the goal?
- Why process IP is important to your company’s goals.
- What Allegro Pulse can do for PCB product data management.
The design of electronics is part of your corporate workflow process IP
Your company sets itself apart from the competition with the electronic products you produce, which in turn sets a high standard of excellence and value for your products. However, there is another essential standard of value associated with your company—your design workflow and process.
Intellectual property is the engine that drives your company’s competitiveness in the free market system and why you are known for the products you produce. But, electronic products aren’t the only measure of IP that your company possesses. The workflow and design process you use to develop and market your products is just as important as the products themselves. This process is essential to avoid problems due to scheduling or quality that can devalue your competitive edge as easily as not matching the technology of your competitors.
The key to your workflow and process IP is to capture and automate it so that you can replicate the same success over and over again. While this process has been manually controlled by project management in the past, a new method of managing your process IP is now required to refine your competitive edge. Here is where the workflow experts from Cadence have stepped up to provide you with the automated management tools you need to take your company’s design process to the next level. In these pages, we will detail the importance of process IP in electronic design and how Pulse from Cadence can help you.
Product vs. Process: What Is the Goal?
Product versus process—debating which of these is more important ranks right up there along with deciding which is more important in basketball: offense or defense? The truth is that both choices are equally important in both debates, and finding the proper balance between them is the key to success. Without a good product, there is nothing for you to market, but without the right process, there isn’t a good product. To better understand the importance of process as intellectual property, let’s begin first by examining the ultimate goal of both product and process development.
Producing a Product That Wins the Marketplace Is the Ultimate Goal
The electronics your company produces are designed to provide a specific service that resolves the needs of your customers. To create your products, the design teams will work towards four main objectives: capabilities, quality, price, and availability.
- Capabilities: Your product must provide the capabilities your customers need, with the potential to exceed their expectations. This calls for careful planning and engineering to not only deliver the desired functionality but also the capacity to grow in capabilities with future enhancements.
- Quality: Not only does your product line need to deliver what you’ve promised, but it also needs to exceed its performance specifications. This performance must be reliable, and the product itself has to be engineered to function without problems or failures during its projected life cycle.
- Price: All of the functionality and quality that goes into a product is useless if it isn’t priced correctly for the market it is designated for. This again falls into the lap of your engineering department to hold your electronics development within your projected financial boundaries.
- Availability: The electronics your company produces also have to be available when consumers are ready to purchase them. This takes a coordinated effort between engineering and procurement to use parts that are available and schedule production to meet demands.
Meeting and exceeding these four objectives is what it takes to produce the best electronics for your customers. The next question is, what does your company need in order to hit these targets?
What It Takes to Repeatedly Design and Build the Best Electronics
Most electronic development companies have a lot of competition in the products they build and market, and those that don’t will probably not enjoy their solitude for long. Although your products will undoubtedly have their standout features, they probably also have a lot of functionality that is similar to your competitors. To beat the competition, you need to capitalize on the engineering capabilities of your design teams to continually build superior products. But, how can you guarantee engineering success every time? What exactly is it that can set your company’s strengths apart from your competition? The answers to these questions lie in your process.
It is no secret that many engineers abhor strict process control. The need to carefully catalog and define everything that needs doing can quickly choke the creative mindset of designers. Yet without process control, staying on schedule and within budget while producing a quality product can be very difficult. For example, many engineering departments are content to redesign a product multiple times to solve lingering problems that should have been discovered during a routine design review. The lack of process control that allows errors like this can seriously undermine the corporation's ability for success, and many projects, departments, and entire companies have folded because of it.
To put it simply, it takes a great product to capture the market, but it also takes a great process to replicate that success and retain the market. Next, we'll discuss how your design process is in reality your intellectual property, and how that process IP is essential to your company’s goals.
Why Process IP Is Important to Your Company’s Goals
With the understanding of how it takes both product and process to realize your company’s objectives, the next step is to explore exactly what a good process can do for you. Many corporations do not have a refined design process in place, and it ends up costing them a lot of wasted time and expenses. However, with a well-thought-out development process in place, you can foster a design environment that encourages excellence.
Your Design Process Is Your Intellectual Property
Design groups often look at what is immediately in front of them as being their goal, and who can blame them? If the group is tasked with developing a new controller circuit board for a product, that is what they will do. However, the ultimate goal of your corporation is to get the product to market, and each individual PCB is just part of the overall process. Here is where many design groups will struggle, as each circuit board, mechanical design, or software is developed differently from the last. This constant change in process makes it difficult to maintain quality and can create a nightmare for project management to accurately schedule.
However, with a clearly defined process, the design development of a corporation’s products can produce very different and positive results:
- Clearly defined processes mean everyone knows what they should be doing and when it should be done.
- Training new employees is much simpler when the workflow is clearly laid out.
- An established workflow with reviews and accountability will result in fewer miscommunications between team members.
- Process control gives project management much better visibility into the progress of any ongoing work for monitoring, reporting, and directional changes.
The benefits of an established process IP for your design group are very clear. To make this happen, accurate and up-to-date data and information must be made available to all stakeholders.
