Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

What You Need In A PCB Assembly Service

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

component_of_pcbIf you're looking to enter the electronics market, it's actually a great time!  There are more options in manufacturing both at home and abroad than ever before, and there are a lot of great companies out there waiting to build your product.

The problem, of course, is telling the good ones from all the rest.  In a boom industry, there are a lot of recent upstarts that lack the experience or the equipment needed to properly fill orders.  When you pick a PCB assembly service as a partner, you need to know they'll be someone you can rely on.

So, we've got a few tips to help weed out the top businesses from everyone else.

Signs You've Got A Great PCB Assembly Partner

1 - Solid Certifications

The electronics industry has a robust and highly reliable set of internal certification standards, covering every possible element of manufacturing.  These standards groups go carefully over a company's manufacturing facilities and help guarantee they can truly deliver the products they claim to.

Many of these are specific to industries such as military or aerospace, which can be another guarantee of quality.  If that company's products are being put onto battleships - or sent into space - they clearly know what they're doing.

2 - Tight Supply Line Oversight

The risks associated with letting counterfeit parts slip into your supply lines really cannot be overstated, and this is one area where the right manufacturing partner can really make a difference.  They should be implementing per-component tracking and working closely with their own partners to guarantee compliance.

Counterfeit components can reduce product quality, lead to recalls, or potentially even harm end-users. They make servicing costs impossible to correctly estimate, as well as derailing your engineers' best efforts.

Your PCB assembly partner needs to be doing everything possible to keep the supply line clean, with the hard data to prove it.

3 - Real ExperiencePCB-Services

The electronics manufacturing industry is hugely complex, and startups will not be prepared to offer the same services as companies which have been in business for years or decades.  It's not just a matter of engineering expertise - there's also the "human factor" of making contacts and developing their own network of trusted vendors.

It takes years for an electronics assembler to have the robust ecosystem in place necessary to take on real challenges in manufacturing.  Hiring a newcomer is taking a big risk, and it's probably not warranted, even if their prices are low.

4 - Anti-Espionage Measures

Speaking of trusted partners, another major problem in manufacturing today is that of IP theft and other corporate espionage.  Once a company has schematics, plans, or other high-level documentation, it's often all too easy for them to sell or copy the designs.  This is an especially big problem with overseas manufacturers, such as in China, where IP laws are weak and barely enforced.  

With companies losing millions or billions due to IP theft, this is a serious issue.  Worse, knockoffs can even potentially lower your own brand's value!

Ask your manufacturing partner how they're guaranteeing your IP protections.  Make sure you like the answers you get.

Pick The Best In Electronics Assembly

If you're looking for a manufacturing partner that is domestic, fully-certified, and backing years of real experience, give Zentech a call.  Our state-of-the-art facilities can produce excellent products for consumers or for aerospace, and they're staffed with true electronics experts.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

New Call-to-Action

Topics: pcb assembly service, American PC Board Assembly, PCB assembling service

Are You Still Offshoring Your Assembly Electronic Services? Domestic Solutions Are Now Much More Attractive!

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Mar 05, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

american based electronicsHandling your manufacturing in the US is becoming more cost-effective every year!  Despite the trend in the earlier 2000s to move operations offshore, a combination of factors are making a new case for on-shore manufacturing.  Simply put, sending your assembly electronic orders to Asia is no longer the deal it used to be.

In fact, according to research group Alix Partners, the overall cost of US manufacturing investment will be at parity with China within another year or two.

Furthermore, this isn't simply something being done by smaller manufacturers.  According to this J.P. Morgan report even major companies known for their offshore focus are bringing business back home, including Apple, Whirlpool, Caterpillar, General Electric, and even Wal-Mart.  

What's prompting this sudden interest in US manufacturing and assembly electronic services?  Here are a few of the reasons, as we see them.

Why Offshoring No Longer Saves Money Overall

1 - Supply Lines

Honestly, those two words alone could justify a move to nearby electronics assembly and production facilities.  With both fuel costs and shipping prices going up substantially in the last few years, the cost burdens associated with offshore work have gone up significantly... and they're not likely to come back down.

