AltiumLive 2018 Panel Discussion with Experts from PCB Supply Chain

Judy Warner
|  Created: October 9, 2018  |  Updated: February 5, 2021

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Hi everyone this is Judy Warner with Altium's OnTrack Podcast. Welcome back. We are glad to have you. Remember to connect with us on all the usual social media platforms I'm @AltiumJudy. Please connect with me on LinkedIn and of course Altium is on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and don't forget that we record these simultaneously on YouTube as well. So take a look at our channel on YouTube.

So today what we wanted to do is just to chime in and tell you we're going to have a break. So for about six weeks we're going to take a break because we are busy, busy, busy here at Altium, preparing for all the Altium events in San Diego and in Munich. San Diego has just passed and we had an unbelievable, really positive time. We had keynote speakers like Eric Bogatin, Rick Hartley, Jeremy Blum, Bill Herd, and in all we had about 30 speakers, 16 sponsors and - are you ready for it - over 300 attendees on the beautiful beach in San Diego. We'll be able to actually do the same thing over again with a different set of faces and speakers and we'll be doing that in Munich Germany, January 15th through 17th. So if you are in Europe or in the Munich area please, please join us, you won't want to miss it.

Two other things besides all the great technical content that we offered at AltiumLive, was we rolled out a groundbreaking program product that's called Altium 365. Altium 365 is a cloud-based platform where you can collaborate, not only with your adjacent, engineer, but you can talk to all the stakeholders in the process. Whether that's component folks, fabrication, assembly testing, the whole gamut of people that are involved as stakeholders, bringing a product from design to realization. And in the spirit of that theme of transformation, I had the privilege of moderating a panel of people that represented all parts of this, really ecosystem, that brings us all together and we're going to show you that panel in just a moment. We also did roll out Altium Designer 19. Both these products are slated to come out around December - January time frame. So just stay connected with us, and we'll be sure to let you know when those are coming out. Now we're going to cut to a panel discussion I'd led like I said, with a group of illustrious leaders, thought leaders in their respective spaces, I hope you enjoy the panel. We'll see you on the other side.

I'm going to let the panel each introduce themselves so you know who they are, and give some context to their expertise so Tara, let's start with you.

-Okay, so I'm Tara Dunn, with Omni PCB we are a manufacturer's rep company specializing in printed circuit board fabrication. We represent suppliers that offer a full range of technology - so everything from very standard FR4 designs, through high-end HDI. We also specialize in flex, rigid flex, and an advanced technology that's enabling sub 1 mill line in space. The company was founded on making connections, so we work very hard to connect our customers with technical information. We also work to connect our customers with others in the industry and one of the founders of Geek-a-Palooza, which is a social networking event bringing all aspects of the electronics industry together for a night of networking. And then of course, we work hard to connect our customers with the best-fit supplier. So representing four different manufacturers with all specialized technology. Together we can offer the best fit based on technology, volume, or time.

Thank you.

Hello, my name is Mike Creedon I'm the founder, and now VP of San Diego PCB design. San Diego PCB design, actually we have a booth out there so you can visit David and Samantha. We have 18 designers now, and I think in 4 or 5 states (and one's moving) and we have 4 different CAD platforms. But the one I'm excited about is Altium, and having worked for a handful of CAD companies, having bought most of the software out there that Altium is bringing to us, I'm giving you the plug right now...

Judy: I'm gonna pay you later right.

 -You can pay me later. This kind of event is not happening elsewhere and, and the quality of education, and the concept of inspiring and educating and networking is really valuable and I request an applause for our friends at Altium.


Before, thank you, before I pass the mike, I have the opportunity to serve with EPTAC Corporation as a CID, CID+ trainer. I have the designation of MIT, which is a Master IPC Trainer, which means I got to help write the book along with Rick Hartley, who just spoke. Gary Ferrari and a few others, but I have a passion for education and I'm thankful for that opportunity so with that I'll pass it to Carl.

