It will be interesting to see how history ends up portraying the year of 2020. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has tightened its grip on the globe, and currently, people are dealing with the immediate needs of everyday life. Afterwards though, life, family, relationships, and businesses will begin the path of recovery, and I believe that the real story of the pandemic of 2020 will be how society overcame its problems.
One of those areas that we will see recovery in is how businesses have adapted to the changing world of manufacturing. In the world of printed circuit board assembly, there has been an immense level of reliance on overseas manufacturing that was ultimately threatened by the pandemic. Let’s examine some of the benefits of both overseas and local manufacturing, as well as the problems that electronics manufacturers faced during this crisis. Then we can see how the benefits of manufacturing in the U.S. can help during a crisis.
The Benefits of Manufacturing in the U.S. and Overseas
There are many different printed circuit board contract manufacturers throughout the world, both in the United States and overseas. Each of them offers specific benefits that are useful for different aspects of PCB manufacturing depending on the needs of the project. For instance, the larger mass production facilities overseas can create tens of thousands of circuit boards for a competitive price. On the other hand, local manufacturers that specialize in low-volume high-mix circuit board production can offer benefits that the larger CMs are unable to, including:
- Product design and development: Local contract manufacturers usually have onsite engineering teams that can help you with your product development. They will look at your design and review it for component selection to make sure that the parts you need are available, and that the design itself is optimized for fabrication and assembly. They also can help with PCB design in order to shift some of the development burdens off of you.
- Rapid service for Prototype and NPI: Another benefit of local CMs is their ability to move quickly. Not only will they work with you to get your prototype and new product introductions completed quickly, but they can also work around design issues much more easily than a larger manufacturer can. This gives them the capability to respond much faster to your needs than the other assembly houses.
- Design refinement for mass production: Working with a local CM on design development for prototyping or NPI, gives you the ability to refine the design for later mass production. Your local CM understands what your board needs in order to be successfully produced in mass quantities. They can work effectively together with you to optimize your component selection, and design for manufacturing (DFM) details.
Together the combination of local and overseas PCB assembly vendors can be a very effective tool in the manufacturing of your electronic products. But as we have seen with the Coronavirus outbreak, sometimes there are forces beyond our control that can affect our plans.
Challenges of Overseas Manufacturing in the Age of Global Complications
Although the COVID-19 crisis is obviously the most serious event that we’ve faced currently, there are other events that can complicate having printed circuit boards manufactured overseas. National holidays and political problems can also cause difficulties when trying to work with assemblers that aren’t local. Some of the problems that electronics manufacturers like you end up having to deal with include:
- Communications with the PCB contract manufacturer that are impacted by the event.
- Components and materials that the CM needs for assembly are not available.
- The CM may not be able to respond due to plant closures or labor shortages.
- Shipping the completed products back home can be delayed or add exorbitant costs.
Events like these can shake up the electronics manufacturing industry and have a direct bearing on your ability to deliver your products on schedule. With the Coronavirus pandemic, there was fear in ordering products from overseas due to contamination and plant closures. Instead of falling into fear, however, there is a much more productive answer to these kinds of problems. By having a local PCB CM ready to help with PCB manufacturing, you will be prepared in case the worst should ever happen again.
How Local PCB Manufacturing Can Help You Now
When you have a relationship built up with a local PCB contract manufacturer, you will get much more than just a prototype and NPI services. You will have a CM that you can have direct contact with instead of relying on communications half-way around the world. With help that close by, you can work with them on your design, and understand exactly what their processes are and how to better design for them. Additionally, when there are problems overseas that affect the mass production of your boards, your local PCB CM can step in and help out with overflow PCB manufacturing.
At VSE we are a local contract manufacturer that can help you with all of these scenarios. Our engineering team has many years of experience working with electronics designers like you who need help in refining their boards for production. We will scrub your BOM, review your design for DFM violations, and make recommendations to help better prepare your design for manufacturing. We also have a vast network of suppliers to ensure that we will have the components and materials for the manufacturing of your PCBs when you need them and at the best price.