4 Tips for Maximizing Your Outsourced PCB Assembly Partnership

Posted by Bruce Hendrick on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

custom circuitWorking with an outsourced manufacturer can be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties, but in order to create a strong, rewarding partnership, we recommend following these 4 tips: 

Tip 1: Voice Problems and Concerns 

Good partnerships are built upon honesty, trust and commitment. Inevitably, if you follow these three principles and build a long-lasting partnership, it will become a relationship that’s personal as well. When strong partnerships and personal relationships are built, dealing with the rare conflict becomes straightforward. Weak partners avoid conflict, causing long-term damage to your relationship and deteriorate your partnership. 

Regardless of how long you’ve been working with your outsourced PCB assembler, be sure to put personal feelings aside, voice your concerns and ensure that your issues get proper attention and resolution.   

Tip 2:  Be Transparent with Technical Requirements 

Outsourced PCB assembly partners work with a lot of different customers, each with their own unique technical specifications and needs. Therefore, it’s imperative that you provide your manufacturing partner with specific requirements up front. This is especially true when you have certain cosmetic acceptability standards or other requirements that vary from the industry-standard IPC guidelines.

Tip 3. Recognize Good vs. Bad Business 

Ever have an existing partner tell you they weren’t going to take on your new business? It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it can feel like a downright snub and it can leave you feeling desperate in a critical time of need. 

While feelings of offense may be normal, it’s important to understand why a trusted partner might want to pass on your business. Outsourced PCB assemblers are usually optimized to handle a specific range of batch sizes. When they try to take on larger or smaller batches outside of that sweet spot, it can cause problems throughout their entire business, and often causes upset in their customer base – including you.

If you know you’ll have batches that vary greatly in requirements, we recommend working with two outsourced PCB partners, one with expertise in large batch work and one with expertise in small batch work. This allows you to leverage the sweet spots of both providers to your advantage and ensures you’ll always have the right partner to turn to. To learn more about working with both large and small batch PCB assemblers, you can check out this article I wrote a few months back.

Tip 4: Conduct Joint Reviews of Custom Materials  

If you’re outsourcing highly customized parts, it’s wise to anticipate that sourcing challenges may arise.

When faced with these situations, it’s common for PCB assemblers to experience unexpected price increases or even encounter material obsolescence. They may also encounter intangible costs such as challenges with high minimum order sizes, high inventory carrying costs and long ordering delays.

To prevent these issues from occurring in a critical time of need, ask your outsourced PCB assembler to conduct a joint quarterly or bi-annual custom material needs review with you. Your outsourced partner should be able to identify the most troubling components and may even be able to provide substitutes. Or, they may suggest signing a purchasing letter of intent or may recommend a redesign effort. Whatever the recommendation is, it’s best to have a game plan in place before the crisis occurs.  

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Topics: Small Batch Electronics, Circuit Board & Assembly & Manufacturing, Contract Manufacturing