Even if sourcing parts in the US may bring higher sticker prices, the overall costs of getting them to your facilities and then into customers' hands are vastly cheaper.  Plus, short supply lines allow you to have actual repair services for warranty claims, rather than (as is often standard) having to send out full replacement units for any component failure.

2 - Inflexibility

Another problem with those long overseas supply lines is the time it takes to shift them, if the market changes.  If your offshore assembler already has a one-year contract for Widget A in place, and brand-new Widget B suddenly does the same job for half the cost, guess what?  You're not getting Widget B in your product for a year without paying huge penalties.

Nearby suppliers means you can have shorter supply lines AND shorter supply-line contracts.  In a market that frequently shifts every six months or less, this can give you significant advantages over other companies who are tied down by their supply lines.

3 - Counterfeitsfreight routing options

Still talking about supply lines here, another issue is counterfeit parts.  Most overseas suppliers have very poor parts control, and internal corruption is rampant.  Even the US Air Force has seen counterfeits show up in their overseas supply lines.

America has stronger business regulations, tighter counterfeit laws, and more-reliable shippers. Reshoring means having far more trust in the components you're putting in your products.

4 - Cost Of Living

The cost of living in China is skyrocketing, plain and simple, and it's largely a predictable result of the glut of manufacturing a decade ago.  Some estimates put the Chinese COL as rising at nearly 20% per year at this point.  Which means that, for the last 4-5 years at least, the cost-savings of Chinese manufacturing have dropped by nearly that much each year.

At this point, there is very little cost difference between Asian and American manufacturing, even just looking at the up-front costs.

5 - Quality

Let's be honest: "Made in China" has never had a lot of cache and, if anything, the flood of cheaply-made Asian products has only made that reputation worse.  American electronics manufacturers generally have newer equipment and techniques, with better oversight, and better individual employee productivity.

This, of course, pays off with longer-lasting products, fewer post-sale claims, and an overall better corporate reputation among customers.

American Electronics Assembly: You Get What You Pay For

Offshoring today is a "pennywise, dollar-dumb" strategy.  Early savings will almost always be mitigated by later problems that arise.  On the other hand, nearshoring is nearly at price parity with Asia, but with better products and services.

Want to learn more?  Contact ZenTech today to learn what domestic assembly can do for you! 

 

New Call-to-Action

Topics: American PC Board Assembly, American based product assembly, assembly electronic

3 Tasks To Expect From A PCB Assembly Manufacturer

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

Printed Circuit Board AssemblyAlthough many small to medium sized electronics companies come to the realization that they would benefit from the assistance of a third party manufacturer, most do not have any idea what it is that they should actually expect from such an operation. But without a good idea with regards to what your PCB assembly manufacturer should be doing for you, how can you be sure that you are getting the best return on your investment? To enable you to feel confident that you are getting the most bang for your buck, here are three tasks that you should always expect your contract manufacturing partner to complete.

1. Improve Product Efficiency and Effectiveness

If your business already has a team of qualified and skilled designers and engineers, you will require more of your PCB assembly manufacturer than the ability to develop design schematics. Although, in some instances, you may delegate this task to your contract manufacturing partner in an effort to save time and money, it would be more to your benefit to utilize the industry experience of the agency's employees to evaluate your current designs and improve upon them. In many cases, your contract manufacturer may find ways to cut down on the amount of parts or materials that must be utilized to complete your concept, thus saving your business a great deal of money in the long run. Additionally, your partner may be able to point out fundamental flaws in your plan that your team previously did not notice, find new and effective ways to resolve problems that your company has been facing with a particular product, or show you how to take your device to a while new level.

