This Month in Design007 Magazine: Mentor—Managing Small Problems for Profitability


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At DesignCon, I met up with Todd Westerhoff, product marketing manager for highspeed design at Mentor, a Siemens Business, to discuss common design profitability issues and cost-aware PCB design. He explains how simple problems can “slip through the cracks” and cause delays, what you can do, and how first-order analysis can make simulation accessible to designers who wouldn’t simulate otherwise.

Andy Shaughnessy: Tell us about how the “small stuff” can get you in trouble. You say that we, as designers, take care of the big challenges pretty well, but projects get held up anyway.

Todd Westerhoff: Lifecycle Insights ran a study about a year ago that I find to be quite telling. They asked companies questions, such as, “How much simulation do you use in your process? Do you hit the mark in terms of your time, budget, or release date?” The two most interesting findings had to do with schedule and budget. They found that only one in four projects gets delivered on time and on budget (in other words, according to plan).

Shaughnessy: Even that may be optimistic.

Westerhoff: You’re right. Digging deeper, 30% of projects were delivered on time, but only by pulling in additional staff, 28% were delivered late, and 17% of projects were canceled entirely (quite possibly as a result of resources pulled to bail out other projects). The bottom line is that design projects had a 25% success rate, and that’s a problem.

Why does this happen? Consider all the different requirements designers are trying to accommodate: SI, PI, EMC, mechanical clearances, vibration, reliability, and so on. Designers live in a world where all of these things have all become specialties or have expert domains. Designers have a network of specialists around them, whose time and input they need to move their design forward. The problem is that each specialist looks at a different slice of the design, but how does all that input get integrated and turned into a holistic view that guides design trade-offs? How do those decisions get made? Does the designer understand enough of each of the specialist’s inputs to make the right trade-offs in the design of the board? The answer, based on the success rate, is perhaps not.

Another fascinating thing was when we asked our customers about the challenges they have faced, they said, “It isn’t the hard stuff, like 112 Gb/s serial links or DDR5 interfaces, that we need help with. Those are big challenges, but we know to focus on those, and we solve them. It’s the simple stuff that we’re not focused on that often nails us.”

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the March 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

Don't forget to check out the latest book from Mentor, A Siemen's Business The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to… Advanced Manufacturing in the Digital Age. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download this and other free, educational titles.

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