I'm Carl Schattke, I've been designing printed circuit boards for 45 years. I started when I was very young, my father was a board designer. I grew up around printed circuit boards. I'm really passionate about what we can do with printed circuit boards and helping people and enhancing their lives. I work at a very large automotive company, that's smaller than larger ones, up in Silicon Valley and I've had an opportunity to design a lot of circuit boards for cars and energy products. In my career I've owned a - owned a Consulting Printed Circuit Board Service Bureau for 10 years. I also worked at Intel for almost 10 years, and designed boards there, and I've also done a lot of consulting on different circuit boards. I've probably designed over 4,500 circuit boards over my career. I've not been standing still at all, I'd love to continuously learn and work on challenging projects, and I love helping people with the design work that I do. I've really enjoyed the conference so far here, and what I've learned, and I look forward to some challenging questions here.

Wow next to Carl I feel like a loser. I'm Julie Ellis, I'm a field applications Engineer for TTM Technologies. I'm in the commercial unit which I specialize in automotive, medical, industrial control printed circuit board design - or assistance for helping customers design. TTM technologies is the world's third largest printed circuit board fabricator. We have over 31,000 employees, 23 production facilities, and we also do some contract manufacturing. And I have experiences - I'm a BSE-EE, I'm a Master Trainer in IPC A-610, and 6012. I'm a certified trainer and I have experience in both design from - from when I started in design, then I moved into Manufacturer's Rep, so I've got a variety of experience, like Judy does. I've also repped circuit boards, worked as engineer for contract manufacturers and circuit board suppliers, and now I'm here with TTM enjoying it. This has been a great show, because it gives me a chance to help share knowledge and learn from all of you here, so thank you.

-I'm Chris Hunrath, with Insulectro, and Insulectro is a material supplier to the PCP fabricators. We specialize in materials for both rigid PCB and flex, conductive inks, substrates. More recently fired-on inks where we bring the materials to fabricators like TTM. And we also specialize in quick turn, a lot of quick turn to shorten the time to market hopefully we can work more with the designers in finding the right materials for the applications and solve some of the challenges you've seen over some of the presentations today, so hopefully you can get my contact information if you need more information on materials.

Thanks I'm gonna stand up because I can't see half the people over here. I'm not illustrious, I think the illustrious person wasn't able to be here so Judy invited me as a last-minute guest. I heard there was free food, so I agreed to come and I want to thank Judy and Altium for putting this on. A gentleman who spoke earlier about the old days, when at least, when I had black hair most of the CAD vendors and EDA vendors put on these kinds of events and really that's fallen by the wayside largely which is disappointing. I also want to thank Judy for texting me this morning at 6:45 when I was in bed in Santa Barbara telling me: oh, I was wrong, I don't need you here at noon, I need you here at 10:00. So thank you very much for that...

Judy: I did get him a hotel last night and invited him last night.

So my name is Craig I'm a -we're gonna have a little wrestling match later on we might actually have it in front if you want to see it.


My name is Craig, I'm a consultant. Somebody once told me that a consultant means you con and insult people all at the same time. I'm not sure what other consultants do what qualifies me to be a consultant is I raised five kids, four of them teenage girls, if you've ever survived a teenage girl times four then you deserve to be illustrious in some sense. I've run a very large PCB design company forever ago that was sold to Flextronics and I got my first introduction to working for a billion-dollar company (I got fired). Then I started a manufacturing company because I decided manufacturing can't be that hard, and I found something that can consume money at a ferocious rate. That was sold to a private equity company - and then I got fired. Then I started another manufacturing company because one wasn't enough, and I still had money in my bank account. And that got sold, and then I got fired.


And then I started a software company because in the manufacturing companies there are so many holes in the process and you're thinking about maybe industry 4.0, and how do I get parts orientation from reels of materials to the stockroom, to the printer, to the DFM software, to layout software. Just within the manufacturing operation there's about six different places that a rotation of a part is dealt with differently. So the software operation really became the most important component to the manufacturing operation and so that's me and thanks for the free coffee and the wake-up call at 6:45.

