Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of Your Library, Part 5—Traceability

We have reached the end of this series regarding the five pillars of the component library. We now have a robust library that is flexible enough to grow with the company and meet the evolving needs of this industry.  

Before we look at putting all this together to see how the five pillars interact with each other, here is a short review of the SMART acronym:

  • S: Singularity     
  • M: Managed
  • A: Architecture
  • R: Review
  • T: Traceability

Through each of these pillars, we strengthen our component library. But unfortunately, we can't pick and choose which ones we will follow; each one is required.

Watson_May_Fig1.jpgNow, let’s examine traceability, the final pillar in the library. In the sense of our component library, what do I mean by traceability? It is both on a micro and macro level. First, it means identifying the revision of the components and their pieces, such as their models. Then, on the macro level, we identify which components are used on which products.

Why is traceability so essential? Why is it considered a pillar of our library? Each pillar supporting your library is not the end-all but the beginning of your library. In architecture, you use pillars to help a specific building section. They support explicitly what is above them. The five pillars are the foundational principles for creating every component, which become the building blocks of the PCB design. That means there is an inherent interconnect inside the PCB design itself where everything is connected and dependent on the other information and items.

Watson_May_Fig2.jpgAdditionally, the specific data of the components of information, sourcing, and sometimes even the symbols and footprints models can and probably will change. I have heard a few of you say that it’s especially the sourcing. When that happens, the results are the proverbial ripples in the pond. How far out do the waves go? What product lines are impacted, and how badly? At the beginning of the series, I said each pillar of your library is required; pulling out even one weakens our entire library structure. Why? Because it weakens the quality of the components and, ultimately, the quality of our PCB design. The problem is only compounded by not knowing where those components are used and in what product lines.

When changes occur predominantly on the components level, we must first manage that change. We accomplish that through an excellent review process (fourth pillar). From the initial quality control process,  the review and quality control checks ensure that your components are the highest quality. That is a routine procedure in every sound library I have seen. But our fifth pillar of traceability is where we get a clear picture of the impact of those changes.

Furthermore, changes will not only impact a single component or design. For example, if I change a footprint used in multiple components, those changes get similarly pushed into the PCB designs. A great example of this is the whole problem with component sourcing as companies are shifting from new product development to sustaining old products. We quickly see this principle of “where-used.” When I find that a component is going obsolete, the first thing I want to know is how many product lines will be down because of the shortage. From there, I can decide how to move forward. That is all a result of traceability.

Traceability is also important because it's most likely a requirement of compliance standards. Having a complete record of the exact makeup down to the component level of every product is frankly required. That is where our second pillar (managed) comes into play. Maintaining a specific revisioning and lifecycle scheme for each component is priceless. Along with that is keeping secure custody of all revisions of components. This will create a rather large database of components but that is the very foundation of traceability.

I know some of you may be saying that this is all fine and good, and we have an entire team of people who handle all of this sustaining stuff. Why should this be a concern for our side? Because of any design issues, we must ensure that information goes full circle and is updated in the library. The first pillar of singularity is still standing strong, developing and protecting your single-source of truth.

Putting It All Together
We can, as they say, wrap this all up in a pretty little bow. But, after seeing these five pillars developed in countless companies over many years, I've noticed the interaction and unique relationship between them, which again enforces the requirement of needing all the pillars.

First Pillar: Singularity
We began this journey by seeing the importance, even the necessity, of having a single library. Having multiple libraries brings an inherent risk of errors into your design. The first pillar is about developing the single-source of truth and focus in the sense of a point of concentration. When you are creating and operating from a single library, it forces you to focus. This is the most difficult step for some who like having their own individual libraries and frequently cannot get through this first step. Also, please begin to see that each pillar depends on the strengths of the other pillars next to them.

Second Pillar: Managed
With our single library established, you must develop a detailed revision and lifecycle scheme, the basis for your management plan. Furthermore, under your second pillar is the revisioning system. That allows you to store all versions of a component, model, and design so you can quickly identify which version of a component was used, where, and what changes are required to bring it current.

Third Pillar: Architecture
The architecture is far more than just an excellent location in your categories, families, and sub-families library. When combined with solid models and component naming conventions, you're tackling the problem of duplicate information. Singularity is not just a "single library," but making sure the individuality of the data inside the library is singular.

