One of the more important aspects of any partnership is mutual respect for one another. And, of course, this is extremely important when it comes to your PCB vendor partner. Many times, in the past, PCB fabricators have been treated as the third wheel in the relationship, stuck between their suppliers on one side and their vendors on the other. In most cases, both of these other entities were much larger and more powerful that the PCB shops.
One example of this was when a vendor of laminate or solder mask convinced board shops to use certain products. When the shops rejected the products because they found out they didn’t work well, the same vendor would sell them to the shops’ customers and get them specified, making the board shop use the products regardless. That’s not a pretty picture and demonstrates a complete disregard for the PCB shop’s expertise.
If you want to have a great relationship with your PCB vendor partners, then make sure you never do the following five items.
- Try to help them cut their costs, hence lowering their prices. Having a good partner means trusting them to be able to give you the best value possible. Let them do their own cost analysis and pricing.
- Assume they are making a lot of money. They are not. They operate on paper-thin margins and do their best to make sure they deliver the best product at the best price for their customers.
- Try to help them with their processes. Sure, there is nothing wrong with working side by side with your PCB vendors helping them to build your boards. But if you have chosen the right partner, then you have to trust that they know what they are doing.
- Keep pushing them to buy equipment they cannot afford at this time. Again, they are operating on paper-thin margins and will buy the right equipment when they need to and can afford to buy it.
- Use your partnership to get what you want and then forget about it when your partner needs something. Partnership is a two way street at all times.
Now, let’s talk about something more positive. Here are five tips that will turbo-charge the partnership with your PCB vendor.
- Give them visibility of not only your PCB requirements for this month or next month but for this year and for years to come, if you know what they are. Share your forecast with your customers; it will help you to help them in the long run.
- Prepare your vendor for any technology changes you are going to be making in the future. Share your technology roadmap with them, and make sure they share theirs as well. Then, you can ensure that you are both going down the same path in the right direction. This is especially important when it comes to products like laminate and chemicals.
- Offer to help them in difficult times. If they are working through some hardships, work with them and offer (if they ask) some engineering help if you have engineers who have knowledge that could be beneficial.
- Work closely with them to help solve problems. The first step is to solve any problems and get things moving again; then, you can decide what went wrong and how to make sure it never happens again.
- Help them find new business. As long as your vendor is healthy, you will be as well when it comes to your PCB needs. When you like working with your PCB partners, and feel they are doing a great job for you, help them to get more business. Talk about them with other companies who are looking for a great PCB vendor. Write testimonials and reference letters for them. Let them use your company as a reference and success story. The more you do to help them grow their business, the better off you will be as well.
There is nothing like a worry-free vendor-customer relationship. Again, all of these do’s and don’ts boil down to having mutual respect for one another. Admittedly, PCB vendors have had a hard time of it over the years, but one thing you can count on is that they are completely dedicated to producing the best product available on the market today. I have never worked for, competed against, or met any PCB fabricator who did not focus on providing their customers with the best value, and you have to respect that.
Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits. Vardya is also co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download these and other free, educational titles.