The first step before placing an order through a custom electronics job shop requires an accurate assessment of where your order will be best produced.
Choosing the Right Shop
Because not every shop operates exactly the same way, you'll want to make certain you are placing your order with the right one. Many contract circuit board manufacturers optimize for large orders, with 500-1000 units at a minimum. If your product requires an average production batch size of less than 500 units, or is commonly unsure of how big a batch will be, a small batch partner would be the best fit. Small batch job shops are typically optimized to handle batches of 1-500 units and specialize in variable and unpredictable demand.
Other differences you may encounter:
- Circuit board and other custom electronics manufacturers handle project changes very differently from one another. Larger production manufacturers often enforce strict rules for adjustments throughout the production process. Shops with firm policies may not be the best choice for those with the potential for on-the-fly changes to products and/or schedules.
- You'll likely notice pricing differences. Whether on small batches or large, each type of shop is optimized to give you the best pricing, since that’s what they’re optimized to deliver.
- Always investigate production schedules to see which jobs take priority. At a typical large batch manufacturer, chances are good that if your job is small, you'll wait longer than if your order was one of the largest. When this is the case, a small batch circuit board manufacturer with frequent jobs of similar size will be a better fit. You’ll get your product faster and with fewer complications in the end.
If you’re still not sure, ask about how your order would be handled or better yet, visit the facility. Having these conversations up front will offer insight into how effectively managed the manufacturer's processes are and how your order is likely to be handled.
Preparing Your Quote: Assessment of Needs
Once you’ve qualified a potential partner, the next step is getting a quote. During this process, there are a handful of issues to review with your chosen job shop to ensure the quote is complete and accurate:
- Engineering drawings, plans and instructions that might shift or change
- Testing processes, fixtures and requirements
- History of the sales of the project (batch size, stability/predictability, annual demand)
- Manufacturer and internal part number identification on the Bill of Materials (BOM)
- Identification of any long lead-time parts or supplier minimums and multiples
This assessment provides a summary of the project for the proposal, and will identify any other known issues that could affect the flow of the first production batch.
Getting Your Quote Back to You Quickly and Thoroughly
Several departments at the shop simultaneously begin work the moment your quote is launched. It is placed in a central location, and then:
- Engineering reviews the customer-supplied documents for quality control, anticipating potential assembly problems and making recommendations to prevent them.
- Accounting begins reformatting the customer’s BOM into a form usable by the shop.
- Purchasing obtains competitive component prices and lead-times, and supplier minimums and multiples.
Once completed, the quote also goes under a requirements review. Most projects are time and quality sensitive, which means the first up-front quote review is one of the most important steps in the entire process.
To learn more about how your order flows through a custom electronics job shop, stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this post to come!