Printed circuit board (PCB) suppliers, also referred to as PCB vendors, are an indispensable element to many electronic manufacturing businesses. As such, switching PCB suppliers can feel like a risky move, potentially resulting in financial and operational set backs. After all, why change something that may only be squeaky, but not broken. However, a printed circuit board supplier transition can be managed with minimal to no risk when following an effective risk mitigation strategy.
Although the supplier selection and evaluation process can be time consuming and exhaustive, there are several key traits to consider when evaluating a potential supplier. These efforts can lead to potentially valuable PCB suppliers that will provide quality products and services in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Admit it or not, price is one of the key factors in selecting a circuit board vendor. When soliciting quotes for bare circuit boards, specifications such as number of layers, materials, RoHS requirements, etc. as well as other factors such as quantity and lead time will determine the pricing you receive. Based on that pricing, you will determine whether it is worthwhile for your company to move forward with a potential vendor.
While price is at the top of most purchasers’ list of criteria when selecting a vendor, reliability plays a huge role in developing a successful relationship. Trust is created when a vendor does what they say they will do, rather than making empty promises.
Quality is a significant issue when selecting and developing a vendor relationship. First, a vendor must demonstrate excellence in workmanship, materials and technology when they are manufacturing circuit boards. These PCBs will be of varying sizes, materials such as FR4, Polyimide, CEM-1, multi-layers and of varying thicknesses, along with many other industry-specific requirements. Second, a vendor must ensure that the circuit boards have undergone and passed industry-standard testing requirements such as Net List, Fly-Probe testing, etc.
A dedicated support team is a must if a vendor relationship is to be successful. Timely responses to questions regarding technical questions, quotes, lead-times, etc. are key to a frustration-free purchasing process.
Successfully selecting a valuable PCB vendor involves gaining a strong understanding of the vendor’s capabilities, as well as their areas of strength, or sweet spot. Matching a supplier’s core competency to your requirements will maximize the benefit of working with a PCB vendor.