During the development of electronic board systems, printed circuit boards, multi-board systems, and the like (for this discussion they will be called “electronic board systems” to encompass them all), using Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) seemed to be a natural progression. PLM was traditionally used to manage mechanical hardware. It easily became the process for electronic board systems which were seen as “hardware,” it was a natural fit for PLM.
The development of software took a different track because of the software configuration management tools used in the process. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) fits this function neatly. Left out in limbo remains electronic board systems which encompass the attributes of hardware but must interpret and interact with software.
Mechanical PDM is used for mechanical design. There are often worker data managers that align with each of the CAD systems. PLM sits on top of those and can connect to multiple PDMs. PLM drives and automates the execution of the product development process for mechanical hardware.
Software configuration management tools that are the most popular are split. One manages the iterations of the code that’s developed by different software developers and engineers. ALM is used to manage the overall development process for approval such as automated testing.
Electronic Board Systems
Now to the tools used to manage circuit boards. ECAD tools are a little different in the client-server architecture of the more enterprise-level tools. There’s a central database that the software client is connected to, and that is a way to manage the iterations in versions when developing and designing electronic board systems.
The Development Tools
PLM is the accepted overlaying tool for mechanical development, which we can rightfully label as hardware. ALM is the tool used to oversee software development. Each has its own development tools as a foundation which leads to the use of PLM or ALM.
Electronic Board Systems with its own underlying foundational development tool, the electronic CAD//DB was like an adoptee of PLM even though it has a different development path.
A Question of Balance
With PLM developed and used for hardware, and ALM for software the question becomes which if either is the best fit for electronics. In asking this question there are others that need to be answered. Such as, what are the issues that affect the development of electronic board systems?
There are legitimate issues on both sides. One of the things to use in figuring out the better fit is what processes do you put in place to resolve issues? Those challenges include if the software is going to run on the target electronic. How do developers make sure the board that fits the enclosure doesn’t have shorts from a process perspective?
The question of PLM or ALM becomes more interesting when the software is running on target electronic hardware, such as X in the loop processes. This is why the debate of using PLM or ALM for electronic boards systems needs to be expanded among developers.