Are You Offering Options in Your Bill of Materials?

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In this interview, Saline Lectronics (an Emerald EMS company) President Jason Sciberras talks about PCB designers offering packaging options in the bill of materials. As Jason explains, mil/aero manufacturers like Saline can’t make many changes to a design without getting recertified, so including approved packaging options in the BOM from the start is a great way to go. Are you offering options in your BOM?

Andy Shaughnessy: It seems like designers are getting more adept, through necessity, at designing with a back-up plan in mind. We’re hearing more about having to redesign as much as a quarter of the board because of supply chain issues. Sometimes they’re trying find two or three components that are available to make up for the one that they wanted, so they end up using more real estate. Are you running into that?

Jason Sciberras: We do a lot of military and aerospace work, so those changes just aren’t possible. They would have to go through recertification and the changes are difficult. The shift that’s coming in the industry is that designers are getting smarter.

We’re starting to see some of them designing alternate packages right into the circuit boards so that if this ever comes back, we’ll all think we’re getting toward the backend of this thing and eventually it will get better here. But when we come into the next one—because there’s always a next one—we will be better prepared than we are today.

In the last 20 years, we’ve seen similar cycles that affected the micro lead-frame chip carriers (MLCC), and we had an IC issue also. This one has lasted longer and has affected more products than anything we’ve ever seen before. The best thing about this one is that the entire world is going through it. We have great relationships with our customers; they’re working with us to solve these problems. They understand what’s going on. As a team, we’ve been very successful at keeping them going in some fashion without interruption.

Nolan Johnson: It seems like designing for alternate packages or multiple choices would be a good design practice even when the supply chain is operating smoothly.

Sciberras: I’m hoping that’s here to stay. We’re seeing customers ask, “What are the five or six critical components that would most likely impact my ability to keep the line up and running? What kind of solutions can I design into the layout right up front so that if, God forbid, we come down this path again, we know what to do about it?”

Shaughnessy: Do they call this out in the assembly notes? Where do they notate that there is an alternate if needed?

Sciberras: There’s a couple of different ways you can handle it. As long as you’re specific on your bill of materials, we’re not going to switch back and forth. With the type of customers we’re working with, traceability is critical; I can’t avoid traceability. 

Shaughnessy: One of our designer friends says that maybe we should have been double- and triple-sourcing parts all along. We probably should have been, but we didn’t need to. You just knew the part was there. A lot of companies now say every component must have a backup.

Sciberras: We see a lot more options on a bill of materials today than we have in the past. We have some customers who are real traceability guys who say, “It’s got to be this exact part.” They’ve learned to rewrite their design so that they can get them through certifications with multiple AVLs. In the past, they just thought it was a challenge they didn’t want to deal with.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the February 2023 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.


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