A great partnership with your PCB fabricator is a true investment in your company’s future. If you are willing to develop a strong, ongoing, and ever-growing partnership with your vendor, you will never have trouble sourcing your PCBs again.
There are only two ways to buy PCBs; the first is based on price, which is the wrong way because it encourages a very shallow relationship based on just one thing—the price of the boards. People who buy based on price get what they pay for in the end. How many times have you heard a board buyer say, “All PCB vendors are the same, so I just buy from the one with the cheapest price?” The key word in that sentence is not “price” but rather “cheapest” in the purest sense of the word. How can a company that prides itself in its products be happy with buying the cheapest?
The second, and right, way to buy PCBs—and anything else for that matter—is based on value. A great company should understand what it means to buy value, including the value of:
- Getting boards in time every time. Think of how much it costs you when boards are late. Your lines could be down, and your people will be on the clock but idle. Your products will be late, and worse yet, if it’s a new product, you could delay your time to market and miss your window of opportunity. Is that worth 5–10% savings?
- Lead time reduction: A true PCB partner will be able to reduce lead times when you need them to. Maybe you are in a critical time-to-market situation and need your PCB partner’s help in getting boards quickly. You could also have ongoing projects that require short lead times, or something happened, and you need to pull in some delivery dates. A great supplier will find a way to accommodate your needs. There is no better value than being able to count on your supplier to meet your delivery needs. In the end, that is priceless.
- A quality supplier. How expensive is quality or the absence of it? Think of the potential disasters a poor-quality PCB ensues. If the vendor scraps it, the product will be late as they rebuild it. If it is rejected in your incoming inspection, it’s as bad as a late board, and sometimes even worse because it will have to be rebuilt, which will always take too long. Or, horror of horrors, you could have a field failure. Does the word “lawsuit” mean anything to you?
- A well-run, well-managed, fiscally sound PCB shop. The problem with PCB shops that sell cheap is that they often go out of business. How does that sound to you? Do you want to invest your time, energy, and future in a company that is so shaky that it could go out of business? Or even worse, they could go bankrupt with your boards locked inside, never to be seen again.
These are just three things to look for when buying based on value, and three scenarios that can occur if you buy your PCBs based on price instead. You should choose your PCB suppliers carefully, making sure that they are always more valuable than cheap. After all, you’re buying your future.
Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits. Vardya is also an author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex. Visit www.i007ebooks.com to download these and other free educational titles.