2. Provide the Best Materials and Technology

If your company is relatively new, or is smaller than the majority of your competitors, you may be faced with the challenge of establishing good relationships with parts suppliers, or the inability to purchase the latest and greatest machinery and technology that is required for the design and manufacture process. By establishing a contract with a reputable, established PCB assembly manufacturer, you can easily bypass these hurdles and keep up with all of the "major league" players. Your contract manufacturer will have been in the industry long enough to have built up strong partnerships with suppliers, meaning that you will always get the best deals on high quality parts and equipment. Additionally, you will not be faced with the task of purchasing expensive equipment. Instead, you will have the ability to take advantage of the state-of-the-art tools and machinery that your manufacturer has in their possession. In this way, you can rest assured that you will always be able to develop and produce the best products possible, so that your customers will remain satisfied and loyal to your business in the many years ahead.

pcb assembly3. Offer Comprehensive Fulfillment Services

The work of a great PCB assembly manufacture is not finished after the initial production of your electronic devices. Instead, the best manufacturing companies will be more than happy to provide testing and fulfillment services that will see you and your customers through to the very end. To begin with, all of the devices produced should be thoroughly tested for both operability and functionality to ensure that each product will meet consumer expectations in a way that is safe and effective. Any underlying issues should be pinpointed through troubleshooting and repaired promptly. Additionally, your contract manufacturer should offer to provide flexible and customized solutions for your product throughout all phases of its life cycle. This should extend to a direct customer ship and repair return depot which will ensure that devices are fixed and sent back to clients faster, and that the need for expensive warranty replacements is eliminated. 

By demanding these three things from your PCB assembly manufacturer, you are sure to enjoy the highest possible level of success in your business. 

 

Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: American PC Board Assembly, American based product assembly, pcb assembly manufacturer

4 Reasons to Consider Hiring A Contract Manufacturing

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 06:00 PM

assembly_manufacturing4A growing number of companies are turning to contract manufacturing services as a means of improvingtheir own existing business models. Could this be a viable solution for your needs? If you're on the fence, take a look at 4 of the many ways in which a contract manufacturer could help to improve the development of your electronics.

1. Superior Technologies

Wouldn't it be great if you could take advantage of the same design, assembly, and production technologies as your largest competitors? While it may be easy for the "big guys" to spend money on the latest and greatest equipment, it's not always a possibility for you. When you partner with a contract manufacturing service, though, you are able to tap into these valuable resources without being required to invest in the technology, house it, or maintain it. Suddenly, you're much more competitive in the consumer marketplace!

2. Knowledge & Experience

Who wouldn't love to be able to take advantage of talented industry professionals with a great deal of knowledge and experience without actually having to pay their salary? That's exactly what you get when you make the decision to work with a contract manufacturer. You'll be able to obtain design and manufacturing input from a team of experts who have been working in PCB engineering, assembly, and repair for years. This will help your own staff to learn and grow, while also enabling you to offer a superior product to your buyers.

3. Superior TechnologiesContract Manufacturing Company

Wouldn't it be great if you could take advantage of the same design, assembly, and production technologies as your largest competitors? While it may be easy for the "big guys" to spend money on the latest and greatest equipment, it's not always a possibility for you. When you partner with a contract manufacturing service, though, you are able to tap into these valuable resources without being required to invest in the technology, house it, or maintain it. Suddenly, you're much more competitive in the consumer marketplace!

4. Excellent Fulfillment Services 

Just because you offer a warranty on your boards and products doesn't mean that you should throw away money on replacement units when something goes wrong. When you have a contract manufacturing company on your team, you can address problems in a more cost-efficient manner. Through careful troubleshooting, your contract manufacturer can pinpoint the problem. Often, it can be traced to a single failing component which can then be replaced for a fraction of the cost to replace. 

How could a contract manufacturer help you?  

 Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: electronic contract manufacturer, American PC Board Assembly

How Professional Inventory Management Optimizes Your Operations

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

electronic manufacturing servicesVirtually any business involved in any sort of manufacturing and sales is painfully aware of the role of supply lines in this process. From sourcing the original materials, through their construction, to distribution, and even into post-sale support (like spare parts), supply chains and proper inventory management are at the heart of any and all product sales.

Unfortunately, with the spread of globalization, inventory management issues have become an increasing problem for too many businesses. What used to be a simple matter of “order products, receive products, ship to retailers” can now involve dozens of subcontractors in facilities spread around the world.

