In 1984, the movie “Ghostbusters” was released in the theaters and quickly proved to be a box office hit. Whether or not you are a fan of the film, you probably recognize the theme song by Ray Parker Jr. that dominated its marketing: “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” It wasn’t long before this song became a catchphrase. When you have a circuit board that needs to be manufactured, you might be wondering the same thing; who you gonna call?
While the movie made a joke about frightening events, several events in the world of manufacturing today are genuinely concerning. Overseas production and shipping have been affected by the pandemic, disrupting normally stable supply chains and manufacturing and delivery schedules. Designers worldwide wonder who to call to get their circuit boards built correctly and promptly. Before you make that call, here are some of the capabilities to look for in a PCB circuit board assembly partner.
Changing and Challenging Times for PCB Manufacturing
The last couple of years have seen unprecedented amounts of change in the circuit board design and manufacturing industry. Some of these changes have been a result of natural growth and advancements, while others have not. Let’s take a look at the effect some of these changes have had on our industry.
Design technology changes
As can be expected, design technologies have changed to meet the needs of the market. For instance, the requirements of IoT devices, 5G, and other new technologies are continually driving designs to be smaller and more compact. New semiconductors are being produced with larger pin-counts and smaller pitches to fuel these technologies.
Manufacturing process changes
PCB manufacturing also continually changes to keep up with new design technologies. For example, some years back saw the introduction of lead-free soldering processes for RoHS compliance in PCB assembly. Other recent changes include improvements to PCB inspection and testing equipment and processes.
Customer requirement changes
Customer requirements change as they respond to different market needs. Prototype and NPI cycles are shorter, while more customers are now looking for full box builds and turnkey services.
Supply chain changes
While responding to new technologies, processes, and customer requirements, the industry has also had to deal with the problems and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Factories and foundries have had to shut down or re-tool to meet new and unexpected demands. Critical parts and materials aren’t available for components or PCB manufacturing, and regular shipping channels have been restricted or cost too much to use.
Whether good or bad, all of these issues have affected the PCB manufacturing industry. To stay ahead of it all, it is incumbent upon designers to make an educated choice on a PCB contract manufacturer. Here are some of the points to consider before you decide who to call.
What to Look for in a PCB Circuit Board Assembly Partner
While the large assembly plants overseas are recovering from the effects of the pandemic, there are still many concerns for designers when choosing them as an assembly partner. Tariffs, shipping schedules and costs, and labor problems all must be considered. On the other hand, a local PCB CM can sidestep these issues and give you high-quality service in less time. However, it is still essential to review their attributes before you make a choice. Here are some areas of inquiry:
- Engineering: Getting a prototype or NPI project off the ground quickly and successfully often requires the engineering services of the PCB CM. They need to be knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of PCB design and manufacturing to provide you with the help you need.
- Procurement: Working within the confines and restrictions of the current supply chain is highly challenging. Your PCB CM should have a procurement team with a well-developed network of vendors and the experience to work around the different pitfalls in the supply chain.
- Manufacturing: You need a manufacturing partner to quickly adapt to your production needs to help you meet your goals. These can include prototypes, NPI development, limited production runs, engineering changes, or low-volume production.
- Box build capabilities: If you are looking at developing a new product quickly, you will want to reduce the number of vendors to manage and coordinate. Choosing a PCB CM with full box build capabilities will give you all of these services under one roof saving your time, expense, and resources.
With questions like these, you can narrow your choice of PCB circuit board assembly partners down pretty quickly, and the answer may be closer than you realize.
The Answer is Closer than You Think!
At VSE, we have been building high-quality electronics for our clients for over 30 years. To provide the best service possible, we have built up our business with the capabilities that have now become essential in this current world of PCB manufacturing:
- VSE features low-volume, high-mix manufacturing capabilities. This positions us uniquely to handle prototype, NPI, or production runs of circuit boards while responding quickly to any changes or requests of our customers.
- Our engineering department will start with a review of your BOM and verify the manufacturability of your design. From there, we can recommend circuitry changes for better part availability or price, layout changes for increases to production yields, or refine your documentation for future builds.
- The procurement team at VSE has a vast network of component manufacturers, distributors, and brokers that they work with every day. Our team will find the best prices and delivery schedules on the parts you need, or our engineering department will work with you to incorporate an alternative solution.
- We have built up our box build, wire harness, and cable assembly teams in response to the uptick in customers needing full electronics manufacturing services. You no longer have to manage multiple vendors. We will do that for you, and it will all be under the same roof.
Let us show you how we can help the next time you need to call for PCB manufacturing services.