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Two Keys to Small Batch Circuit Board Assembly – Inventory & Planning

Posted by Ross Lilley on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 @ 17:01 PM

Original equipment manufacturers whose products include circuit board assemblies have an interesting challenge. Whether you're looking to grow your business or sustain a legacy product line, you must be very detailed about the component inventory you carry and the way you plan for the future. The challenge comes in trying to forecast how many pieces you'll need and when. You need to keep circuit boards on hand for your end product - but how many? By managing your inventory and planning for growth effectively, you can better position yourself for success.

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Carrying parts inventory that doesn't move is a major cost drain on your company. Sometimes it makes sense to place a large order and carry the inventory for a length of time. When this is true, a large batch supplier is your best bet. You'll get the most competitive pricing and move your project through a large batch manufacturing partner. When you don't need the large inventory, or just don't want to tie up your cash in the inventory, a smaller batch supplier might just be the way to go. When you partner with a supplier that specializes in small batch orders, you get only the inventory you need. 

When You Can't Plan Ahead

It can be difficult to predict what your circuit board assembly inventory needs will be even in the short term, especially if you are actively growing your business or supporting a legacy line of products – or both! So what happens then? Do the custom assemblies you need become the bottleneck for your operation while you wait for them to be produced? This is where a small batch supplier can benefit you. Because their customers' orders vary in size (and include other small orders) your smaller, perhaps unplanned-for, order can be fit into the production schedule faster than normal. To expedite things further, they may even be able to work with blanket purchase orders to provide the timeliest service. For instance, if you set up a blanket PO to have a specific number units delivered within a time frame, your supplier may be willing to stock and hold the component parts ahead of time.

Another option is to stock your own custom components and provide them to your assembly supplier when needed. This can help reduce delivery time so that you always have the inventory you need without carrying excess.

When looking at the best matched circuit board assembly manufacturer for your company, you want to find someone who can provide the level of service you need. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What services are offered?
  • How do they deal with scheduling and what will my wait time be?
  • What is their optimal batch size and minimum order?
  • How well do they handle changes in orders?
  • What do they expect from my business?
  • What is their level of customer service?

The answers to these questions will tell you right away if they are a good fit for you and your circuit board assembly needs. 

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For forty years at RBB, Ross has done just about all there is to do with industrial technology. As Project Specialist, Ross is a no-frills, hands-on guy who is intimately familiar with all aspects of panel design, assembly, installation, and test. 

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

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