The Truth About High-Value PCB Fabrication And Assembly Vendors

When your company is developing electronic products you cannot skimp on quality. In your vendor selection process it is of the utmost concern.  You need to find PCB fabrication and assembly vendors that will give you the quality you demand. But at the same time, you need to find ways to reduce the overall cost of your project.

When it comes to saving on costs while maintaining quality, the biggest key is this:

You need a cost-efficient supplier. If they can minimize their own costs, they will be able to pass their cost savings on to customers.

We had our resident quality veteran, Kris Sateesh, weigh in on the topic of identifying high-value suppliers. We wanted to know how to identify suppliers that would meet stringent quality demands, while at the same time being cost efficient.

Kris SateeshAsk a PCBA Quality Expert

Kris Sateesh has over 35 years of experience in quality assurance management. He has worked for various American electronics and electromechanical companies. And he has provided leadership in all areas of quality, from design through customer liaison. Kris has a broad range of global experience in places like China, South Africa, and India. He has been involved in spearheading Gabrian International’s PCBA partner selection efforts.

5 Keys to Selecting the Right PCB Fabrication and Assembly Suppliers

Finding a cost-efficient supplier is important. So we picked Kris’s brain to get his best tips on how to identify high-quality manufacturers that are highly cost-efficient. Kris offered up the following 5 tips for identifying high-value PCB fab suppliers and PCBA vendors.

Key #1:

“Choose a PCB fabrication supplier with a facility that is completely vertically integrated.”

When selecting a fabrication vendor, you need to verify that all parts of the fab process are completed within that vendor’s own facilities. You may encounter a supplier who has all the layers of the PCB created in their facility. But then they send those layers out for gluing and drilling. Some vendors will outsource the lamination processes or comprehensive bare board testing. The bottom line is that all processes that are critical to the fabricated board should be done in-house for quality control and efficiency.

Key #2:

“Find a PCB Assembly vendor that can optimize component costs through economies of scale.”

The key question is, “Do they work with a lot of customers?” If they do, that gives them economies of scale. They’ll be able to get good prices and a good cost structure when they buy components. If a facility is only working with 2 or 3 customers, they won’t be getting good prices or any kind of preferential treatment. They need to have leverage when they buy from their suppliers.

Key #3:

“Select a PCBA supplier that has adequate test capabilities.”

The company doing PCB Assembly should have the capability to do circuit testing. They should do some kind of point to point testing where they do the board assembly and test it and correct any issues before they ship it out. The Automatic Optical Inspection (AOI) and electrical testing are important. They need to guarantee that the boards that come out of their process are at least basically functionally okay.

Key #4:

“Work with vendors that have quality MRP or ERP systems in place.”

From the time you receive an order to the time you ship it, the material control system should be able to track it. And it should keep track of materials throughout the entire process, from order to shipment. If a vendor has processes that are not totally woven together, then you end up with gaps. Regardless of whether the software comes from a big name or small one, the system should be comprehensive and go from A-Z, from womb to tomb.

Key #5:

“Make sure your designer, PCB fabrication vendor, and assembly source can work well together.

There are a lot of discussions that need to happen between the designer, the PCB fabrication source, and the assembly source. They should be discussing board design, layout, and where to put the test points. If the process is disjointed, then the process ends up becoming inefficient. That means people will have to go back and redo things. Make sure that you have a designer and suppliers who understand this.

Look for Efficient PCB Fabrication and Assembly Vendors

Keep the 5 suggestions above in mind as you are going through the processes of vendor identification and selection. They will enable you to avoid quality problems and save on costs at the same time.