The PCB designer is the expert when laying out a printed circuit board, but additional support may be necessary when sourcing components with price, availability, and future-proofing in mind. Some vendors may provide better quality and prices than others, but this is useless for ongoing manufacturing if the production status is in flux. Tracking these details can add overwhelming work to a PCB designer’s busy schedule. Fortunately, CEs are available to help simplify the complexities of electronic component lifecycle management.
|Cost (Manufacturer / Consumer)
|I – Introduction
|Component enters the market.
|High / High
|II – Growth
|Component establishes a foothold based on market demand.
|Moderate / Moderate
|III – Maturity
|The high-volume sales period of the component.
|Low / Low
|IV – Decline
|Due to maturing technology and competitive pricing, the component begins to fall out of favor in new products.
|Low / Low
|V – Phase Out
|The manufacturer establishes an end date for component production.
|Relatively low but can vary slightly due to lifetime buys.
|Low / Low
|VI – Discontinuance and Obsolesence
|The manufacturer ceases production, and continued incorporation of the component is minimal or nonexistent.
|N/A / Varies due to secondary market
Experts in Electronic Component Lifecycle Management
Component engineers (CEs) are unique in that they are experienced with PCB design and understand the details of working within the PCB component industry. They know better than most component manufacturing processes and what it takes to market and ship these parts. CEs have a vast network of supply chain component manufacturers, distributors, and brokers that they work with to find the best parts at the lowest costs.
They also understand the placement requirements of components in manufacturing a circuit board while being uniquely qualified to find the right parts for a design and to know when to recommend alternate components or changes. As any potential schedule slips for substituting parts can imperil production deadlines, their work focuses on ensuring that any recommendations are as equivalent as possible to avoid delays. For instance, a recommended part change may not fit on the board as designed but will work with an added adapter or a socket.
CEs also provide input on the design engineering of circuit boards and can recommend parts that will satisfy the design’s performance specifications. In some cases, they may recommend an alternate component with better availability or pricing even though its features make it appear as an unsuitable replacement. These preventative changes often require minimal design modifications to incorporate the replacement part.
Managing the Lifecycle of PCB Components
CEs handle daily requests from their purchase teams as well as from the customers that they serve. From prototypes to new product introductions, every production level can benefit from an in-depth approach that determines the most appropriate components. CEs will use online tools that help them monitor part availability, changes, compliance, shelf-life, and production lifecycles. These tools plug into component databases containing millions of parts from thousands of manufacturers and will alert users when product change notices (PCNs) go live.
With the part information from these databases, the CE can access all device specifications to identify equivalent (i.e., drop-in) and alternate components. At the same time, a CE can monitor the PCNs that part distributors directly send, giving them a head start on knowing what changes may be coming to the parts used before the online tools’ component databases update. CEs will also confirm the required parts from a customer’s bill of materials with the distributor, avoiding costly errors and manufacturing delays if an incorrectly designated part of the customer’s bill of materials (BOM) is purchased. In cases where an end-of-life (EOL) or obsolete (OBS) part is necessary for a production run, part brokers can sometimes substitute their resources instead of regular Tier 1 distributors.
Your Contract Manufacturer Covers Production From Start to Finish
After sending in a PCB design for manufacturing, a thorough design review will determine manufacturability before production begins. Part of that review will include the CEs investigating the parts specified in your BOM. Designers are notified if any components are unavailable, cost too much, or present other problems, such as being marked for a life cycle status change to EOL or OBS. Following electronic component lifecycle management, CEs can collaborate to identify alternate solutions to help ensure that the parts used in your design will be available throughout the product’s projected life.
At VSE, our CEs have worked with external design teams and internal procurement staff to optimize component cost, serviceability, and performance. They have a vast network of component manufacturers and distributors needed to get the best service on the parts required, routinely working with the vendors in our component network to get priority on lifetime buys of parts for our customers. This relationship ensures that the capital equipment we build for them over many years will have the components necessary to support the product’s life cycle.