There was only one grocery store available in the small town where I grew up until a convenience store opened up down the street. My parents quickly realized the benefits of a quick stop for just one or two items, and before long, we all referred to it as “the little store.” I don’t remember its actual name anymore, but it was a lot easier to buy a quart of milk there than going all the way to “the big store.”
What my parents didn’t realize at the time was that they were helping me to understand the basics of a dual sourcing strategy. While our regular supermarket remained essential for the bulk of our shopping, “the little store” became just as important to supply those items that we needed immediately. And when it comes to circuit board fabrication and assembly, having multiple sources available becomes even more critical. Here we’ll examine the importance of creating alternate sources for PCB manufacturing and how those sources can keep your electronics production on track.
Problems with Single Sourcing PCB Manufacturing
For the best results, original equipment manufacturers need to develop a business partnership with a trusted circuit board assembler. However, OEMs should be careful not to restrict themselves to working with only one PCB manufacturer. Although building business relationships like these may be easier with one vendor, many problems can creep up with a single-source manufacturing solution.
While overseas manufacturing can offer a lot of benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of too:
- The time zone differences may end up impacting your communications with an overseas PCB CM.
- The geographical separation will negate any chance of working on your design together, as everything will have to be carried out remotely.
- Overseas manufacturers can be influenced by national holidays or political problems.
- A global emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic can alter an overseas manufacturer’s availability.
- Shipping your completed project back can cost time and money with the current supply chain problems.
Single sourcing from a domestic manufacturer can also present some challenges.
- Some areas of the United States will experience worse shipping problems than others, depending on their carriers.
- Some states are still under strict COVID-19 mandates and protocols, which can affect how they conduct business.
- The cost of doing business can vary from state to state, making circuit board production more expensive in some areas.
Additionally, component sourcing still poses a problem for many manufacturers both internationally and domestically. Some manufacturers have access to parts that may not be available to other assemblers, putting their circuit board production at risk.
These issues can potentially create a nightmare for design teams that single-source their manufacturing. With a dual sourcing strategy, however, OEMs can mitigate many of these issues.
A Successful Dual Sourcing Strategy for Circuit Board Manufacturing
Establishing a second source for circuit board manufacturing provides overflow PCB assembly capacity when market demands exceed regular production quotas. Instead of altering the regular production run, the second source can take on the overflow requirements.
An even better strategy is to use both facilities for production to ensure a continual supply of circuit boards no matter what circumstances may happen. As the saying goes, it’s better not to put all of your eggs in one basket. However, in addition to overflow capacity, the secondary manufacturing source can also provide the following services:
- A dedicated source for developing a prototype and new product introduction (NPI) projects without burdening the regular production supplier
- A second source for production if the primary source is experiencing delays due to unexpected problems
- An alternative procurement source for hard-to-find components and parts
- A potentially closer manufacturing source geographically to reduce costly and time-consuming shipping delays
The closer your secondary manufacturing source is to your design team, the less impact sudden and unexpected engineering changes will have on your production schedule.
The best strategy in PCB manufacturing is to adopt dual manufacturing resources in addition to your primary production facilities. The next question should then be, what should I look for when searching for additional PCB manufacturing services? We’ll explore that question next.
Domestic PCB Manufacturing, What to Look For
Whether you are looking to diversify your overseas manufacturing or increase your assembly footprint domestically, there are some PCB contract manufacturer attributes that you should consider:
- Ensure that the manufacturer you choose has experience in building your technology type
- Check their references for a reputation of excellence in building circuit boards in the industry
- The manufacturer should have a trained and knowledgeable staff that demonstrates an eagerness to partner with you and what your company is doing
- A full engineering and procurement staff with experience working through the challenges presented by the current supply chain
At VSE, we have been building circuit boards in Silicon Valley for over 35 years, and our business is thriving. We have the attributes you need to handle prototype, NPI, and mid-volume production runs of most any type of circuit board.