How to Optimize Data Supply Chain Management

July 28, 2020 , in Blog

Is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” the best Thanksgiving movie ever? That is a question probably best left to the film critics. Yet, the pairing of John Candy with a sane Steve Martin as they utilize most of the mechanisms of logistics to get themselves home is bound to have your ribs aching from laughter. For business enterprises, however, devising and implementing an effective logistics plan to move their product(s) through the supply chain is no laughing matter.

Planes, trains and trucks

Mechanisms that make a logistics plan work

Creating and managing a data supply chain for PCBA development is also a sober undertaking. This requires much more than simply uploading or emailing the design file to your contract manufacturer (CM). In fact, the data supply chain is comparable to a component supply chain in that it includes interaction with external entities and well-defined internal operations. Let’s explore the data supply chain for PCBA development and see if a means of optimizing its management can be devised.

A Comprehensive Approach to PCBA Data Flow

To some good PCBA data flow means that you send over the design file and the list of electronic components or BOM and once the boards are built you get a data package detailing what was done. In Utopia, maybe. In reality, for most designs, that process never happens. Instead, there is usually back and forth data exchange with your CM throughout development.

This type of communication is not inherently a bad thing (unless excessive and with minimal benefit). On the contrary, communication promotes more precise synchronization between your design decisions and the PCB tolerances of your CM’s equipment. The importance of communication, especially automated, is apparent when you consider the major supply chain elements that must exchange data for PCBAs to be built. These are listed below.

Elements of a PCBA Data Supply Chain

  • Data supply

The PCBA data supply chain receives data from a number of sources. This obviously includes the design specifications; however, data is also gathered from the component vendor(s), outsource manufacturer (fabrication or assembly house) and internal equipment for software-based or smart manufacturing services.

  • Data delivery

Similar to supply, data is delivered, either as a request, directive or report to all of the external and internal systems of the board development process.

  • Data processing 

Acquiring, converting and/or formatting and transmitting data or processing is critical for efficient data supply chain operation.

  • Data analysis

Just as conversation is useless without comprehension, the inability to utilize data for decision-making is ineffectual. Therefore, the ability to analyze data and glean information to inform action is a mandate for a PCBA data supply chain.

  • Data storage

An often overlooked aspect of a data supply chain for PCBA development is storage capacity. Data exchanges for board manufacturing are asynchronous. This coupled with data traceability requirements necessitate adequate storage to be available and accessible.

From the list above, it is clear that a data supply chain is a complex integration of multiple elements and various equipment located at different locations. Therefore, a conventional linear logistical approach is not adequate here. Instead, a comprehensive perspective to coordination and management is required, which is discussed below.

Optimizing Data Supply Chain Management for PCBA Development

As stated above, open and transparent communication is good. In fact, it is the conduit that ensures your design best aligns with the DFM rules and guidelines of your CM. And for PCBA development, transparency of data transfer is essential for effective and efficient data supply chain management. However, there are other requirements that must also be instituted to optimize your data management.

One critical function that your management system must perform is data security. The geomap for your data supply chain will include multiple locations and may extend over a large region, a country, or around the globe; therefore, the possibility of a breach is real. To combat any unauthorized access, a secure transfer protocol; such as AWS GovCloud that meets strict US government compliance standards, should be used.

In addition to transparent access and high-level security, PCBA data supply chain management requires the analysis of incoming information and making the results available for real-time decisions. An example of this is the ability to present a pre-fab view of the DFM vetted PCBA to the developer, as shown below.

Prefab inspection of PCBA design

3D Preview of board design

The PCBA data supply chain involves the coordination of information exchanges from a number of entities. Optimizing this system requires a management protocol that is able to process and make available asynchronous data when needed for internal and external system devices. The degree to which is these activities are carried out depends upon your CM and their capabilities.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

Tempo Automation operates a smart-factory for the assembly of PCBs and provides a complete turnkey development service. This includes a proprietary digital thread for managing the data supply chain by securing data transfers, controlling all data transfers and providing continuous board development status to you throughout the process.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on the data supply chain and our management capabilities, contact us.

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