Enabling PCB supply chain resilience by shifting-left deep market intelligence

By Matt Walsh

What is PCB supply chain resilience?

When we talk about PCB supply chain resilience, we’re talking about the ability of companies to adapt to adverse supply chain conditions. We’ve all experienced directly or indirectly the effects of systemic component chip shortages and supply chain disruptions. Adopting a practice of PCB supply chain resilience in your design process is a significant digital transformation opportunity as companies look to manage risk.

How did PCB supply chains become so volatile?

The dynamics and key trends that gave rise to all this market volatility really started 15+ years ago. One of main drivers is the electrification across many different verticals with digitization of new products and services, everything from precision agriculture to EV platforms where we’re seeing the broad use of sensors and more electronics in almost everything we’re consuming.

In addition, over these same many years, supply chains went global with the central focus being efficiency. However, this globalization of supply chains increased risk exposure to geopolitical shifts and changes. Read our previous blog on today’s supply chain systems – why companies aren’t equipped to handle the new normal or listen to our podcast analyzing the supply chain problems to dive deeper into this topic.

Another challenge: enterprise cross functional silos

There is also a lack of cross functional collaboration that we see because of two factors:

  1. A linear process: Engineering teams have a high degree of autonomy to design in components that meet design requirements and then pass those new designs over to sourcing and procurement to manage the actual procurement process. But collaboration maturity between engineering and procurement organizations is relatively low.
  2. Segmented enterprise systems: Most companies today have no system of collaboration or decision support that really holds a digital thread of the supply chain information that’s running across functional silos. So instead, you have this traditional segmentation into enterprise systems including ECAD and EDA, PLM, Supply Chain, and ERP systems that are also highly segmented such that each only holds a piece of the puzzle in terms of the broad representation of what’s happening across each of these silos. This makes it increasingly difficult to make better and more informed tradeoff decisions.

Read our blog how existing organizational infrastructure puts you at a disadvantage – supply chain resilience is not built into the design process, or listen to our podcast trends across the printed circuit engineering industry to dive deeper into this topic.

The pressure is falling on engineering teams

This linear transition going from the engineering design chain into supply chain and sourcing where only then is there visibility to long lead times and potential shortages or lack of inventory that will have an impact on the ability to release to manufacturing or scale to volume.

In other words, the overall PCB supply chain impacts are being caught much later in the process and that’s causing redesign cycles where engineering teams are being asked to evaluate alternative components and to qualify alternate sourcing options. This has a massive impact on engineering capacity for new product introductions. In some cases, upwards of 40-50% of the entire engineering teams these last couple years have been consumed by redesigns of full systems or active products already released to market or consumed by the redesign and requalification of potential alternate components in very complex bills of material during the new product introduction phase.

A new way forward: shifting left comprehensive supply chain intelligence

In a previous blog, the road to resilience at the point of design: intelligence and podcast, using intelligence to build a resilient supply chain, we set the stage for our approach to achieving PCB supply chain resilience, something we broadly call “shifting-left,” which means shifting left more robust intelligence to the point of design.

Enabling PCB supply chain resilience with Xpedition EDM

Deep market intelligence, including all the parametric information, is now fully integrated with Xpedition EDM. Never again will a designer accidentally use a part that is obsolete or a part that has an unacceptably long lead time.

Out of the box, the Xpedition EDM solution includes comprehensive part intelligence from Siemens Supplyframe on over 650 million manufacturer part numbers and includes a robust data model and automated integration with your engineering workflow.

Let’s take a closer look at what this PCB supply chain resilience solution delivers.

Part Intelligence

In short, our solution provides pushbutton access to comprehensive intelligence information including all parametric characteristics for a given part alongside availability, lifecycle, and other useful supply chain data. Instead of engineering organizations needing to search online for this component information and then spending additional time manually inputting and categorizing the information, the rich component intelligence is readily available at their fingertips. And organizations don’t need to constantly update the information if anything changes because that is done automatically for all the components in your library.

However, our solution isn’t just about connecting you to part intelligence data. It also comes with a robust data model that includes a taxonomy and the automatic classification of component data to make it very easy for those digital records to be searched. So, imagine a world where your engineering organization never has to manually type in characteristic information about a part. It is automatically classified; it is automatically updated. And it directly links to your ECAD system.

Extended search

Part intelligence includes both parametric information and details on form fit and function, so engineers can make the best, most informed part decisions. And because our integrated solution comes with a data model, it’s easy to search for and find parts from your corporate libraries using generic free text or parametric searches. For example, maybe a designer, working on a new product, searches for a part that you have in house and has been used before, but finds that the part just searched for locally is obsolete. What then? In the past maybe you then had to go online to a 3rd component distributor site or to some other industry search engine to find a suitable alternative.

This is how it’s being done today, but this path lacks a digital record of events and thus the digital thread has been broken. On the other hand, our integrated solution, supports what we call “extended search” and it allows you to easily search online through a direct connection to the content provider of your choosing And when you find a suitable alternative part or set of parts, our solution maps it directly to the supplied data model with no additional intervention. This is all built-in, ready to use.

Part comparison

Once you find these alternatives, we provide comprehensive views allowing the designer to quickly compare and assess the technical fit of different manufacturer part numbers that meet your criteria in a side-by-side parametric and supply chain comparison table including access to the data sheets. Then, once you select the best part that meets your needs, our integrated solution allows you to initiate a new part request with the push of a button.

And again, what further differentiates this solution is the inclusion of a data model that automatically maps the data for you. This is ready to go out of the box.

Bill of Materials audit

The Xpedition EDM solution also configures Xpedition Designer with the same integrated supply chain intelligence such that real-time BoM audits are viewable with the push of a button. This makes it easy for engineers to assess risk at the point of design capture.

Looking toward the future

And we’ve only just started. We’re already working on more comprehensive BOM analysis, risk grading, and automated notifications that we will be adding to our solution. No matter if a user is a designer, a component engineer, a librarian or a manager, there is tremendous functionality at your fingertips to help accelerate the design process.

Learn more about our solution by visiting our PCB supply chain page.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at