Real Time with… AltiumLive 2020: Jeremy Blum on Engineering and the Supply Chain

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During the last day of this year’s AltiumLive event, I sat in on a very interesting talk by Jeremy Blum, who is the director of engineering for Sharper Tools Inc., where he architects and designs hardware and software for augmented reality robotic power tools. Before joining Shaper, he was a lead electrical architect/engineer at Google [x], where he worked on confidential products, including Google Glass.

Blum’s presentation was entitled “Leveraging Engineering Expertise for Supply Chain Success.” His goal was to convince the audience that taking a more proactive role in supply chain and manufacturing decisions can reduce your time to marker, workload, and product cost.

Blum indicated that there tends to be a trend to decuple engineering from management and management decisions, which he does not agree with. During the presentation, he mentioned that working with architects taught him to appreciate opinions other than his own, as people can be pigeonholed into their own area of expertise (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Communicate often.

As someone who started their career as a process engineer—and then as I climbed the ladder and transitioned into general management—I can state that overall, some very good suggestions were given for someone who has a career on that same path as was Blum’s.

He had some excellent points to share, as well as good advice, such as the high value obtained by building a good relationship with your component distributors and getting the opinion on chosen components from more than one distributor. That’s great information for designers and engineers.

During the design phase, work early with distributors. Tell them the properties of the component you need or are designing into the device. Speak to them early. Also, keep in mind your price constraints and what the life cycle will be.

Among the many valid pieces of advice, remember that a hard problem is needing to design a replacement part for one that the board was designed for, but is no longer available. If designing PCBs is your focus, you may not care at all about the supply chain, but when there is an issue—such as some of the things that have happened this year—and if there is a supply chain issue, you will then wish you had more rapport with and knowledge of the supply chain (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Problems arise too late.

Those of you who have dreams of climbing the ladder and will gain value from having the opportunity to choose different paths as you come upon forks in the road can find good advice provided in this presentation (Figure 3). I strongly suggest that if you were not able to attend, you might wish to watch the recording, which can be found at

Figure 3: Presentation recap.

Visit Real Time with… AltiumLive 2020 to catch the latest video interviews and event-related content.



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