Centralized Supply Chain Management with an Altium Vault Server

Frozen Content
This page contains information regarding a legacy Altium Vault Server. For information relating to the latest Altium Vault, see Altium Vault - Supply Chain Management.

Each Altium Vault Server 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. It is installed at the same time as an Altium Vault Server and works only with this type of 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 – is managed by the Altium Vault Server. This list is configured through the Altium Vault Server'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.

Central, server based control of an approved Suppliers list, and access to internal supply chain intelligence through ODBC, is available from Altium Vault Server version 1.1 onwards. After upgrading your previous version of the server, existing supply chain data in the vault database must be updated to make it compatible with this later version. This can be achieved by using the Vault Migration Tool. For the procedure to to do this, see QuickGuide - Upgrading to Version 1.1 of the Altium Vault Server.

Accessing the List of Suppliers

From an external web browser, access the Altium Vault Server's browser-based interface (http://<ComputerName>:<PortNumber>/console), sign-in and navigate to the Catalog page.

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

Making use of its browser interface, you also have the possibility to browse and manage the approved suppliers for a connected Altium Vault Server directly from within Altium Designer, using the Vault – Catalog sub-view – available under the Home page (View » Home).

Managing Suppliers

 Management of the list of Approved Suppliers for an Altium Vault Server can only be performed by an administrator of that vault.

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, or using the Edit command from the associated control drop-down at the far right, accesses full details for that Supplier.

Access and make changes to a Supplier as required.

To render the Supplier unavailable when sourcing supply chain intelligence, disable the Acquire supply chain information from <SupplierName> option. In other words, that Supplier is 'not approved'.

Use the Update acquired supply chain information every drop-down to choose a different data refresh interval as required. Numerous predefined intervals are available, ranging from 1 minute to 10 days.

When modifications have been made as required, simply click the Apply 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 Server's local Part Catalog to an ODBC source, through a Database Link file (*.DbLink).

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.

3. 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.

4. 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:

  • [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.

5. 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.

6. 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 Server.

Configuring the ODBC Supplier

Once your database and interfacing DbLink file are located on the same computer as the Altium Vault Server, 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 Catalog page of the vault's browser interface. Click on the ODBC Supplier's name in the list, or use the Edit command from the associated control drop-down at the far right. This gives access to the full details for this dedicated internal Supplier.

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

As with the other, online Suppliers in the list, you can control the ODBC Supplier's enabled state and data refresh interval.

Click the  icon, associated to the DbLink 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.

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.

Once all settings are defined as required, click the Apply 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 Approved Suppliers list). Selecting its entry in the 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 Approved 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 Server 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.

Where multiple Altium Vault Servers are connected, the list of Suppliers followed is that defined for the first connected Altium Vault Server – the first in the list of connected vaults (on the Data Management – Vaults page of the Preferences dialog).

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

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