On my birthday in October Mentor Graphics announced its new Expedition Enterprise flow for PCB systems design. This flow enables large electronics companies to leverage their multi-disciplined design team resources, and create and provide access to their intellectual property on a global basis. It also allows companies to integrate their design data with corporate PLM, and supply chain and manufacturing systems, as well as to communicate with outsourced design and manufacturing.
I had a chance to discuss this flow with David Wiens, a business development director for the Systems Design Division of Mentor Graphics Corporation. David joined Mentor Graphics in 1999 through the acquisition of VeriBest. Over the past 20 years, he has held various engineering, marketing and management positions within the EDA industry. His focus areas have included advanced packaging, high-speed design, routing technology and integrated systems design. He holds a B.S. in computer science degree from the University of Kansas.
Why the enterprise focus?
Based on information directly from our customers that we consider global enterprise customers and from industry trends as well, we have developed a consolidated view of the challenges facing the electronics industry. The challenges represented here are fairly generic to anybody doing electronic design in terms of cycle time issues, issues with performance and form factors, issues with reliability, and issues with product costs. In the context of the global enterprise there is the general issue of trying to find ways to leverage the available resources. It may be viewed as something where perhaps the larger an organization gets at some level we all see diminishing returns, perhaps in terms of productivity because we get to a size where we are no longer as efficient as we were as a small entity.
What is the profile of a Global Enterprise?
Multi-site global companies with design teams that are globally dispersed. They do not necessarily have to be on multiple continents. Certainly there are many companies that have multiple design sites within a continent but they may also outsource manufacturing in some cases to Asia and may also outsource certain aspects of the design process as well. All of these different models are alive and well.
We typically see multi-site global company arising through multiple acquisitions. They didn't grow up thinking they wanted to have sites in multiple states or multiple continents. They acquired to build strength within the company and as a result they acquired numerous sites and along the way numerous design teams and the tools that came along with them.
The second issue is IT investment. It's not really an issue. It is a benefit to them in the sense that a large enterprise tends to build up a heavy base of IP that they want to leverage again and again to maximize their productivity. This is in terms of libraries, process and automation, customization basically as they do their process. Along with that they do centralized library and data management to control how that data is changing from a common location. Integration with the corporate enterprise becomes an issue as well. Design teams tend to operate autonomously and don't always view the corporate enterprise as a positive to them. They tend to view the corporate enterprise as a black box, if you will, sometimes a black hole, a little bit on the big brother side as well in the sense of controlling them. This is where we really see the biggest benefit that can come from leveraging that corporate enterprise.
The heterogeneous environment is a function of a multi-site global company where you have multiple acquisitions that result in multiple design tools, multiple hardware platforms that they have to manage over time and the difficulties associated with that. Design teams tend to be rather large. They are not your one and two man shop. They have multidisciplined engineering organizations with specialist in RF, analog, mechanical and software and you have to find ways to integrate all of those.
Large global OEMs tend to perform integrated system design and produce the end product. In other words they are not a small shop whose job in life is to kick out PCBs that someone else incorporates into their end product. They tend to be the OEM themselves. They are concerned with integration between PCB and silicon, between the PCB and the harness system and all of that integrated with the mechanical enclosures to produce the end product.
That's just the setup in terms of what we see as enterprise characteristics. Not all of them have to apply to be considered an enterprise. They are the checks in the box to define what the enterprise really is.
What challenges are specific to global enterprises?
Design team collaboration. Here the idea is to try to find ways to leverage those dispersed design teams whether they are dispersed and unique in terms of skill sets or whether you have the same skill set. You want to find ways to get them working efficiently in series or perhaps even working in parallel to get designs done as quickly as possible. In the same context you have the challenge of trying to communicate efficiently between the OEM and all of their partners. Whether their partners are OEM companies, service bureaus or OEMs you have to find a way to partition up the design process and efficiently get the design done. According to survey data we pulled from EE Times (January 2005) 55% of companies outsource all or part of their board design. Thirty-five percent of large companies said they had problems with communication.
You have heard a lot about Intellectual Property (IP) in the context of silicon and in the context of software. It plays a larger and larger role in the PCB space as well. Library data has traditionally been the area of IP in the PCB space but pre-used blocks are becoming much more common as people try to leverage existing functional blocks of data. Design constraints are the latest issue just because the number of constraints required particularly for signal integrity management and manufacturability is increasing dramatically.
If you think about the enterprise as the gate keeper to the supply chain, the issue is to try to find ways to get data out of that enterprise organization, leverage information on electronic components that you can suck directly into the design environment, saving a lot of time and increase design quality. In general try to find ways to efficiently communicate between that little isolated design team and the enterprise. The enterprise includes not only the business management aspects of the company but also the manufacturing side. How do I communicate data in terms of bill of materials (BOMs) and manufacturing data output to the manufacturing side? How do I leverage data coming in like component availability, component cost, and component reliability that impact the decisions up front in the design process?
The challenge of increased product complexity requires a level of multidisciplined collaboration between electrical and mechanical, between the different areas of electrical IC, IC packaging, and PCB. All of these have to be linked together to ensure optimal performance of a signal traveling across multiple bits of electronics as well as to ensure compatibility between all of those elements in order to make sure that they plug and play together when they are ultimately integrated. One of the key areas that we have been working on is integration of FPGAs and PCBs. The other aspect of that is integration of verification within the design process. Here it is just a fundamental shift left, if you will, in the design process where verification is typically done at the end of the process and then if errors are determined, you have to go back and do an additional design cycle to fix them and then verify again and keep on going; churn until correct. What we have seen is the requirement for a shift of those verification tools into the design process, particularly in the areas of signal integrity and manufacturability so that it produces designs that are correct the first time.
Government regulation compliance fits into the context of the enterprise purely because not only do enterprises have design teams that are globally dispersed but they are also trying to target products globally. They have to have a distinct awareness of the country specific directives for compliance of that component. It is not as simple as a CE mark on the component for radiation. Now you have to worry about the elements of RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) standards. This has an impact on the entire design process starting at the beginning with part selection based upon particular compliance criteria and material properties through layout because it is not just a component issue, it is a fab issue as well. There is a need to understand the impact of those materials throughout the design process in terms of changes to signal integrity and impedance. Finally when the product is built, there is a need to understand how to get the appropriate documentation out the backdoor which is required to note that compliance. All of this requires integration both the input of data from the corporate enterprise as well as the output that is managed within the corporate enterprise particularly by PLM systems.