Optimizing Collaboration for PCB Systems Design


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PCB systems design pressures can be broken down into the ubiquitous buckets of time, cost, and quality. Efficient design is about balancing the three. Push too hard to shrink the design time, and watch your costs go up while quality diminishes. Spend too much time optimizing a design, and watch your market window wave goodbye. A recent survey by The Aberdeen Group confirmed these critical pressures, and also identified some strategies to resolve them--two of the top four involved optimizing collaboration across the design team.

PCB design teams can range from the individual who does everything up to global enterprises with large, distributed teams. Large teams have a competitive advantage of resources and specialization, but they also bear the challenge of optimizing those resources to avoid the diminishing returns that can come with team inefficiency. The other dimension to the problem is design complexity. An individual can design almost anything with the right tools; the challenge is to complete the design within a reasonable time, while optimizing quality and cost. Enterprises can tackle complexity with larger teams on a project, including specialists who can optimize design functions for quality.

Let’s look at typical types of enterprise collaboration, and propose some best practices to optimize efficiency across the design team.

Collaboration is Everywhere

Regardless of your team size, there are always plenty of opportunities for collaboration; this business isn’t a good place for hermits. Because collaboration involves transfer of data from one person to the next, and often from one tool to another, multitudes of “neutral” files have sprung up over the years as hand-off mechanisms. Some formats have survived the ages to become de facto or formal standards, but even formal standards are subject to interpretation at the sender or receiver, leaving them as imperfect media for collaboration but still the best option in many cases. Within vendor tool flows, the most efficient collaboration is achieved by sharing the same database, leveraging a client/server architecture so that there are no errors in translation, and absolute concurrency is achieved. Read the full article here.Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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