How to Optimize a Digital Thread’s Supply Chain Continuity

For a parent, is there anything better than bringing a new life into the world? The joy, happiness, and sense of accomplishment that accompany the gift of a child are monumental. What feats will this child achieve? How many lives will be enriched by them? Questions like these add to the excitement of this event. Yet, these feelings are soon followed by concerns about security and protection.

For the team or company developing a PCBA or electronics product that will embody a new idea or innovation for the world, the range of emotions can be similar. One of the major concerns when designing and manufacturing circuit boards is the protection of the PCB component procurement process, or what is commonly referred to as component supply chain security. However, for new innovations, components not only need to be secure, but the entire process of developing the boards must be free from disruption as well.

Meeting this requirement can be difficult depending upon your choice for PCBA fabrication and assembly services. An effective method that facilitates secure PCBA development is digital thread manufacturing. Let’s take a look at a digital thread’s supply chain and how if utilized effectively it can facilitate secure and continuous board development.

What is a Digital Thread’s Supply Chain?

One of the most profound concepts to be developed in recent times is the Internet of Things (IoT) architecture that allows for the expansion of product and system integration across geo-locations that may be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. Embracing this software-based architecture, Industry 4.0 or Industrial IoT (IIoT) is transforming production facilities into smart factories, where once isolated machines now transmit and receive data from other equipment and robots wirelessly. IoT PCB development, which is the targeted design and manufacturing of circuit boards that will be specifically used in industrial production environments, is indeed a driving force behind this revolution. However, the process of building boards themselves has also been influenced by the IoT concept.

This is best demonstrated by the digital thread, which transforms the contemporary method of spinning boards into a new software-accelerated PCB technology. A key aspect of a digital thread is that it links all of the processes and facilities involved with board development; such that components, boards, and design data, which comprise a supply chain, can be tracked in real-time. This can be formally defined as a digital thread supply chain, as below.

A Digital Thread’s Supply Chain refers to software and hardware primary elements that undergo processing in order to produce the final assembled PCB or PCBA. These elements include design, component and manufacturing data; components; the PCB, and the final PCBA. The supply chain connects all of the entity facilities that either produce, supply or manufacture the elements involved in the development process, which are the design developer, component supplier(s), fab house, and assembly factory.

From this definition, we see that the supply chain with which a digital thread interacts extends to the component procurement, design data, and fabrication sources. Data from these sources is uploaded to the digital thread and is controlled and utilized as necessary as the board manufacturing process progresses from its inception through to the final product. An overview of the major elements and processes of the digital thread supply chain is shown below.

Link Input(s) Process Entity-Facility Output(s)
1 * Board design Developer Design file package, BOM
2 Design file package Fabrication Fab house Bare board
3 BOM Component acquisition Supplier or Distributor Procured components
4 Bare board, procured components Assembly Assembly house Final PCBA

* The input to the board design process is not a part of the digital thread supply chain and is thus omitted from the table.

Now that we have fully defined the digital thread supply chain, let’s see how to best utilize it to ensure the most efficient development.

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Effectively Using a Digital Thread’s Supply Chain

In order to create an effective PCBA development process, there are a few essential attributes that must be present. These include making informed component choices, making good use of DFM rules and guidelines, and most of all collaboration with your CM. Establishing and implementing open and transparent communication, which is a hallmark of white-box PCBA manufacturing, is foundational to the effectiveness of the digital thread’s supply chain, as shown below.

Pillars for the Optimal Usage of a Digital Thread’s Supply Chain

  • Component selection based on available data
  • Sourcing components from reliable suppliers
  • Ensuring board design passes all DFM-based DRC checks
  • Transferring a complete and accurate design package to your CM
  • Choosing a CM that employs digital thread manufacturing
  • Open collaboration with your CM
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  • 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.

By employing the pillars listed above, you can ensure that the digital thread’s supply chain of your PCBA development will be optimized for security and continuity. However, it is imperative that your CM employs a digital thread manufacturing process, which we do at Tempo Automation. Beginning on day 1, we will work with you to ensure that your boards are built to the highest quality faster than anyone in the industry. Moreover, we provide transparent tracking of your boards throughout the process.

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 the digital thread supply chain, contact us.

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