Why is PCB Data Traceability Important?

Isn’t it amusing that no matter where you are when you realize that you’ve lost something, the questions and suggestions you receive always seem to be the same? The first question is usually the obvious but unhelpful “Where were you when you lost it?” Of course, if you knew that, then you would know where to find it. It gets better. “Try to recall what you were doing when you last remember having it.” That doesn’t help much either. Finally, the best advice surfaces: “You should retrace your steps from where you last recall having it.” This simple, yet logical paradigm illustrates the importance of traceability, which will more often than not lead you to the lost item.

Retracing the path is not only useful for finding lost articles, but it is also essential for PCBA risk management. Without the ability to follow current paths from their source to contingency locations on circuit boards, designing fault mitigation controls would be relegated to not much more than taking shots in the dark. Traceability is also critical for avoiding PCBA component procurement problems; such as low-quality, shortages, and obsolescence, that can derail your board development and production. These are indeed serious issues; however, being able to monitor and track the board data supply chain may be even more of a concern. Let’s see why this is true. However, first, a clear definition of PCBA data traceability is warranted.

What Does PCB Data Traceability Really Mean? 

As the term implies, PCB data traceability is concerned with the collection and retrieval of information about the board building process. And it can be generally defined as follows:

PCB data traceability is the extent to which all data input, generated and output by the equipment and devices that contribute to the fabrication and assembly of a circuit board are accessible for review during or after manufacturing.

The types of data that the definition above encompasses can be conveniently separated into three categories, as listed in the table below.

Type Source Description
Design Developer or designer Design data file(s), BOM
Component supply chain Developer or designer Vendor(s), component info (e.g. MPN, quantity, reference indicator, lot number, footprint location, etc.)
Operations Manufacturing equipment Machine model/serial number, process timestamp, operators, etc.

The actual data generated may vary in detail according to the CM’s actual equipment and programming. However, all of the data utilized is created at some point along the PCBA data supply chain that extends to and from all of the entities involved in the PCBA development process for all board types.

Why Must the PCBA Data Supply Chain be Traceable?

As the building or construction of circuit boards gets smarter, the significance of the data supply chain increases. This is clearly evident for software-based digital thread manufacturing where the data supply chain is the process memory.  And accessing this memory to trace specific data is critical for a range of functionality that defines the best PCBA development, as shown below.

The PCB Design Development Checklist

Download Now

Reasons for PCB Data Traceability

  • Troubleshooting and fault identification

The ability to trace components and operations to or from the location enables root cause analysis.

  • Risk management

One of the tenets of risk management is the ability to associate a cause with an effect that traceability allows.

  • Quality control

Optimal PCBA manufacturing requires that a monitorable quality management system (QMS) be in place. However, its effectiveness relies upon the ability to locate and improve functions when necessary.

  • Manufacturing agility

In today’s competitive PCB market, agility is essential. The PCB data supply chain provides the means of quickly instituting changes. 

  • Regulatory compliance

For some industries, PCBA development process data is required by standard.

As the list above exemplifies, many essential PCBA manufacturing capabilities are possible due to data traceability. It is not easy to collect and compile this data, and some information may only be accessible by your CM.

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.

At Tempo Automation, our digital thread provides access to all pertinent manufacturing data; therefore, we can compile the necessary data that you may require. Additionally, we provide a portal such that you can get the state of your board build in real-time.

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 PCB data traceability, contact us.

The latest PCB news delivered to your inbox.

Search Sign In