The outbreak of COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus, has changed our lives in many ways, especially in how we conduct business. Extended sick leaves, remote working, and flex time for workers juggling altered school schedules are just some of the challenges that businesses are facing today. Another real problem is depending on offshore manufacturing with the big question being: will it be available when you need your electronics manufactured?
Fortunately, electronics manufacturers have the option of using locally based circuit board production facilities instead of relying on offshore assembly plants. There are also a lot of other benefits that locally based PCB assemblers can offer aside from the current worldwide health crisis. Let’s explore some of the offshore manufacturing pros and cons here, and how you can realize some extraordinary benefits from using PCB assembly services that are close by.
Offshore Manufacturing Pros and Cons: What You Can Expect
There’s no doubt about it, using offshore manufacturing for the mass-production of your printed circuit boards is important and gives you a lot of benefits. With the huge manufacturing facilities that they have to offer, the offshore facilities can produce your products in great numbers:
- Production: The main benefit is that offshore manufacturing can produce in large quantities, the only requirement is that your products have to be ready for mass-production first. This may require engineering reviews and changes, all of which can be difficult with a manufacturer on another continent. Getting a product ready for efficient large volume manufacturing at an offshore manufacturing facility can end up costing you unexpected time and money.
- Cost: Having your boards mass-produced at an offshore facility can lower your manufacturing costs, giving you a better margin on your final product. These assembly plants are fine-tuned for large volume production and can produce a lot of products at lower prices. The trade-off, however, is with low volume or quick production runs, which are sometimes necessary depending on your needs. Here the automated mass-production systems of offshore manufacturers can end up costing you more due to their lack of flexibility.
- Time: The offshore mass-production facilities are designed for repeatable production runs that will manufacture huge quantities of boards in the least amount of time for the lowest price. The downside here is when changes are needed to the boards or a different run has to be quickly set up to respond to an unexpected need. Like a supertanker maneuvering in the ocean, these mega factories will take longer to change direction than a smaller and nimbler local-based PCB contract manufacturer.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to the benefits that you will get from offshore PCB manufacturers. There are some other issues though that you should consider and be prepared for as well with offshore manufacturing.
The Problems with Offshore Manufacturing
There are many situations that can affect the production of printed circuit boards in offshore manufacturing plants. Some of these include shutdowns due to national holidays, political unrest, and even as we have seen lately, problems due to an unexpected worldwide pandemic. The current situation caused by COVID-19 shows just how the pipeline of manufacturing from offshore facilities can be unexpectedly disrupted.
In addition to these problems, there are a number of other issues that can affect how you work with offshore manufacturers:
- Communication can be difficult when you are working with a company that is 12 hours ahead of yours.
- Working with an offshore company on products that are still in the developmental stage can be very challenging. For engineers that are used to working on their products hands-on, it can be difficult to design and develop remotely.
- Prices may end up rising and falling due to local concerns that you may not have any visibility into. This can come as a big surprise when you least expect it.
- Sourcing of components and materials will be completely out of your control.
- Shipping costs and times can also rise and fall dramatically due to different reasons.
It is obvious that electronics manufacturers need to work with large volume assembly plants for their mass-production assembly runs. It is equally important however to have a well-developed network of local manufacturers ready to go too. With your manufacturing spread evenly around, you will be ready to respond quickly if there are unforeseen circumstances that interfere with your offshore manufacturing. This way you will be prepared to protect your manufacturing pipeline. In addition, you also need the services that only local manufactures can provide.
How Locally Manufactured PCBs Can be the Better Choice
With local-based PCB manufacturing, you have a lot more control over the production of your boards:
- Your communication will be in the same, or close to the same time zone, making working with the PCB contract manufacturer much easier.
- A local PCB CM will welcome your participation in design reviews, prototype runs, and engineering changes, allowing you to be an active part during this critical stage of your product’s development. And depending on how geographically close you are to your CM, you can even work with them on-site to finalize the development of the board.
- Working in the same geographical location, there will be far fewer unexpected price changes.
- Locally based PCB CMs usually have a vast network of component manufacturers and suppliers that they work with. This ensures that you will get the best components for the best price in time for your board builds.
- Compared to overseas shipping, the cost of getting your completed products returned to you is negligible.
At VSE, all of these benefits listed above are not reactionary due to a pandemic crisis mode, this is how we regularly work together with our customers. Our goal is to not only provide you with the best service at the best price but also ensure that your electronic projects are built to work the way you designed them. To that end, we have a staff of engineering and manufacturing experts with decades of experience in the PCB manufacturing industry ready to get the job done. We have made a career of working with engineers like you who have new and innovative products that need to be built.