When you are preparing to debut a new electronics product, you will deal with a lot of decisions that have to be made. Like a game of chess, each decision, from the minutest engineering detail to global marketing strategies, must be carefully coordinated together with the overall goal of success in mind. One of those decisions will be who you are going to trust with the manufacturing of your product. There are many options to pick from, and you will want to make sure that you are partnering with an electronics assembler that is the best choice.
Many people base this decision only on price, but there are many other factors to consider as well. In order to make sure that your new product introduction is a success, you need to look at a manufacturer’s quality, their reputation, and what their capabilities are. Without fully looking into a manufacturer first, you may find out that your costs end up being much more than you initially bargained for. Here are some ideas on how you can find the best high mix low volume contract manufacturing for your electronics new product introduction.
What Electronics Innovators Need for Design Success
The first step in the decision-making process of choosing a manufacturer is to define exactly what it is that needs to be done. There is, after all, much more to building a circuit board than just the assembly of it. It may be that you will also need help in one or more of the following areas:
- Printed circuit board fabrication: In addition to the different PCB contract manufacturers that are available to use, there are many different PCB fabricators to choose from as well. Some fabricators specialize in certain types of PCB technology, while others may focus more on full production rather than prototyping. The key is to know which PCB fabricator will be the best choice for your project’s needs.
- Component selection: There is a lot more to picking the right components to use in a design than just their functionality. You also have to know which parts will give you the best price, which ones are available, and what the long-term life-cycle of the part will be. Many NPI projects have problems transitioning into full production when it is discovered that one or more of the parts used on the board have gone obsolete and are no longer available.
- Engineering expertise: It is not at all unusual for small or startup corporations to need engineering help with the new project that they are working on. The help they need could range from mechanical and electrical design, or system integration and test. In some cases, it is a matter of needing help to finalize their fabrication and assembly documentation.
- Manufacturing capabilities: And of course, the circuit board will need to be precisely assembled. This will require a contract manufacturer that is experienced and dependable, with the latest technology in equipment and trained and skilled staff. The CM should also be able to respond promptly to any design changes which are normal during an NPI build.
As you can see, there may be services that you need for your NPI build that you didn’t initially expect. Fortunately, many PCB contract manufacturers can help you with everything from choosing the right fabrication vendor all the way to building your entire system. The next step, therefore, is to start looking at the capabilities of different manufacturers so that you can make the best choice for your NPI build.
How High Mix Low Volume Contract Manufacturing Helps Innovators Achieve Success
Now that you know what kind of services you will need from a PCB contract manufacturer, it’s time to choose the one that will best fit your needs. To start with, you need to know that PCB CMs can be broken down into three general categories:
|Small-scale manufacturers: These “garage shop” manufacturers are typically smaller operations, and they can usually get a board built for you very quickly and inexpensively. What you may find though is that they may not have the latest tools and equipment, nor the full engineering and technical staff of the larger manufacturers. Without these they may not be able to build as many types of PCB technology of other CMs or ensure the same level of quality control. They also may not have the engineering component purchasing staff to assist you with design issues that can hamper the productivity of your board’s manufacturing.|
|Large-scale manufactures: These production plants are designed to handle huge volumes of circuit board assembly. While this is necessary for the mass production of consumer products such as cell phones, it is a problem for prototype or NPI runs that require flexibility in quick changes. The high volume production process does not easily allow for design changes, plus the offshore location of these plants can limit your ability to work efficiently with them. These plants also require a longer lead time than the smaller manufacturers due to their usual volume work.|
|Mid-scale manufacturers: These PCB CMs are unique in that they offer the speed and flexibility of the lower-tier manufacturers, while at the same time have all the advanced services of the top tier manufacturers. Their ability to build smaller runs of multiple PCB technologies simultaneously gives them the distinction of being known as high mix, low volume manufacturers.|
By not being constrained by the logistical requirements of high volume PCB production, the high mix low volume shops can quickly adapt to different builds as well as changes in their current build. This makes them invaluable for prototype and NPI projects where engineering changes are to be expected. There is also another benefit to these manufacturers that is very helpful, they are usually located locally, making them easier to work with on NPI builds.
Local PCB CMs Have the Capabilities That You Need
The benefit of being local can not be overstated when it comes to prototype or NPI PCB builds. There is often a lot of back and forth questioning between the customer and the contract manufacturer, and having your CM in the same time zone is extremely helpful. In many cases, these CMs will welcome their clients into their facility to work through engineering changes together. In addition, the local PCB CM can offer you engineering expertise to analyze your design for component viability, electrical performance, manufacturability, and testability. With services like these available, you will have the partner you need in order to get your NPI project successfully built.
At VSE, we have partnered together with engineering innovators like you for over 30 years now. We know what you need to be successful with your NPI projects, and we have built our reputation on helping our customers achieve that success. Our component engineers and purchasing agents know the component supply chain inside and out, and our engineering design team will make sure that your board is ready for manufacturing.