Judy: You're welcome.


Alright, let's get started on the speed panel here. Tara I think I'm gonna start with you. Whether we are in design manufacturing or any other discipline, we are all working to create the same outcome. A product. Why then do you think we seem to operate in silos and what causes that?

That's an excellent question. Short quick answer; it's really easy to operate that way and just keep throwing things over the fence but I think a lot of it goes down or comes back to having information about all of the other processes, the ones before you and the ones after you. You know going back to the old days as we're talking about, at least we had a lot of Captive shops back in the old day. So you just naturally had a better understanding of the full process from beginning to end as you would help solve problems. As that kind of went by the wayside, we started outsourcing more and specializing more, but even then, that was before email and in communicating in that manner. So we would pick up the phone and talk to each other; it was very common to have field trips. You'd go visit your contract manufacturer, the designers were coming to see the fabrication process, get to learn the - kind of the pain points on both sides of that equation and get to know each other. You know once you have a problem, it's really easy to solve it once you've built a relationship. But then as the economy kind of did a downturn, those travel budgets got cut drastically and about that same time the era of email came into play.

So now we're not traveling to see each other, we're not learning the pain points that each other is having, and we're not even talking on the phone. Probably 95 percent of the communication is via email so I think it's really easy to just get in that habit and throw, your problem to the next step before you, or trace it back to the step behind you, instead of just picking up the phone, talking to each other and solving the problem

Judy: Thank you. Good answer, why don't you hand the mic there to Mike Creedon - Mike same question.

Well it's definitely something that we as an industry are up against. Having started in 1976, I designed and we had our own fab shop, and we had our own assembly shop. But the evolution of our business as Tara alluded to, OEMs are not CMs anymore okay, and so we're fragmented as an industry. And now, even the design comes to a company oftentimes like mine. So we're - I think it's a flawed construct to say that we're all on the same team, and the reason I say that is because we all have our own profit centers okay. An example of that might be where an assembler says: gee, if I could get ten boards up on one assembly array that would be really good for my cost margin. However, if I go over to a fabricator and I've actually watched Julie do this at Apex. She just sits down and breaks out was it quick?


-and and she says yeah but ten would - may be good for the assembler, but you're gonna get a very low fabrication yield. So then she would have to raise her prices. So she then works across the aisle to the other person and tries to find the compromise. So the thing we really need to do again, to echo what she said, is to build relationships back and forth and their business relationships understand what the other person has and work with them and make it a team because we're really not showing up as a team member so it's kind of like when you talk about baseball and they show up for the all-star game they're competitors but when they play together on the all-star team they all have the same uniform.

Judy: Great.

Julie I'm gonna ask you the next question: if you could ask for just one thing from the discipline, person/company kind of adjacent to you, meaning you're in the fabrication space, so from a designer, fabricator, supplier, assembler - if you could ask just one one thing from that person or company in an adjacent discipline, what would it be? No pressure.

No pressure, because I have a lot of things that I'd like to ask for. Tara made a good point about how people just lob things over the fence and so mine has to do kind of with that, and that everybody kind of wants to lump technology, printed circuit boards into one group. So I'll get a Director of Sales send me an email and it'll say: hey, can you send your DFM guidelines to this customer. It's a new customer, I don't know what their technology is, I don't know whether they're ITAR and have to be built here in the United States, or if they're going to be prototyped here and then transferred over to China. So what I'd like everybody to do, is pay more attention to detail and provide more attention. Starting with customer, part number, and attach the drawing so that I really have information to answer the questions. It helps all along because in most cases, not necessarily design guidelines for new customers, but if you're asking me for a stack up for a particular part and you think my company has the fab drawing, please send me the fab drawing because it's difficult for me to chase it down. So I guess that was two things; provide as much detail as possible because it makes our jobs easier to answer the inquiries.

