Supply Chain Management

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Each Altium Vault instance has its own dedicated Part Catalog. This is a managed local part catalog database, dedicated to the management and tracking of manufacturer parts and their associated supplier parts. The catalog is installed as a service (Part Catalog Service), provided through the Altium Vault platform, and works only with the Altium Vault.

The local Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts – the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a Supplier database.

The actual supply chain intelligence – comprising Manufacturer (and part number), Supplier (and part number), Description, Pricing and Availability – is sourced from the Part Catalog and the relevant Supplier Database. The latter can be an external database (Supplier web-based service), or an internal company parts database (ODBC-based). It is this link to the Supplier database that yields real-time pricing and availability data.

Mapping a vault-based Item to real-world manufacturer parts, using Part Choices and the Local Part Catalog. The
Catalog can interface to online Supplier databases, and/or your own internal company parts database to source
supply chain intelligence.

Which Supplier Databases are actually used – a list of Approved Suppliers as it were – is managed by the Altium Vault. This list is configured through the Altium Vault's browser-based interface. This facilitates centralized supply chain management, with designers across the entire organization using the same approved list of Vendors, with which to source supply chain intelligence for parts used in their designs.

Accessing the List of Suppliers

From an external web browser, access the Altium Vault's browser-based interface, sign-in and navigate to the Suppliers page.

Access to, and Management of, the list of Approved Suppliers for an Altium Vault can only be performed by an administrator of that vault.

Define which Suppliers are to be used when sourcing supply chain intelligence, from the Suppliers page of the Altium Vault's browser interface.

Managing Suppliers

For each Supplier, there are two essential elements to define:

  • Whether that Supplier is available to the designer when sourcing supply chain intelligence for parts in their designs.
  • The frequency at which data sourced from that Supplier is refreshed.

By default, each Supplier is enabled for use – distinguished by the  icon – and set to have a 'data refresh' interval of 1 day.

Clicking on a Supplier's name in the list accesses full details for that Supplier.

Access and make changes to a Supplier as required.

Modify the two required options (denoted by red asterisk) as required:

  • Acquire supply chain information from <SupplierName> - use this option to control the availability of the Supplier when sourcing supply chain intelligence. Enabled means the Supplier is available (is approved for use by designers). Disabled means the Supplier is unavailable (is not approved for use by designers).
  • Update acquired supply chain information every - use this field to control how often the data is updated from the corresponding Supplier database (the 'data refresh interval'). Numerous predefined intervals are available from the associated drop-down listing, ranging from 1 minute to 10 days.

If you have an account with a particular Supplier, you may be entitled to special pricing or products that are not available in these suppliers' public catalogs. If this applies to you, you should ask your supplier's sales representative for the requisite credentials that can be used with their Web Service. Once you have this information, enter it into the additional fields for that particular Supplier. The following is a summary of the additional fields for the various Suppliers:

  • Allied - User Name and Password.
  • Arrow - User Name, Password, Country (or region).
  • Digi-Key - User Name, Password, Region, Language.
  • Farnell - Customer Id, Secret key, Country (or region).
  • Mouser - User Name, Password, Region, Currency, Language.
  • Newark - Customer Id, Secret key, Country (or region).
  • TME - Api Key, Country, Currency. Obtain a temporary TME token from the TME website. Once you have this information, click the ... button to access the Settings window. Enter your TME token and click OK – the token will be transformed to the required API key.
  • RS-Components - no additional fields.
If using these additional options, don't forget to select a country or region that applies to you, where applicable, so that products available for that locale are made available to you.
Making use of these additional supplier options is a wholly optional exercise. You are not required to fill out these details in order to use a Supplier, they simply offer additional benefits for those users that are existing customers of that Supplier, should they wish to access them.

When modifications have been made as required, simply click the Save button to effect those changes.

Example changes to the list of Suppliers.

A Supplier that is not enabled for use – is not 'approved' – is distinguished in the list by the  icon

Setting up an ODBC Source as an Internal Supplier

In addition to sourcing supply data from online (external) supplier databases, you can additionally opt to source data directly from your company's own internal parts database. This is done by linking the Altium Vault's local Part Catalog to an ODBC source, through a Database Link file (*.DbLink).

If you are connected solely to a legacy Altium Personal Vault, which uses the global part catalog, this feature is not available. However, if you are connected to both an Altium Vault (or legacy Altium Vault Server) AND a legacy Altium Personal Vault, the centralized list of Suppliers - defined for the Altium Vault (or legacy Altium Vault Server) - will be used by that Personal Vault too, including the ODBC supplier if defined. This will remain the case until such time the Altium Vault (or legacy Altium Vault Server) is disconnected, at which point the Personal Vault will follow the list of Suppliers defined at the Preferences level (and will no longer have access to the ODBC supplier).

Creating the DbLink File

The DbLink file is used to indicate the relative position of the database, and to designate the meaning of database columns using field mapping.

Knowledge of working with a DbLink file is assumed here. For more detail, or to refresh your understanding of this type of file, see Creating the Database Link File.

