A common topic of discussion between parents and their children is to remind the child of the importance of making good choices in life in order to avoid any unpleasant consequences. The problem, however, is that children don’t always have the necessary information they need to make a good choice in the first place. For example, when I was very young, I thought that I could make a flashlight bulb glow by holding some wires onto its base and then sticking the other ends into a wall outlet. I simply hadn’t learned yet that not only is there a huge difference between a D-cell battery and 120 volts AC, but that there is also a direct correlation between exploding light bulbs, a blown fuse, and some burnt fingers.
In the business of designing electronics for new products to be introduced, we have an important choice to make as well; which contract manufacturer should we choose to build our product. Without good information to work with, we could also end up in the dark and getting burnt. Fortunately, this is one area in life where there is a lot of information available, and in fact, we are going to present some of that to you below. Here are some tips on how to choose the right electronics contract manufacturer for your new product introduction supply chain.
Problems You May Face with Your New Product Introduction Supply Chain
Choosing the right electronics manufacturer to build your new product introduction (NPI) will be the key to mitigating potential problems on your product’s journey from prototype to production. Here are some of the problems that can plague your NPI process:
- Time to market: Taking a product from a prototype into production involves refining the design for manufacturing. Some of the glitches that may have been acceptable for the prototype, in order to get it built quickly, will not work on the regular production line. This includes component selection, design for manufacturability, and full documentation support among others. Without the help of an experienced PCB contract manufacturer who understands the NPI process, your release schedule could be in jeopardy.
- Problematic components: With designers using old familiar components or parts that have been copied from other designs, it is possible that they will be unsuitable. Component pricing, availability, performance, and life cycle may have all changed over the course of time. Without guidance from component supply chain experts, your NPI could be derailed by parts that are too expensive or simply not available.
- Engineering issues: It is not unusual at all for prototype circuit boards to be designed for electrical performance, but not refined for manufacturing. Parts may be too close together or incorrectly oriented, which will result in lower manufacturing yields or even stop the production line altogether.
- Incompatible system design: When multiple vendors are used in the production of an electronic device, it is not uncommon to have errors in the fit and function. Switches and plugs may be located where they are not accessible, or interconnecting wire harnesses may be reversed from how the mating connector is designed. Problems like these can force multiple delays in your NPI schedule as each piece has to be redesigned and rebuilt.
Problems like these can slow down or even halt the NPI process on your product’s development. Let’s take a look next at how you can avoid this.
How a Local PCB Contract Manufacturer Can Help
A lot of the problems that we’ve discussed can happen when dealing with large PCB manufacturing facilities that are located half-way around the world. These companies are fine-tuned for large volume builds of production-ready circuit boards, but that model doesn’t work as well with the NPI process. You can get the best NPI results by using a local PCB CM. Here is how your local PCB CM can resolve the problems that we’ve already listed:
- Time to market: Local PCB CMs are often set up the best for the NPI process. They are accustomed to resolving design and component problems and generating fresh documentation to support the changes that have been made.
- Component expertise: The component engineering and purchasing staff at a local PCB CM will have access to a vast network of part manufacturers, distributors, and brokers in order to find parts that will be the best fit for your NPI. They are also skilled at recommending part alternatives or design changes in order to bypass any problematic components.
- Engineering precision: The local PCB CMs are highly skilled at making changes for prototype, NPI, and regular production boards in order to get the best manufacturing yields. Their engineering teams have years of experience doing this in order to ensure that the boards they build are without error.
- Full box builds: Many local PCB CMs have box build and cable and wire harness production capabilities in addition to their PCB manufacturing. This gives them the ability to custom build your products all together under one roof. This way they can confirm that all the pieces will fit and work together as you intended them to.
By choosing the right PCB CM, you can be sure that your NPI will be developed correctly and be ready for regular full production. Next, we’ll look at some of the key points that you should be aware of when searching for a PCB CM to build your NPI.
Key Points to Look For in the PCB Contract Manufacturer that You Choose
One attribute in a PCB contract manufacturer that is more important than you might think is their location to you. Being able to confer with your CM in the same time-zone will save you the pain of having to wait until the next day for answers or results. And having a CM that is close by allows you to work directly with their personnel and tour their facility as well.
The CM you choose should have expertise in low-volume high-mix manufacturing which will allow them to quickly adapt to your NPI needs from prototype to production. They should also have an engineering staff experienced in working with components as well as PCB design, design for manufacturability, and test. And lastly, their manufacturing capabilities should cover all aspects of circuit board assembly, as well as box builds, wire harnesses, and cable assemblies.
That may sound like quite a lengthy wish-list, but here at VSE, we can offer you all of these services plus many more as well. We’ve been partnering with customers like you for over 30 years now, and we can help you take your NPI product efficiently from prototype to production.