 Judy: Chris Hunrath, same question. If you could ask for one thing, you're supplying materials, what would you ask of designers and fabricators because you sort of stand in the mix of that company, what is one thing you would ask of those people?

Yes I think I can answer this pretty simply. Very often the fabricators between us and the designer or the end customer, and a lot of times they you know - they purchase materials from us and they don't get what they expect and when I say they I'm not talking about the fabricator of course I'm talking about the user of the part of the product so what we've been doing more recently in the last couple of years is we've been reaching out to designers and OEMs and trying to work with the fabricator. We don't want to connect to that community without the fabricator because the fabricator has to build the parts. So we want to do it together. So really my question would be - is - or not my question - request, would be is get us involved early on so we can find the best fit. Because we have a lot of different products in a lot of different spaces and you know it's - it's actually a good good time to be a material supplier because you know just regular epoxy FR4 isn't cutting it, in a lot of designs anymore. 

Judy: Thank you - great answer.

So because Altium now publishes a podcast, and I have the privilege of hosting that, I was interviewing Lee Ritchey who says what he thinks, and that's why we kind of lovely Richey right?

So he said something in the podcast recently I'd like you to respond to. He said, by definition standards are based on the past. So my question is, how do we keep pushing forward cutting-edge technology, if we're using standards that are based on the past? Mike Creedon, why don't you take that one?

Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this. I serve on the Standards Committee and Lee is very correct. You are not going to innovate per the standards, you're just not going to do it, but if you truly want to build one of these and to build a million of them or a billion of them, you better understand what the standards are because they're a legal, binding entity that you request performance on and if you want to produce this, in a high volume, with truly what they say producibility, you want a high yield which lowers your cost okay. You don't want to get operated on, or fly in a plane that's built to class one, you just don't want to do it, it's life-critical.

So understanding what producibility matrix is, is what standard's about. The concept that they're current - I serve on these every two weeks - I'm going to Chicago in two weeks from now, on my own nickel, to go there to contribute, and I sit on a panel with some 70 people from all walks of industry. From aerospace, telecommunications, fabricators, assembly, I'm literally on a team with some of your people from Ohio type of thing I know Chris is contributing right now to the 2221 series, which is a design standard. So they are current in - but they're - what we're currently doing - so you're not going to innovate to him. Now I have a very important update to share with this particular body concerning that. We stood here a year ago and we got to listen to Mr. Happy Holden share about landless vias. He had done this in years past at HP and was very successful with it. HP built their own boards, therefore it was their proprietary information and guess what?

Now Happy moved on to other you know occupations - or I mean, excuse me - companies but that technology of landless vias died on the vine, and nobody's doing it. Now if I was to have listened to what he said, designed a board and then just went to Julie and said, can you build it for me? She'd go hmm not so readily, okay. Whether or not the technology is viable or not, I'm contracting her to a certain standard which inhibits that. Now here's where this gets better. I had the opportunity to work with Barry, and that the team at IConnect007, and at Apex we did a HDI round table. Happy and I sat down with some of their editors and it's - it's on the link there - so there's my plug for 007. But as a result of that interview, I took it to the Technical Advisory Committee and I gave it - put Gary Ferrari in charge of it - which he's like a pit bull when it comes to IPC. He can make things happen. They said: this is incredible, we need to be researching it and doing it okay.

So they therefore went to the 6012 committee and they have found volunteers to do it. See there's the problem is people want to talk about it but no one wants to spend our own money to go investigate this. We got volunteers to do it, we're actually, in two weeks in Chicago, going to bring our findings back, and the goal is the standards helps us share. The true thing that stifles the ingenuity and the creativity oftentimes, is competitive edge. I don't want to share that or it's the standards body gives us the ability to share this. I don't know about you, but I want the ability to use a landless vias because the technology is going in that direction - and my applaud to Happy for helping keep this alive, because he's done a very good job at that, so thank you.