The following steps are required to prepare the DbLink file:

  1. Bring the source database onto a computer that has Altium Designer installed.
  2. Through Altium Designer, create a new DbLink file (File » New » Database Link File).
If you have an existing DbLink file, you can use that or, if you have a DbLib/SVNDbLib, take a copy and change the extension to .DbLink.
  1. With the DbLink file open, point to the source database. The Select Database Type option offers an expedited method of creating a connection string when the target database has been created using Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel. Using this option, simply select the database type and then browse to and select the required database file. The corresponding connection string will automatically be composed and entered into the field for the Use Connection String option. Ensure the Store Path Relative to Database Library option is enabled.

An example of specifying a path to a Microsoft Excel database (relative to the location of the DbLink file).

The DbLink file supports the use of multiple tables in an internal source database. To exclude a table, ensure it is disabled in the Tables region of the DbLink file.
  1. Map the necessary database fields on the Field Mappings tab. Use the drop-down for each field in the Design Parameter column to map to the corresponding field in the database. Special fields related to supply chain intelligence are:
  • [Currency] - currency in which pricing information is presented.
  • [Description] – description of the part.
  • [Manufacturer Name n]  – name of the Manufacturer that makes the part. Multiple alternate manufacturers are supported, distinguished by the suffix n (where n = 1, 2, 3, etc)
  • [Manufacturer Part Num n]   – part number for the part associated with Manufacturer n.
  • [Price] – unit price for the part.
  • [Product Photo URL] – image of the part.
  • [Quantity] – the number of units of the part that are currently in stock.
  • [Supplier] – name of the Supplier vending the chosen Manufacturer part.
  • [Supplier Part Num] – part number used by the Supplier for the vended Manufacturer part.

This is the core set of information required for a supply chain solution, when making part choices for a design component. For all other parameters (e.g. technical parameters), ensure their associated Visible On Add option is enabled. This is needed to have those parameters displayed for a searched part, when making a part choice.

Mapping the fields in the source database table.

  1. Ensure matching criteria is defined, in the Field Settings region – either a simple, single key lookup, or a more advanced match using a Where clause.

Ensure matching criteria is specified.

  1. Save the DbLink file, and copy both the database and the DbLink file, in their same relative positions, onto the computer housing the Altium Vault.

Configuring the ODBC Supplier

Once your database and interfacing DbLink file are located on the same computer as the Altium Vault, you need to make the local Part Catalog aware of the DbLink file – so that it can communicate with that database. This is done from the Suppliers page of the vault's browser interface.

  1. Click on the ODBC Supplier's name in the list. This gives access to the full details for this dedicated internal Supplier.

Access and make changes to the internal ODBC Supplier as required.

  1. Make any changes to the ODBC Supplier's enabled state and data refresh interval, as required.
  2. Click the Browse button, associated to the File field, to browse to, and open, the DbLink file.

Specify the DbLink file to be used by the Part Catalog to interface to the company database.

  1. With the file chosen, click the Start Uploading control. After a moment, the display will change to present information regarding the Connection String and Field Mapping, sourced from the DbLink file.

Start uploading the file - the connection and field mapping are displayed for verification, click Test to check the connection is a valid one, prior to finalizing the upload.

  1. If the DbLink file uses a relative path to the database, use the Absolute Path field to indicate its absolute location. This is required for browser security, when uploading the file to the Part Catalog.
The absolute path to the DbLink file is only used for upload of the file. After successful upload, this field remains blank and disabled.

Absolute path to the DbLink file.

Ensure you enter a final \ at the end of the absolute path.
  1. Once all settings are defined as required, click the Save button to effect those changes, and upload the chosen DbLink file.

If any changes are made to the DbLink file, you will need to save the file and re-upload.

Verifying Connection to the ODBC Supplier

To verify that the Part Catalog is correctly connected to the source database, access the Data Management – Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog. The ODBC Supplier should be enabled (provided you enabled its Acquire supply chain information from ODBC property back in the catalog's Suppliers list). Selecting its entry in the Available Suppliers list, successful connection will reveal detailed information regarding Connection String, Table Name, and Data Source Fields Mapping.

Verifying connection to the internal company database.

Searching for a Part from the ODBC Supplier

With the connection to the source database in place, you can now proceed to make part choices for design items, searching for parts that exist in that database. Part choices can be made:

  • Directly for Component Items in a vault, through their associated Part Choice Lists.
  • Indirectly for design items (managed and unmanaged) through manual solutions defined on the BOM Catalog tab of a project's BOM document (*.BomDoc) – also referred to as ActiveBOM.

With the ODBC Supplier enabled as part of the Suppliers list, you can search for a part in your linked internal company database, in the same way as for any of the online Suppliers.

Preferences-Level Supplier List

The Altium Vault dictates centrally which Suppliers are to be used in an organization. While connected to it, the list of Suppliers on the Data Management – Suppliers page of the Preferences dialog will be disabled. It will simply be a read-only reflection of this centrally-defined list.

While connected to an Altium Vault, the list of Suppliers at the Preferences level simply reflects the defined list at the vault level.


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