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34 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2023 boards: digital, analog, power, RF, etc. How- ever, a designer won't necessarily understand the design flow, critical layout techniques, and manufacturing data requirements of a specific company, especially if they are new to the orga- nization. Even something as simple as, "Our standard trace width in this application is X," can end up as an error if it isn't prop- erly documented. Although it is true that the newer out- put file formats, such as IPC-2581, can help mitigate complex pro- cedural problems, such as learning file generation processes, there are still many hurdles caused by tribal knowledge that must be overcome. ese include under- standing specific manufacturing processes, design documentation details, and specific legal or certification requirements, to name a few. Another problem with tribal knowledge is how those processes can become stale with time due to the inability to review, refresh, and update undocumented procedures. It makes you wonder just how many errors have been introduced into designs because the "tried and true" methods embedded in tribal knowledge are hopelessly antiquated, which allows mis- takes to happen. Along those same lines, how much unnecessary effort has been expended and time lost due to outdated processes still in place? For instance, many newer design sys- tems will automatically track and propagate part numbers and descriptions. Yet some peo- ple will still manually record this information because "that's the way we've always done it." So, tribal knowledge is bad, right? Well, maybe not in all circumstances. I would agree that relying on undocumented pro- cesses to convey critical procedural infor- mation can, in some circumstances, lead to negative or even catastrophic results. But there are some positive outcomes when rely- ing on tribal knowledge as well. Consider the following story of how I once benefited from someone's tribal knowledge in a completely unexpected way. Years ago, we moved across town from one house to another. I hired a mov- ing company to do the heavy liing for us and went with them to super- vise the first delivery. However, I witnessed a terrible sight when we returned for the next load. A landscaper hired by the new owner already had ripped out all the existing plants and bushes, as well as unloaded all the new shrubbery on the driveway. Since this is Oregon, it was raining cats and dogs, and the dirt from the new shrubs was creating a sea of mud over the entire driveway. I was in total shock and had no idea how to resolve this situ- ation. We still had a large amount of furniture and possessions to move, and my driveway was completely inaccessible. At this point, the moving crew supervisor noticed my "deer-in-the-headlights" expres- sion and realized that I was completely inca- pacitated. Springing into action, he said quite firmly, "Tim, you stay here, and I will take care of this problem." Hopping out of the truck, he demanded to know who was in charge of the landscape team and then laid down the law very succinctly to their supervisor: "We are moving the previous homeowners out of this house today and will be using this drive- way. If the new homeowners don't want us to drag mud through their brand-new house, you will have this driveway cleaned off in five min- utes so that we can proceed." With the land- scapers properly chastised, in very short order we had a clean driveway and proceeded with the move. Some people will still manually record this information because "that's the way we've always done it."

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