Judy: Thank you Mike, pass the mic there to Tara.

Tara, same question. You're involved in advanced technologies, particularly additive technologies that are really exciting, so how do we drive this kind of technology forward when there's not a standard in place, and we need to be innovating?

You know so a couple of the things that I work with are at a stage that are truly just innovative and a lot of testing and there really aren't standards to surround that - that would be semi-additive, modified semi-additive substrate like PCBs, doing a lot of work in this sub-one mil line in space down at five microns, we don't have reliability data yet, on those types of designs. Also the same thing for e-textiles; we're seeing the very same thing, trying to combine the textile industry with our electronics.

So I think, what's important in those cases, is to really sit down and be very clear about the expectations from both sides, or anybody that's involved with it and have very frank, maybe difficult discussions, about what those expectations are, identify where the challenges are going to be in the process and then at those challenge points, review again you know. Did we meet the expectations? If we didn't, why not? Is it possible to make adjustments or not, and where are we gonna go from there? And as long as we keep working together and being very clear about the expectations, I think eventually those expectations is what helps build the framework for future standards.

Judy: Thank you Tara.

Well Craig. I intentionally saved you for this question and you sort of alluded to it before. So Craig was CEO of an AMS company in Silicon Valley that I had the privilege of visiting and I was so impressed by what they'd done with software and I'll just let Craig talk about it but it's like the impact - well let me just frame up the question. In that factory there was so much impact of getting human hands off the boards and optimizing the process because they spent millions of dollars writing custom software to enable that. So Craig, what impact do you think industry 4.0 or AI or machine learning may have on the future of electronics realization?

Thanks Judy, again I just can't sit here and not see half the people...

So as Judy mentioned, the last operation I ran was about 350 people and close to a hundred million dollars in revenue in Silicon Valley. You know what I usually say about business in Silicon Valley - not that wherever you are from is not similar - but if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. Within about 50 miles of our building, which was 50 thousand square feet there was about 200 competitors ranging from billion-dollar companies down to mom and pops that are just barely hanging in there, so that's a very tough environment to be in. And we talked about - how many people have heard about industry 4.0?

Now it's advertised like crazy, what does that really mean? So it's an effort, if you think about the factory floor, we have a stencil printer it has certain parameters and it has a certain job it does. Then you have a solder paste inspection machine, it has its functions and job, and needs data and provides data. And you have placement machines, then you have ovens, and you have AOI machines, and you have x-ray machines and scattered among there, you have human beings, quality inspectors, first article inspectors, through-hole people.

So if you think about all those those different machines that are all mostly made by different manufacturers, trying to create some software backplane over the top of that, so that you can collect data from the stencil printer, and data from SPI, and data from the placement machines. When each of those manufacturers either; A: doesn't want to provide it because it's a secret or, B: the format it comes out in, was never meant to be digested by a piece of software. But the way the stencil printer does it, and the way the SPI machine does it, and the AOI machine, and the x-ray machine, and the placement machine and the people - everything is different.

So industry 4.0 is essentially trying to wrestle all the manufacturers to create a common software backplane so that all the machines can talk together, to do within the factory what Altium is trying to do with software. So for the design community to try to create some homogeneous integration from the time you design until you fabricate and assemble so that data is transported, the necessary data is transported in a manner that's usable so it can infect the downstream process I just got utterly frustrated at industry 4.0. You can see why I get fired a lot. I call it industry point five they are not even close yet to these machines talking; so the most important tool in our factory was a software team that we built just to write interface code to talk to each of those machines to normalize the data, to bring it up to a higher layer so we could collect, analyze, and predict where errors were going to be.

