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Juggling Different Size Runs of Custom Circuit Board Assemblies

Posted by Bruce Hendrick on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 @ 10:11 AM

Shops that are set up to handle constant large batch circuit assembly orders don't efficiently fill one-off, intermittent, or recurring small batch orders of custom circuit boards. The space and workforce needed to handle these orders has to either be:

  • Standing by, waiting for the irregular small batch orders to come in so they can build/test/finish the order (after which they'll go back to being surplus, non-productive resources), or
  • Diverted from regular production, which causes interruptions and added pressure on the small batch to get everything right in one shot in a minimum amount of time – making errors more likely and delaying work on the core (larger batch) business.

Instead, to flexibly meet customers’ needs and still deliver the highest quality at the quickest pace, it may benefit a large batch company to partner with a company accustomed to low-volume runs.

Low-volume specialty companies like RBB are designed specifically to meet the needs of customers who need a limited amount of high-quality circuit board assemblies, fast. We're organized differently from large volume suppliers:

  • A lean manufacturing process focuses our personnel and resources to the jobs at hand, so our greatest effort is always on the project that needs it most,
  • Extensive experience with unpredictable customer needs, and the training and flexibility to anticipate issues and address them as they arrive,
  • Physical infrastructure that's optimized for rapid changeover,
  • ECN Procedures and Quality Systems Documentation Control, recognizing that there's often only one chance to build something, so documentation has to be top-notch from the get-go, and
  • Employees who thrive on constant change. It takes a certain kind of person to excel in this environment. Our staff excels at the pace of low-volume runs.

Because a good recurring small batch circuit assembly manufacturer is structured differently than a large batch company, it's difficult for either to operate in the other's space. This means that partnerships between these two organizations can be mutually beneficial, with each one driving business that falls outside their own operating capacity to the other while not competing directly.There are several ways to work with a low-volume circuit board manufacturer like RBB to accomplish the wide portfolio of batch sizes of custom circuit assemblies:

  • A kit and a deadline: the end customer only works with one partner, and that partner subcontracts orders for specific kits to the other. Think of this as an as-needed capacity relief valve.
  • Product line stewardship: one partner remains the point of contact for the end customer, but the other takes on full responsibility for an entire product line as long as it makes sense.
  • Hand-off and hand-back: the entire customer relationship is transferred from one partner to the other as the customer's needs move in and out of their various areas of expertise. Each partner handles customer communication and invoicing directly with the customer.
  • Service partners: two manufacturers with a high degree of trust between them approach the customer as co-providers, offering a finely integrated balance between large batch and small batch services.

Managing different batch sizes with a partner not only relieves headaches for a large batch provider, but it also increases the confidence of the customer who knows that all aspects of their circuit assembly are in the hands of specialized experts.

Topics: Circuit Board & Assembly & Manufacturing, Contract Manufacturing

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