Process Control Relies on Effective Data Management
Good data management is a critical component of product development and overall process IP. Traditionally, project managers have gathered the product development data they need through e-mails, paper trails, and other manual steps. Unfortunately, this method is limited by the time and effort it takes and is prone to human error. Fully realizing the benefits of effective project data management requires automating the system. Not only will automation speed up the traditionally slower method of gathering information, but it will also provide the following benefits:
- Eliminate human error as data is automatically collected and distributed throughout the project data management (PDM) system.
- Process and prepare the data and information for project metrics and reports.
- Provide real-time tracking of the project workflow through the PDM system’s dashboards or other user interfaces.
- Automatically collect and prepare design and manufacturing data for transmission to vendors.
A PDM system that provides process control for a company’s electronic product design group can elevate the value of your workflow process IP to new levels. At Cadence, this system is already available for use, and we will look more at its details next.
Allegro Pulse: A Workflow Process IP for PCB Product Data Management
Many design groups have a well-intentioned workflow design process in place, but it is hampered by the amount of manual effort it takes to execute it. On the other hand, a fully automated workflow can yield enormous benefits. Allegro Pulse, from Cadence, is an automated workflow and data management system that is specifically designed for electronic design. With Pulse, your design department can be freed from manual project management tasks and focus more on the ultimate goal: delivering the highest quality products to market ahead of your competition.
What Pulse Provides for Its Customers
Pulse is a product data management system for printed circuit board and system in package designs. Pulse’s automated work in progress process control transforms traditional manual project management into sophisticated automated process control that users configure according to their corporate needs. By capturing their standard workflow into Pulse’s PDM system, the process IP that customers use for the design and development of their electronic products turns into a powerful tool. Pulse not only automates its user’s workflow and data management but also gives them state-of-the-art tools to analyze and improve their workflow to stay ahead of their competition.
Pulse not only manages workflow and data but is also integrated into the design tools themselves and is designed to provide its users with a closed-loop system of design reuse:
- Simplify the capture of schematic design data by allowing users to select an area of circuitry on their schematic for reuse.
- Automate the tagging and cataloging of the selected circuitry for storage in a library.
- Provide powerful search capabilities that allow users to find stored data.
- Support drag and drop to easily instantiate the saved circuitry into a new design.
- Compare the new circuitry with other similar saved circuitry to track design updates.
- Take this newly created circuitry back to the catalog step to close the reuse loop.
Imagine the potential for your design process IP with these capabilities, and that is just the beginning of what Pulse can do for you.
Pulse’s Capabilities and Benefits
The measure of value that any PDM system can bring to you is based on its capabilities, and Pulse’s list of features gives it an amazing amount of power and flexibility:
- Pulse is a true PDM system for electrical design, but is concerned with more than PCB design - it can be connected to the entire project.
- Pulse is integrated into Cadence design tools to manage their data.
- Pulse owns the data generated by the design tools, so it can control the process and distribution of the data to organize the workflow.
- Pulse is intuitive to use and doesn’t require additional training.
- Pulse isolates engineers from manual data management tasks.
- Pulse controls design data within the cloud for easy access by users.
- Pulse is familiar with all design data and knows how to use and share it with other users.
- Pulse connects stakeholders together like project management and administration.
- Pulse provides a platform for analysis, giving easy access to project metrics and reports.
- Pulse is a server-based architecture with a workflow engine, unified search, WIP data management, and security authentication.
- Pulse’s features are modular in design, allowing users to onboard Pulse’s functionality into their environment at their own desired rate.
These capabilities give users an equally long list of benefits for their design process:
- A dynamic view of WIP information with real-time updates as tasks are completed.
- A dynamic view of design documents with real-time updates as the data changes.
- Real-time traceability of sensitive engineering data including design, BOM, and other IP.
- Engineers can stay in their tools without worrying about how to manage design data.
- External links allow for supply chain management.
- Design reuse is treated as library parts.
- Easy access to project data allows for precise scheduling by project management.
- What-if and impact analysis information available for project management.
- Users can access Pulse from their desktop computers or mobile devices.
With its capabilities and benefits, Pulse can make a huge difference in a corporation’s workflow process IP. The next step is putting Pulse to work for you.
Working With Pulse
Your product designs have established your company as a serious contender in the electronics market. But, as we have seen, the ability to replicate that design process quickly, efficiently, and with the highest level of quality is essential to continuing that success. You undoubtedly have developed many fine-tuned processes that have contributed to your overall design success. Things like integrating your supply chain into the design early on in the design cycle or how you structure your critical checks and reviews. With Pulse, you have the ability to automate these processes and treat this workflow and process automation as intellectual property.
Workflow and process automation hinges on how your personnel and tools are orchestrated together to complete their designated tasks. With Pulse, this orchestration takes place automatically, with the seamless gathering of design information and data that can be processed and distributed throughout your company. The more effective this automated workflow process IP is, the quicker you can get your personnel and tools moving in the right direction. But without this automation, your personnel may be operating without the proper specifications, stored legacy circuitry, current components, and correct tools.
The question you have to ask yourself is, how much value would automated process control be to your company? If your design process was easily tracked and implemented without any impact to your design engineers, how much risk would be removed from your normal design cycle? And ultimately, how much time and money would you save, allowing you to get your products to market that much sooner with a higher level of quality?
To find out more about how an automated design workflow process IP would benefit your company, talk to our team of experts.