So essentially, the industry is moving and one of the other panel members mentioned this. The needs of a manufacturer and the constraints of a manufacturer versus as a fabricator, versus a material supplier, versus a design software company, versus designers we all have very - we obviously have a common goal to get a product out, but very disparate needs and wants and challenges. And so, when you try to get all of those people together to try to do things in a way that the data is transportable - that's a tough, tough problem. And we're getting there, industry 4.0 is getting there - I guess I'll call it 1.0 and now we're 1.5. Standards bodies are catching up rapidly because, why is that? Customers are making that happen, we expect to be able to get a product out very rapidly and in people's hands and sold. So we can either continue that effort at the standards level and at the innovation level, or we can be out of business. We can be the the dinosaurs.

Judy: Thank you.

Carl, same question; what do you think the impact of industry 4.0 or machine learning may have on the future of electronics?

 So when I was at Intel we have - they have like 24 large fabs around the world, and they're approximately the size of this building and they're filled with multiple million-dollar machines, floor to ceiling, almost as far as the eye can see, and in this factory there's these things called Fuchs. They're basically boxes that hold wafers, and each of those boxes is holding you know a couple million dollars worth of product and there's literally thousands of them floating around the room, and the only people that are in that fab are the people that are fixing a machine that's down, or servicing a machine that needs some help. So I would say they're already at that level. The rest of us that are building circuit boards aren't there yet. The volumes aren't there to justify that in the profit margins, but they will be. But I don't think that's where I want to go with this question.

The question is: how do you use AI to get to the next level? And to me, that next level is taking what you know and then, that's your ‘to-be’ -  that's your ‘as-is’ state and then moving to ‘to-be’ state. And when you want to improve process, as you're always doing; you look at the process you have, and then you look at the process where you want it to be, and then you look at what are the options that you have to get it there. And you try to design a path of migration from that ‘as-is’ to the ‘to-be’ state, and you you look for ways that you can leverage what you have and then you leverage that into something that's going to be super-useful. And using creative ways to get there in a shorter path and you look at the activities that it takes to do one thing, and then you look at what you could automate to get to the next level. And in our software we've seen it migrate you know, from just simply putting tracks and pads down to now we're adding signal integrity - so many things.

Now if you look at where Altium has migrated over - over the 30 years, I started mid-85, using Altium, if you look at where that's come each - each year there's a new development, there's new automation, and that automation is driven by you. You ask for things, and then Altium responds, and they they respond to what's needed in the marketplace and we have a large influence on the design of that. And Altium's really our partner in this and they're not in a vacuum. They need us to help them. Where I see this going, is we're looking at usage models.

How are people using the software, you track how people are using the software, you track where they're taking their time, and I think they could add in tracking software. You see actually where the keystroke's being done, where are people hesitating in the designs you know. Where are the pain points? And then you eliminate those pain points and you get better and better and better software, and eventually you're gonna automate tasks that seem mundane now. You know, you can drive innovation in the automation and as you come up with ideas about how something could be automated, you put the resources towards that automation, and then you're gonna see increased utilization of the resources and ultimately the human resource is the most limited one. There's only so many designers in this room and there's only so many good designers. You look around the industry; the hardest thing for you and your business is finding more talented people. It's the same thing in our design team, we have a very difficult time finding super talented people. And the way that you do that, is you train and educate. And I think that AI 4.0 is going to educate people better and then it's going to also enable - the tools need to come up to where we educate - through the usage of the tool and then also the tool automates functions that are repeatable.

I like to say that computers should do things the computer should do, and our software should help us with that, and then humans should be able to make the decisions and be helped to make the decisions that are - you know, like design direction and - and we'll see increased software to help that in the future. And I think that we're gonna see - you know to me AI is going to be used to really enhance the way that we can learn, in a way that we can work in the future. That's what I hope, and I'm quite certain that we'll see that. And the companies that support that, and drive that innovation are gonna be some of the largest companies in the world because they'll be far more efficient than those that sit by the sidelines and let somebody else do the work.

Judy: Thank you.