Fourth Pillar: Review
We focus on dealing with changes inside the library with the remaining final pillars. All the information collected will change at some point. Ultimately it will run through its lifecycle (pillar two: managed) and go obsolete. We must prepare for this by having a plan to identify and implement those changes. With the fourth pillar (review), something transformational occurs with your library. It goes from being just a "static pile" of information to becoming dynamic, shifting, and changing like our industry.

Fifth Pillar: Traceability
Traceability looks at it as determining the scope of change from our review process; we identified what we do. With traceability, we know the interconnection of these big puzzle pieces.

All five pillars are interconnected and depend on each other. I wouldn't have any specific one of them without the others.

One final point: How do we implement and start using this information throughout this five-part series? It will take time, so be persistent. Take steps each week to establish these five pillars and principles in your company's library. None of this happens on its own. Warning: At first, you may feel like you're pushing the boulder up the hill, but keep going. What you are building is a technological infrastructure that will last longer than any of us.

John Watson, CID, is a customer success manager at Altium. 

 

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2022

Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of Your Library, Part 5—Traceability

05-12-2022

We have reached the end of this series regarding the five pillars of the component library. We now have a robust library that provides the required resources for the ever-changing industry. Above that is having a flexible library to grow with the company. The final pillar is traceability. Why is traceability so essential and considered a pillar of our library? Read on for details.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of your Library, Part 4—Review

04-14-2022

I trust that you have been enjoying this series on the five pillars of your library. Now that we have a single library managed using our revisioning, and we have lifecycle schemes organized so that we can easily find something in the component category, family, and subfamilies, we are now ready to look at one of our library's most vital principles and pillars: reviewable.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of Your Library, Part 3—Architecture

03-10-2022

Before I continue with the series of the five pillars of your library, I want to do a little review. Although every library is different, the five pillars are consistent with any sound library. You place these pillars to support a specific building section in building construction. To pull one out requires the remaining ones to hold the total weight above. So, each of these supports is needed for your library to succeed. You cannot choose which of them you intend to follow; to pull just one out results in the toppling of the others.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of Your Library, Part 2—Managed

02-17-2022

The 1972 classic movie “The Candidate” tells the story of Bill McKay (played by Robert Redford), who was running for the state senate. Although he was a long shot and an underdog, McKay ends up surprising everyone with an incredibly close win. After the concession speech of his opponent, a vast mob surrounds McKay. He fights through the crowd, trying to reach his campaign manager Marvin (played by Peter Boyle). Finally reaching him, McKay pulls Marvin aside into a hotel room, sits on the bed, and after several seconds of silence, finally asks a very intense question “So, what do we do now?” The campaign manager looks bewildered, so McKay asks the question again, “What do we do now?”

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Five Pillars of Your Library, Part 1

01-13-2022

I have recently had some great conversations with many of you, and the same question keeps coming up: What does it takes to have an excellent component library? So, I have decided to kick off the new year by taking a deep dive into your PCB component libraries and looking in detail at the five pillars of your library. So along with taking the tree and the decorations down and making your New Year resolutions, let's resolve to take an honest look at our component libraries and get them in order.

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2021

Elementary, Mr. Watson: PCB Data Management and Security

12-12-2021

As a grandfather of six grandchildren, one of my great joys is spending time with them. There is nothing better than spending an afternoon at the park and especially playing on the teeter-totter. It's all fun and games until grandpa gets on one side, and they try to lift me. Then the harsh reality and a teachable moment in leverage, balance, and just how heavy grandpa really is hits pretty hard.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: We’ve Never Done It That Way Before

11-11-2021

The September edition of Design007 Magazine discussed the theme of collaborating and working with a team. In that issue, I wrote a feature article called “PCB Design Is a Team Sport.” After that edition was published, I had several follow-up questions and conversations with individuals; they agreed on the importance of teamwork but felt that it's easier said than done. It's challenging because of the inherent problem of team members accepting or handling change very well. Change it's a word that sends shivers down the spine of some. You know those sort of individuals. They're easy to identify. The ones that constantly remind everyone, "We never did it that way before." As if how we did things in the past was so much better.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: First, Component Shortages, and Now Hot Dogs?

10-14-2021

When I considered the title for this month’s article, I seriously considered calling it "From the Frying Pan Into the Fire" because I’m sure you’ve noticed recently that the component shortage problem has only worsened—we’re now seeing other supply lines breaking down.

