PCB Work In progress Management

The fast pace of today’s design environment requires the control of the data that makes up the product, electrical, mechanical documentation. In the last article we looked at the need to have a well thought-out library implementation that supports the design team from the product development stage through to fabrication and assembly. In this article we will look at how, using this building block, to develop and define a design process to manage the product development.

We can no longer develop electronic products in a serial process, libraries, detailed schematics, simulation and physical layout are worked on concurrently to reduce the overall design cycle. To enable concurrent design the CAD tools have to support the ability for teams to edit the data simultaneously; many do provide the necessary infrastructure but without a distinct design process incorporating a defined life-cycle there is a strong possibility that data can become ‘out of sync’ or data can be lost requiring a robust backup process.

Some CAD tools do offer the ability to control the data using version management even with a level of granularity that manages the data down to the individual file level rather than a single archive entity such as zip. Check-out and check-in tools, allow the design team to manage the Work-in-Progress (WIP) facet of the design. Full version history with the ability to enter comments during check-in enables the team to easily track the progress of the project at the file level, with full history any unwanted changes can also be backed out. The next stage is to manage this as part of a life-cycle, progressing the design through the initial concept through reviews onto release removes an ambiguity of the design status. With the definition of roles within the system the access to each area of the design data can be controlled – signatories can be defined as part of the state transition to ensure that the correct people are informed at the appropriate stage. A central repository also simplifies the sharing of design data between the design team – by providing a single place of reference; all team members can also access the latest data and do not have to go hunting for information. When this is coupled with the library infrastructure, the ability to perform ‘where used’ studies becomes available crucial when trying to manage obsolescence within a company.

The crucial aspect of this is taking the company design process and replicating this in the CAD tool. The first step is to capture the current process – although many companies follow a process it can often be informal, institutionalised over time and it is not always obvious how these can be implemented in the CAD tools. This can be a good time to re-visit the process and perhaps tweak where required.

The benefits of defining and integrating the design process to manage product development include better control and better visibility as the design progresses, something that all companies require in this fast moving electronics market.

PCB Design Management
PCB Libraries
Releasing data for PCB production
Round up of managing PCB design