Julie, TTM has factories offshore and they're trying to get human hands off as much as possible for efficiency. Where do you think we're going to go in it and with industry 4.0 from your perspective, and what you're seeing in China, and how some of those things might migrate to North America?

Well what I see in China is the lines are often much larger than they are here because they're doing such big volume so a lot of the equipment is more highly automated with loaders from one location to another. It'll go from one major process like the develop, etch and strip process, through a window into another process without any human hands. And I can see, if we can take the data that we receive - for me it's a sensor issue you know. How do we actually inspect and then record that inspection, so that from point to point we're collecting more data to find out like Carl said, where our weaknesses are - and so that we can start attacking those.

The best way to work on continuous improvement, is track your top - you know where most of your failures come from, and go back and fix those problems and I can see all this 4.0 taking this kind of data so that we can start using that data better to attack our problems and maintain continuous improvement.

Judy: Thank you.

Alright here's an intentionally sticky question but I'm gonna - and I'm gonna throw this one to Craig. Brands like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, have altered the landscape of their respective markets. What kind of things or activities might enable us to do the same thing in our industry allowing us to usher in a new era of electronics realization?

Well one of - speaking from the manufacturing perspective - which is one step down from where most of this audience is. If you look at just in California, the number of manufacturing factories, EMS companies, and EMS is a pretty broad term, Foxconn is a gigantic EMS and a mom-and-pop that's got a placement machine that's on a table that's vibrating when it's moving, is also an EMS. If you take that whole universe and all the capacity that universe has just in California, there's over 300 operations doing that. If those machines are running 24/7, you have a hundred percent utilization, and usually the machines are the most expensive capital expense that the company has. We had - my last operation had four lines at 1.5 million each. I equate how much it cost to how big of an airplane could get bought with that 1.5 million dollars. In actual fact, the capacity utilization is probably in the order of five percent. If you just aggregate it all over the map, and that's somewhat of a gut feeling. I don't have any data to back that up other than standing in factories and doing tours and watching, and not seeing machine - placement machines - moving.

So if you think about that, and you think about Uber or any of the - or Airbnb - any of the cloud-based crowdsourcing type software platforms that basically connect end-users directly to the deliverers of the product right. So if - and we have a few times in the manufacturing business - attempted to figure out a way to do this quite unsuccessfully. One huge area of efficiency gain - although it's yet to be determined how you work out the business issues among all these suppliers. But essentially, there's a ton of unused capacity just sitting there doing nothing, waiting for the next job. So that's not good for anybody right, and so that is a huge area of opportunity and I actually have to credit the editor Mike Buto, we were talking about this at one Apex one time: you ought to start a company doing... but you know that those are easy words to say. Doing it's another thing altogether.

So that is one huge area. I don't think that necessarily translates directly in the design world because really you've got a shortage of qualified, awesome designers, the tools are getting extremely complicated, the products are getting extremely complicated, so you don't just go to drafting school and learn how to run tape anymore, it's a very difficult process. So I don't know that that applies there, but certainly anywhere there's manufacturing, and certainly from the EMS perspective, that I have a fair amount of recent experience, and there's just a ton of unused capacity that's doing nothing. And if we could aggregate that so that you drop common data into the cloud and the line that's closest to you, or the most appropriate from a technology perspective, is available and the button gets pressed and the things get made. That's going to be a huge leap in efficiency.

Judy: Thank you - all right we have time for one more.

Carl, you work at an electric car company whom we shall not name and that's very innovative and known for their innovation so same question. Brands like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX you know to take it into the manufacturing side, or the OEM side, is they've altered the landscape and broken the rules but are very effective. So what things might we do in our industry overall to make us all break some barriers?

So there's one common thing between Amazon, Uber and Airbnb is, is they have increased resource utilization. So the resources in Amazon were warehousing and product delivery. In Uber it was you know, availability of transportation services. In Airbnb, it was availability of bed space. Basically they've massively increased the amount of available places to get some rest at night. It used to be you had to stay at a hotel like this, but now with Airbnb you can get on an app and find a hundred times more places to rest your head at night. But it essentially boils down to resource utilization and what, how do we - the question is however we apply that to what we're doing?

