Definition of Components Engineering
Components Engineering is the art of defining precisely the various types of components that are designed and manufactured by components manufacturers worldwide and used by designers in the development of their products.
To achieve this goal, it is necessary to categorize the components according to acceptable industry standards, and in turn, each component category would have subcategories according to their features.
The components features are usually supplied by components manufacturers in the form of data sheets, drawings, specifications and user guides.
We must always bear in mind the simple fact that components are manufactured by manufacturers and not by vendors or distributors.
It is not always easy to know who the real manufacturer is, but professional components engineers must always strive to find out who really makes any part that they need to define in their daily work. This is not always easy because of marketing issues and company mergers.
The companies that employ the components engineers must provide them with software applications that store the components definitions. The simplest and cheapest application is a worksheet like MS Excel. The more advanced are ERP systems, preferably with an engineering interface, and/or PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or PDM (Product Data Management) systems.
Components definitions must have a minimum of five fields for each component and there should be a way to attach or store the latest component data sheet into the system:
- Components precise Ordering Part Number
- Components Manufacturer Name
- Components Description (Number of characters limited by the system)
- Internal company Catalog Number
- Distributors who can supply the parts when they are ordered by the company
Once a component is defined into the system, it goes through various stages of approvals by other employees. It is imperative that all approved components get the attention of the procurement managers so that they would make sure that the components are available for purchase and that the lead time is within acceptable time frame.
The internal company catalog number has always caused heated discussions among the decision makers on how simple or complicated it should be. In the past many years, the tendency was to issue a coded catalog number so that it would include some basic features like size or value, but with the transition to use PLM systems like Agile, the internal catalog number is now simple and has no coding.
At the part definition stage, it is advised to look for alternate sources from different manufacturers to keep the number of single sources to a minimum. This might be an easy task with passive components like resistors and capacitors but can be quite a challenge with integrated circuits (ICs). The search for alternate sources can be time consuming, but in the end well worth while as it gives the procurement managers a bargaining leverage to get the best prices from competing distributors and minimizes the risk of production holdups.