How to choose your perfect PCB partner in 2020

Do you know what to look for in a contract manufacturer when it comes to PCB creation?

Outsourcing your PCB assembly and manufacture is a must for many organisations and entrepreneurs as the reality is that time-to-market is a major component of business success. We’ve already outlined the reasons why it is so crucial in past articles but to summarise, outsourcing to the right manufacturer leads to better quality tested boards, a dedicated more reliable component supply chain, scalability and in many cases cost efficiency. You can read more about this in our article –

With that in mind, the question shouldn’t be ‘should I outsource my PCB manufacturing’, it should be who should I outsource my PCB manufacturing to? As leading UK PCB assembly and manufacturing specialists, it would be easy to say the obvious choice is UK Electronics, however we recognise that there are common considerations that will lead to the correct choice within the industry.

Location
We’re firm believers in seeing is believing. If you can physically visit a contract manufacturer and see their premises you will gain a better insight and have more confidence in their service offerings. Most manufacturers welcome facility visits so don’t be afraid to ask.

Industry standing
When researching a potential contract manufacturer, use all the resources available to you to establish their experience, expertise and reputation. Ask questions, request a review of your boards and find out if they’ve manufactured similar designs and to what production volumes. If you probe using the appropriate questions you’re more likely to find the answers you’re looking for.

Production capabilities
It is essential that you gauge what a contract manufacturers production volumes and capabilities are early doors. Scalability is a must when it comes to products; the worst outcome is always having the demand but no solution to meet that demand further down the line. It’s important to consider the manufacturers facility, their investment in technology and the size of their operation.

Quality Management
It is crucial to find out what quality initiatives and systems manufacturers have in place. ISO 9001 being the required baseline quality-management-system specification. It is important to know that there are others for particular applications; for example, ISO 13485 is vital for medical equipment. A manufacturer should discuss with you what is required for your products but ultimately you are responsible for meeting these requirements when your product goes to market.

Turnaround time
The ability to quote and satisfy swift turnaround time is crucial in the competitive market. An early indicator of this is always going to be your initial contact and how satisfactory their communication is.

Supply chain
You will want a contract manufacturer with a reliable supply chain. Sourcing quality electronic components is a specialized skill in its own right. You ideally need to establish:

  • Does the contract manufacturer have links with reputable component suppliers?
  • Can you utilise their procurement and forecasting experience?
  • What about component obsolescence?
  • Are their components tested before being placed on the PCB?

When working with a competent and reliable contract manufacturer these requirements should be met to ensure a long lasting positive relationship.

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