So how can we better utilize the resources that we have? There's a term called design reuse. Okay, we see that in layer stack ups like we talked about yesterday. We're reusing a layer stack up, we've saved ourselves some time. If we boil it down to our design terms which is you know, we're designers, that's what we're trying to do as Altium's looking to migrate forward, what's the right path? It's to look at areas where you have a resource that isn't getting properly utilized. So as designers we know that we're being maxed out on our utilization. We're being asked to work extra hours or find more quicker ways to do things and get more done in the same amount of time. So look at where we're wasting time. It's probably in email, it's probably in meetings that we don't need to be attending, it's probably in useless requests that don't add benefit to the end customer, it's probably in requests to do things that are out of our area of expertise.

So we're working outside the boundaries we should be, and so at a personal level, we're going to be the Uber of ourselves and look to utilize our limited resource which is time, more effectively. And in the design work that we do, and anything that Altium does to help us manage our time better and utilize that limited resource. Ultimately that's the one resource none of us have extra of, or more of, or less of. We all have to manage what we have and we're all more effective by how well we use that time we have. So if the tool can help us do things in a quicker way, we're going to be way more effective as designers and we'll be on to the next project and building the last one quicker. You know there'll be a product ready faster. When we get faster okay otherwise we got to just wait for the same path of speed and the goal to me is to increase the speed at which we can design so we can go design some more stuff and that's going to happen as the tool improves. We've already seen that happen but we're going to continue to move that path forward and when we looked at the slide earlier about what was the most important thing nine out of ten wanted higher productivity out of the tool, that was the takeaway I had from that slide that Lauren showed earlier.

And that is where we want to move as an industry is; faster, better, more efficient. Because if a computer can do it, I don't want to be doing it you know. If it's gonna do a fine job with it let's get there. You know I'm not afraid of auto router, if the auto router does it great you know, I'm still going to be needed to conceptualize what I want that thing to do. I'm not worried about being out of a job by a computer I'm worried about there not being enough resources to go tackle all the projects that we want done. And I need tools that are super effective, so that I can go do more stuff. That's what I enjoy doing, its where I'm best, and if the tool can help me do that better, then that's the most awesome thing is getting a tool that's organized to help me be more organized and effective with a limited resource I have which is the time in the design seat.

Judy: Thank you all, for doing this in such a quick way.

These are thought-provoking answers you've given us and Altium, we want to keep having this conversation. This is just a taste, an appetizer and we want to continue to have this conversation with you as well. So thank you all for being here, for offering your expertise.

Thank you so much - let's all give them a hand please?

Well we hope you enjoyed that panel discussion and what we want you to know is, this was not a one-off conversation. We want to continue to have these conversations with our design community and with the Altium user community.

So please comment, let us know, email us. We want to continue this conversation of how to make things work better for you. So we hope you enjoyed that. On the website which is, we're going to be posting all of our keynote talks, all of our speakers, and we will have an absolute glut of material for you to review/see, so if you weren't able to join, you will be able to see our keynotes and so much more. So we invite you to again visit We'll miss you for these six weeks, but we'll see you on the other side. Until then remember to always stay on track. 

About Author

About Author

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry for over 25 years. She has a background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing, focusing on Mil/Aero applications. 

She has also been a writer, blogger, and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, PCB007 Magazine, PCB Design007, PCD&F, and IEEE Microwave Magazine, and an active board member for PCEA (Printed Circuit Engineering Association). In 2017, Warner joined Altium as the Director of Community Engagement. In addition to hosting the OnTrack Podcast and creating the OnTrack Newsletter, she launched Altium's annual user conference, AltiumLive. Warner's passion is to provide resources, support, and advocate for PCB Design Engineers worldwide.

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