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Elementary Mr. Watson: PCB Design—It's a Team Sport

09-29-2021

One of the hard lessons of this past year was about the value of the team and collaboration. I have repeatedly heard how many of us have a newfound respect and appreciation for the teams we work with inside our companies. Out of necessity, we had to find new ways to collaborate.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Danger of Rogue Libraries

09-16-2021

For PCB designers, the most common part of the library is the collection of components used in the PCB design process. But, I have seen some libraries have other information, including a resource area, a group of documents, standards, and articles. So basically it can have anything you want.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Epic Fails with Design Rules

08-12-2021

Various sciences, including physics, mathematics, chemistry, are significantly involved throughout the PCB design process, rules that can sometimes be bent but not broken. However, the rules that designers break and ignore altogether and very often are the design rules.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Managing Risk in PCB Design

08-05-2021

PCB design is like bungee jumping. With the complexity of a PCB design, the intricate details, and various steps, it's rather easy to make mistakes. Those mistakes, many times, do not show up until it's too late and the board has gone off to fabrication and assembly. By the way, a good rule is not to use your assembly house as your quality control team for PCB designs.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Time to Market, from Ludicrous Speed to Plaid

07-18-2021

Mel Brooks may have something to teach us about going "ludicrous speed" in getting our designs to the finish line. John Watson explains.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Trust but Verify

06-10-2021

Over many years, I have seen some elaborate PCB library systems. However, the best ones were those not based on the size but rather the quality of the information. That old axiom is definitely “not quantity but rather quality.”

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Paying the Price To Be a PCB Designer

05-13-2021

Today, the electronics industry is flourishing with innovations and technologies. The result is that the “good” designers are left in the dust. Truthfully, our industry doesn't need more good designers; rather, we need great designers—those who can face any challenge and instead of cowering in the corner, looks at the task at hand and says, "Bring it on."

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2020

Elementary, Mr. Watson: Demystifying Bypass Capacitors

12-17-2020

As PCB designers, we work under the simple rule of cause and effect, and a PCB design can quickly become a petri dish for the butterfly effect to flourish. One of those areas that can quickly snowball into major problems is your PCB power distribution structure. When it goes wrong, it usually goes very wrong and has significant issues throughout your design.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Density Feasibility Putting 10 Lbs in a 5-Lb Bag

11-18-2020

Whether on a customer, a system, or a PCB level, it’s essential to understand the final objective and how you intend to get there and meet the customer need at the forefront of any project. In this column, John Watson addresses density feasibility and more.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Location, Location, Location

10-15-2020

When it comes to PCB design, one of the most overlooked principles is component placement. Similar to a home, the component location has a considerable impact on the quality and is the real value of a PCB design. John Watson examines five rules to follow when it comes to component placement.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Overcoming PCB Designs Pitfalls

09-10-2020

When starting every PCB design, the hope is that we can navigate through any pitfalls that arrive. Unfortunately, many times, issues happen that you do not handle correctly; they fall through the cracks and end up in your PCB design. John Watson explains how that is when the real problems begin.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: How to Ruin Your PCB Design in 4 Easy Steps

08-06-2020

John Watson has seen firsthand how quickly PCB designs can “go off the rails” by not following a few simple principles. In this column, he looks at four practices that can easily ruin your PCB design.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: PCB Components Naming Conventions

07-09-2020

How you accurately analyze and identify certain information has a direct connection to the overall success of your PCB designs. In this column, John Watson focuses on the conventional naming scheme for the schematic symbol and footprint to prevent headaches and ulcers later.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Collaboration in the PCB Design Process

06-11-2020

The past few months have been trying for everyone, with many of us working from home. However, there are still the underlining principles of collaboration to step into a role to finish the necessary tasks to keep a project moving forward. John Watson, CID, explains.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Reinventing Yourself

05-28-2020

When COVID-19 first hit, many businesses were forced to close, and we immediately saw its impact on the service industry. Whatever challenge you’re facing, John Watson emphasizes that it’s time to hit the switch on reinventing.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: The Positive Side of COVID-19

04-16-2020

With the recent COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, most of us have been forced to reshuffle how we work, live, and play. Something like this has never happened before in our lifetimes, and it is scary and challenging, but difficult times develop resilient people. John Watson shares some of the positive things he has already noticed come out of this situation.

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Elementary, Mr. Watson: Are We There Yet?

03-12-2020

Anyone who has taken a road trip with children knows the question, “Are we there yet?” very well. This question also applies to PCB design. If you are not careful, your PCB project could easily go off track and you could lose sight of what you are doing (objective), why (motivation), how (process), and when (schedule). John Watson emphasizes the importance of these fundamental questions.

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