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It’s All In The Metrics

Comments(2)Filed under: PCB design, enterprise integration, metrics, Allegro Design WorkbenchYou could be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be a discussion of the benefits of imperial versus metric units, but its not. The metrics I’m talking about are those business metrics that constrain a design. These business metrics may be anything from cost, to part quality to RoHS compliance. What I’d like to discuss is how important these metrics are to you, how do you handle this information today and where does it come from. As business constraints become more important in the design of products, this is an increasingly important topic. The Allegro Design Workbench team is focusing some energy on building broader support for metrics and design analysis and this is an opportunity to provide feedback that will help us shape future product development.

Let's look at each of these areas is turn:

How important are metrics to you?
Historically the electronics design area focused primarily on function. Libraries and part selection were based on functional parameters. The design process was executed in somewhat of a black-box, with one of the outputs being a bill of materials. This BOM would at some point be analyzed and then feedback provided, however this may be after the design has already been completed. Fast forward to the present day, where design cycle times and market windows are shrinking and business constraints are growing.

  • How are you bringing this type of analysis earlier in the design cycle?
  • How important is this information to you as a design engineer?
  • What business metrics do you collect and how automated is their collection?

How do you handle this data today?
So lets suppose you do have access to all the business information you need to generated metrics about the design. What is the typical metric report that you need and when do you need it? Is it sufficient to have statically generated reports that indicate parts out of compliance, for example run a report that shows all the parts in the design that are not RoHS complaint? Or do you really need a dashboard of metrics where you can see multiple metrics and how they change in real time as the design progresses? For collaboration with others would it be beneficial to have graphical rollup summaries to quickly show the overall health of a design.

  • What type of reports do you need to generate?
  • How important is it to run analytics in addition to reports (for example make suggestions for optimizing a BOM based on certain criteria)
  • Do you look at metrics across multiple BOMs simultaneously?

Where does this information come from?
Much of the business information, especially around part data is owned by other business functions. It’s not reasonable to expect CAD librarians to maintain much of this in a CAD library. Can you imagine having to update cost information for 20,000 each month? However there are business systems that do contain this data: either a corporate part database or PLM system is the most likely source. Integrating this data into the engineering desktop is one challenge, but necessary to make it available at component selection time. Some folks do export data from enterprise systems directly into the CAD tools (for example into CIS or by auto updating PTF data). There is also a plethora of potential data available: do you just need to know whether a part is RoHS compliant or do you really need to know the percentage of hexavalent chromium in it?

  • Can you see all the data you want at component selection time?
  • Do you use more than one system for component selection (one to research the part and the other to select it for the CAD tools)?
  • How do you handle access to all the part business data?
We've only scratched the surface of metrics, but I’ll leave it there for now. In later posts I’ll talk about the importance of process metrics in addition to design business metrics. And just to keep you salivating with anticipation other future topics will include design data management, design reuse, ECAD and the enterprise and other juicy topics!

As always - I look forward to your feedback and continued discussion on this topic.


By Helen on March 31, 2009
Matt, You asked a dozen of good questions. Do you have answers for them?

By MattB on March 31, 2009
Hello Helen,

I have answers to some of them; some are to find out more about what customers are doing today and what they are looking for. Firstly, just as a reminder, I run the Allegro Design Workbench group, so my answers are centered around that (you can see more about that if you follow the link in the article).

From the designers’ perspective, we allow you to show any set of data associated with a part. That could be electrical data or business data, and you can filter on it. So it’s easy to say “show me all the parts that are RoHS compliant”. We help you manage the CAD library and the CAD data, but the business data we expect to come from some other business system and we just pull it in. So the design engineer has one place to go and do his component research and selection. Also for the designer we let them generate metrics from the design, so that it is easy to highlight issues as early as possible. Again, as a simple example, “show me all the parts that are not RoHS compliant”. There are some questions I have here around what’s the most important business information you want and what’s the most comfortable way to present the result data.

There are certainly some decisions which will vary from business to business. Many companies will have complete compliance data for each set of compliance regulations for each part (or at least they’d like to). This is certainly too much to present to an engineer, so there has to be some discussion on condensing the business information down to a key set of information, when we import it into Allegro Design Workbench. We keep this data synchronized with the original source so that it is not stale.

I’d be particularly interested to know if you are doing any BOM optimizations today, especially across multiple BOMs.

Thanks Helen for the question. If you’d like more information please feel free to contact me.

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