Time to market has never been more important than it is today. Numerous companies all over the country and the world are coming up with new and innovative products that can change the world, cure serious illnesses, and make our lives easier. There are start-up incubators now in almost every major city in the U.S., and all of them need companies that can provide them with help when it comes to new product development (NPI) and shortened time to market.
Some companies today can go from schematic to an assembled board in five working days or less, and sometimes in just hours. A few companies consider the term “lead time” archaic and no longer useable. These companies wait for the schematic and go, go, go until the product is done. In other words, they are dealing in pure, real-time cycle time, which is amazing when you consider that the average time for an assembly quote can be as long as 10 days, or twice as long as it takes for these “new age” companies to build the complete solution.
Many people are talking about this concept of “no lead time” and instead just getting things done ASAP, and the industry is moving that direction, especially in Silicon Valley. I thought it would be beneficial, as well as pertinent, to list five things that these super-fast companies must have in order to cut the fat from their cycle times.
- Total Concept Vendors: If you are developing new products with critical time-to-market challenges, you need to find and work with a total concept supplier. This is a company that has all three disciplines—design, fabrication, and assembly services—under one corporate umbrella, and preferably at the same location under one roof. Certainly, some companies cobble total concept together through partners, but they are not as effective as a company that controls all three functions.
- Fast Quotes: If you are going to build a full assembly in five days or less, you don’t want a vendor that can’t deliver the quote package to you in 10, five, or even three days. You want a company that can do a quote in less than an hour, and yes, there are companies out there that do that.
- Preparations: Super-fast companies have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. Even though the assembly will have to be built as quickly as possible, it doesn’t just show up; your vendor needs to know approximately when the product is coming and get a preview as it is being engineered. This means that in a good partnership, the relationship between the customer and vendor will be so transparent that the vendor acts as a consultant to the customer to the point of DFM and parts availability; these will influence the layout parameters, component selections, design rules, and laminate selections for the bare boards.
- Real-time Schedules: This means that the vendor is not only aware of the approximate schedule but also knows in advance what the project will look like. The lines of communications should be open at all times, and both parties should work on the product together even before the parameters for the product to be built are developed.
- Solid Partners: To build full assemblies as quickly as possible, the customer and vendor have to be committed to each other. They have to thoroughly know each other’s needs and capabilities through a complete understanding that can only come about with a committed partnership. In other words, if you expect a vendor to provide you with full assemblies—including design, fabrication, and assembly—you must have a long-term relationship with them that is based on mutual trust and understanding. A project like this is not one that you toss to a bunch of hungry vendors and then award to the lowest bidder; that will never work. This kind of product has to be worked on and supported by a strong customer-vendor relationship.
If you are looking for a complete assembly, fast-turn supplier like one with the aforementioned qualities, then you are going to need to invest a great deal of time to find the right vendor for you. This partner should meet your needs and expectations and understand the value of time to market; they should also have built their company around achieving the fastest time-to-market solutions for their customers. Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB.