Whether the end product was a medical device headed for a hospital or doctor’s office, an advanced PCB solution for an automotive application, or a consumer electronics product that’ll ultimately connect a home or business to the internet of things (IOT) — time and again, we’ve been able to surprise and delight our customers with ideas, techniques, or tactics that saved them time, reduced costs, enhanced quality, or all the above.
Here are six ways your printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) partner can help reduce cost, while maintaining or even improving the quality of their output:
- Invite your PCBA to the table sooner vs. later – An experienced and well-resourced circuit board assembly partner can quite literally help innovate, provided you involve them at the earliest reasonable stage of your project. Here at Cascade, it’s not at all uncommon for us to suggest design or even functional enhancements; offer alternative materials, substrates, configurations, or manufacturing techniques; simplify needlessly complex designs; or provide ideas for reducing a customer’s bill of materials (BOM) by proposing alternative components or finding alternative suppliers. Just one real-world example of this: Cascade recently saved one customer thousands of dollars in production costs by creating heterogenous board panels, thereby optimizing the SMT process.
- Involve all key stakeholders from the get-go – We’ve all been in meetings or involved with projects when a key decision maker joins the effort late in the game, only to poke holes in the team’s assumptions, change a spec, or make some other hard request/design modifications that sets the project back several stages. To avoid such U-turns, make sure all the mission-critical players are involved from the onset – or, at minimum, are at least fully informed along the way. Electrical, mechanical, production, quality control, procurement, management… If the title has sign-off responsibility, it should be fully represented at the beginning.
- Similarly, supplying your PCBA supplier with complete data is key – In addition to having all the right people in the room from day one, it’s critical to supply the most complete specs and supporting documentation you can vs. introducing it piecemeal. This includes technical drawings, the BOM, product Gerber files, and more – not just to avoid surprises later, but to give your PCBA partner the chance to give you proactive and potentially useful feedback as describe in #1 above.
- Be sure to ask about all the cost-saving, quality-boosting services, assets, or capabilities your PCBA partner may offer – A robust, turnkey PCBA supplier may offer resources you’ve not yet leveraged to save time, effort, or costs – many of which may also enhance the quality or precision of your projects output. These might include:
- a library of re-useable, yet easily customized PCB designs
- performance or other modeling software
- test design and test management capabilities
- X-ray inspection, automated optical (AOI) inspection, test probing
- Automated circuit board de-paneling
- SMT, leaded/unleaded wave soldering, or ball-grid assembly (BGA)
- mechanical assembly and touch up capabilities
- conformal coating, hermetic & ultrasonic sealing, RAD-hardening
- box-building and final assembly
- vender-managed inventory and JIT shipping opportunities
- Leverage your supplier’s supplier base — PCBA shops worth their salt are also likely to have their own rich base of component, raw PCB, and other materials suppliers you can tap into, which – in turn — offers you additional possibilities, reduced costs, and a buffer against occasional materials or parts shortages.
- Speaking of the risks of sole sourcing — We understand there are downsides to – and, in some instances, even prohibitions preventing — sole-sourcing. But establishing a long-term relationship with a PCBA partner who provides genuine insights, assists with innovation, performs well, hits your stringent cost, quality, and delivery standards, and knows your people and processes can yield significant cost and quality advantages over time. So when you’ve got a winner who is truly invested in your success, do consider zippering up with them – perhaps even giving them a peek at your product pipeline and innovation strategy, so they can anticipate and stay in step with your needs.
I hope you’ve found this list interesting or useful. Needless to say, CST has its own history of helping customers reduce their product costs and improve quality: Give me a call if you ever want to learn how we did it and how we can deliver the same for you!
– Shantanu R. Gupta,
CEO — Cascade Systems Technology