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How To Select A PCB Manufacturer

PCB

Any business producing electronic products like mobiles, computers, machinery and vehicles needs printed circuit boards (PCB). The PCB is a space saver and allows for cleaner, smaller product designs.

Your business may have it’s product prototypes ready and now it needs to source a PCB manufacturer for mass production.

With demand comes supply, and thankfully there are a lot of suppliers using the latest in PCB design software. However, choosing the right supplier for your business comes with risk. Quality, compliance and source will take precedence over cost and delivery, and in this article, we cover what to look out for in a supplier.

Before a business can choose its suppliers, it needs to know it’s inventory requirements for its infancy and growth phases. Why? Well, all business, particularly startups, need working capital and cash flow is king. Revenue needs to exceed costs for company long term viability and growth. Therefore don’t wing it, commit to inventory or a supplier. Start with a robust business plan, and from it, you’ll have confidence in ordering suppliers and partners.

Business Plan

People don’t plan to fail they fail to plan. In your business plan will be your goals, investment strategy, sales targets, marketing plan, operations and financial forecasts. Ideally, you will also have a PEST and SWOT analysis. The PEST analysis is looking into what external factors may threaten the success of your business.

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is a look into your business. What are its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Also, what is its KPIs? It is during this study that you learn if there really is a market for your products and services.

PEST Analysis

While we can not predict the future, as business owners, with much at risk, we can make an educated guess founded on a keen analysis of what may affect the health of our business. The PEST analysis provides insight into external factors that can affect consumer confidence and purchasing power.

PEST is an acronym for political, economic, environmental, social and technology. With this information, you’ll have a good idea of how your new business will fair through good and bad times.

Your business plan provides the confidence needed to commit to partners, including a PCB manufacturer if your business is producing products with electronic parts. Consider these recommendations as part of your selection process.

PCB Quality

Avoid making a hasty decision founded on price and quick delivery. Always focus on quality first and foremost. High-quality PCB manufacturing essentially means that the board is produced without errors to its drawing and production. For example, the PCB should have all the accurate dimensions and all holes drilled and positioned correctly. There should be minimum board warping (although some board designs will naturally cause a bit of warping, and you’ll know when this is the case), and it should pass bare board tests.

To ensure your prospective provider is consistent in its quality, speak to a non-competitors using the technology plus do random independent testing of the boards. Low-cost manufacturers may be sourcing their equipment from non-compliant manufacturers, and when this is discovered, it can damage the reputation of your product and business, therefore get all the industry certifications.

Certifications

Do your research to determine whether a manufacturer has the prerequisite industry certifications for example the ISO or BS standards. Some manufacturers will merely claim compliance without the certificates to prove it.

PCB Brokers

Ask the manufacturer is where their circuit boards are manufactured. Not all PCB manufacturers are the source they are actually just brokers, and they act as the middleman between the real manufacturer and their client.

One of the downfalls when working with brokers, is that it’s not always possible to guarantee the requirements are understood and the PCBs manufactured accordingly, plus there may be inconsistencies with the warrantees and compliance. While not all brokers are unethical if you go direct to the manufacturer, you have a relationship with the source.

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