No matter what is being made, the success of the project usually depends on at least one critical piece of the puzzle. Construction, for instance, depends on the quality of the foundation, while chefs depend on the purity of their base ingredients for their creations. In the world of printed circuit board manufacturing, the critical pieces are the components that we build the board with. Circuit board materials can be changed, layer structures altered, layouts and schematics can be edited, and manufacturing processes can vary. But if the components aren’t right, the board build will be in jeopardy. Consider these five areas that are essential to having good components for your board build:
1. Availability of the components
2. The component status
3. Component pricing
4. The integrity of suppliers
5. Quality of the components
Each of these areas must be carefully managed in order to assure that the parts needed for building your board are there when the board goes into manufacturing. Let’s take a closer look at these five areas of concern for supply chain management in the electronics industry.
Five Most Important Concerns for Supply Chain Management in the Electronics Industry
Avoiding manufacturing delays and keeping your project within its budget is very dependent on these five areas of concern for the components that will be used on your board:
Many delays in PCB manufacturing can be traced back to specified components in the bill of materials that are not actually available to use. In some instances, engineers are using parts and circuitry copied from an older CAD schematic without verifying that the part is still available. The component may have been discontinued, or there were other problems associated with it, including long lead times or simply being out of stock. It is important to make sure that the parts specified for the design are actually available before the design enters production.
As we mentioned above, a discontinued part that was used accidentally in a schematic can cause a lot of problems. But components have status classifications associated with them that engineers should be aware of too. “Not recommended for new designs” (NRND) indicates that the part is expected to go through a life-cycle change, while “obsolete” (OBS) indicates that other parts should be used instead. “End of life” (EOL) is a clear indication that this part will no longer be available, and shouldn’t be used unless absolutely necessary. For older designs that have to use OBS and EOL parts for new builds, it can be very difficult and expensive to obtain them. New designs should make every effort possible to avoid using them.
Like any other free-market product, different supplies and distributors can offer the same parts at different prices due to many reasons. It will pay in the end to find the best price for the components that are needed for the design. Some research into the parts that are needed may reveal reduced pricing that can be obtained with bulk orders, depending on how many boards are going to be manufactured. By ordering in advance, designers may avoid premium prices for rushed orders as well.
Unfortunately, there are some component manufacturers out there that aren’t as reputable as the rest of the majority are in the industry. Their quality controls may not be as good, or they may simply cut corners in their manufacturing processes. It is beneficial to understand which vendors provide the best quality parts, and build a relationship of trust with those suppliers. It pays to make sure that you are getting components that you can trust so that you aren’t dealing with intermittent performance or connectivity problems in your circuit boards later on.
Not only should you only use parts from authorized and trusted sources, but you should also look for tell-tale marks of quality in the components that are being used. Is there a regular quality assurance program set up? Have the parts been packaged, shipped, and handled according to good static and moisture control protocols? Are the parts fully traceable with documentation to satisfy regulatory standards on circuit board manufacturing?
All five of these areas need to be given an equal amount of attention to make sure that the parts that you are using will work as expected on your board. But this is a lot to manage for most circuit board design teams, which is why it is important to enlist the aid of your contract manufacturer.
How Your PCB Contract Manufacturer Can Help
One of the first things that your PCB CM will do when they get your design is to review it for manufacturability. Not only are they looking for potential design for manufacturing problems and circuitry concerns, but they will also want to carefully analyze your bill of materials for the five areas that we’ve discussed. To do this, their component engineers will research the parts listed to make sure that they are available, current, at the best prices, and come from trusted sources with the highest quality.
At VSE, our component engineers have over three decades of experience doing exactly this for our customers. We have built up over time a vast network of trusted component manufacturers and distributors that we can access to find the parts you need for your design.