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If only ESP were a thing
I learned a powerful lesson this week about communication that I would like to share with you. We think language is the only way we communicate, but our actions, or inactions, facial expressions and even the way we stand can convey powerful messages. Often, we make assumptions about what other people know or that they understand about our intentions. That is not communication. It is often the beginning of miscommunication.
Communication is king. We cannot function in modern society without good communication, with our families, with our co-workers, supervisors and especially with our clients. Now I have talked about clients before. They can be a direct client like when I work for someone as a consultant, or an indirect client like when a design engineer makes a schematic that will be used by production, a test technicians or manufacturing engineer to debug a board. The consumers of your work, whatever you do, are your clients. Make them happy because right along side communication in importance, is customer service and satisfaction.
He said, she said
Here is the story. About a year ago I started working with a great new client on the new flagship product for their company. Early on they wanted to know if they would have the schematic symbols and footprints to use as they desired when we were done. The answer was yes. We have just finished up the third rev of the design and they are getting very close to going into production on this product.
For those of you who use Altium day to day and send designs back and forth with people not connected to your network, you will have experienced the error message “Cannot find Library XXX – it will be removed from the project.” We have seen it enough times that we have forgotten how annoying and troubling it is when we first saw it. It is also a form of communication. But it is sending an unintentional and incorrect message. The message is that the current user does not have the libraries associated with the project. Not only is that not true, but it is probably upsetting to the person reading it.
Altium Libraries – a work in progress
Your schematic symbols and footprint libraries are never finished. They are a work in progress. You are constantly working on them because they are very important. They contain not only the schematic image and the PCB footprint, but all the information about a component form the manufacturer. They are also not trivial to create. They take time and effort. To make a good one, you should follow rules (you can make up the rules, but you should obey them so your parts are consistent). Being consistent and neat is not just a nice thing, it prevents errors and better conveys information. When a schematic is disorganized, it is inefficient. It means the reader has to do more work. By making a schematic easy to ready, you make it easier for others to do their jobs well.
If you are a consultant and you are creating new parts for your clients with each new schematic, you are probably overcharging them. Most likely you have a library that you draw upon that you have been polishing for a long time. You only create new parts when you don’t already have them. That means the parts you use come from many different libraries. You would never send out your entire company library with a design. You want to make a library that contains all the parts in the schematics and the PCB but no other parts.
This is how you wind up with a customer who gets an error message.
How do you provide libraries with all the parts in their design?
To create a schematic library with all the parts in the schematic you, open the design (you must have at least one schematic page open) go to the top and click on Design ->Make Schematic Library. Similarly, if you open the PCB and go to Design -> Make PCB Library you will get a footprint library. It is really that simple. You then save the libraries and you are done. If you send the libraries to someone they will have to save them to their hard drive and add them to the desired project and then save the project. That will make that annoying message go away.
I had not provided a schematic and PCB footprint library for two reasons. First, the libraries are going to change right up to the end of the project. So, making them is something you do at the end of a project and place it into your documentation. Otherwise you are constantly updating them which is a bit of a nuisance. This leads to the second reason, not only is it added work, but if you have sent the schematics and PCB to someone, they have the ability to create those libraries at will. That was my mistake. I knew that and assumed everyone knew it. They got a bad error message from they software and thought I was trying to keep the information from them. I sent them the two files and tried to explain my apparent delinquency. I probably could have headed off their frustration if I had been listening more carefully to them.
What we’ve got here is failure to communicate
Communication is a tricky thing. You can send unintentional messages by the way you say something or even the word choices you make. Given all that, it is really amazing that we can communicate at all.
To be clear, I hope you take away two things from this newsletter, 1) All the information that is contained in an Altium library is contained in the Schematic and PCB. You can make the libraries when you need to, it is a formality. You will want to make those libraries so you can add the parts to you company libraries. 2) Communication is important. It is not always easy, but like anything that is worth while it takes a little work. Doing your best to be a good communicator will make your interactions with people go better and will make you a more valuable member of the team.
This newsletter is sponsored by Celtic Engineering Solutions LLC, a design engineering firm based out of West Jordan, Utah, which can be found on the web at: www.celticengineeringsolutions.com. You can find the newsletter on the company blog, LinkedIn or in your inbox by subscribing. Send your emails to The Celtic Engineer at: TCE@celticengineeringsolutions.com, with the subject line SUBSCRIBE.