True data-based oversight of your entire operations is a requirement to get a handle on inventory in a globalized business environment. That's where professional inventory management experts can become invaluable for businesses that have begun “getting in over the heads” in global supply chains.

Four Reasons Why Professionals Should Update Your Inventory Management

1 – Centralized Databases

At the heart of any modern inventory process is a single database tracking every item as it moves around your supply chains. This requires an investment in computing power, or in Cloud-based data storage, but this single database will be the keystone of all future inventory management.

Things move too quickly today to keep multiple databases which, in turn, have to be kept synced. A single consolidated solution is required, and experts can help set that up.

2 – Controlled Item Tracking

Along with the database, your supply lines need a way of tracking those parts and components. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, usually with either RFID chips or QR Codes. In fact, many don't know this, but QR Codes were originally invented by Toyota specifically for inventory tracking in their own global operations, before they entered the consumer mainstream.

Do your suppliers have the setup necessary to track every part? If not, it may be time to look for a new partner. Item-by-item tracking is a necessity for an efficient system, and to ensure your goods are always moving where they need to be.

3 – Ensure Component Quality

Here's another big way centralized inventory management helps, and it's one a lot of businesses don't stop to consider: The problem of counterfeit components making their way into a supply line goes up drastically when dealing with outsourced vendors who doninventory management't deploy item tracking.

We won't speculate as to motives here, but either way: If you aren't keeping tabs on every component, it becomes extremely easy for “substitutions” to be made. Even the US Air Force discovered counterfeits in their hardware a couple years ago!

Besides helping ensure this doesn't happen at all, item tracking also helps in investigations after the fact. If the counterfeit is tagged, you will know exactly which supplier sent it. Blame cannot be avoided.

4 – Optimizing Buys

Finally, consider the benefits that a professionally-managed data setup can do for your inventory purchasing patterns. With the wealth of information provided across the system, extremely precise calculations can be made to ensure your firm only purchases what you need, with a minimum amount of waste.

This can be min-maxed across different scenarios as well, comparing different potential outcomes from different strategies. This data analysis can be a core part of future planning, and it's completely unavailable without an integrated supply line solution.

It's Midnight... Do You Know Where Your Kit Is?

Data-based supply line and inventory management solutions are revolutionizing global business, both among mega-corporations as well as everyday suppliers. If supply chain issues are causing hassles, or degrading the quality of your products, ZenTech can help!  

New Call-to-Action

Topics: American PC Board Assembly, inventory management, assembly electronic

5 Saving Money Without Sacrificing The Quality Of PCB Assemblage

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Wed, May 07, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

It really doesn't matter what type of business you're in - money is a common stressor for all of us. Despite the pc-boards-5fact that the economy is improving, the majority of American industries are constantly looking for ways to scale back their costs and improve profit margins without sacrificing the quality or integrity of their work. Still, this is often much easier said than done. Finding areas where you can safely and effectively reduce spending while still keeping your customers happy with excellent products and services isn't as simple as it may seem, and it can be especially problematic in the electronics sector.

The issue that many electronics companies have in cutting expenses is that technology never remains the same for very long. The consumer marketplace refuses to be satisfied with the status quo, and, as a result, our electronic devices continue to evolve into increasingly complex products. Technological companies, then, must evolve along with these devices, finding new processes for developing the products that end-users are demanding. Despite this, though, there's one thing that continues to remain a constant in the world of electronics: PC boards. These remarkable boards are essential to our world's technology. Shouldn't it naturally go to follow that by cutting costs to PC boards, electronics companies could start saving more money?

Although this may be the case, businesses like your own must be careful and smart about any changes made to the assemblage of PCBs. Finding savvy ways to make boards more price-efficient and cost costs is a far cry from "cutting corners". Still, it can be done. In an effort to help you start raising your profit margins and enjoying a higher level of success, we've put together the following tips for saving money without sacrificing the quality of PCB assemblage.

Tip #1: Smart Design

The design and planning that goes into assembling PCBs is one of the smartest and most effective ways to scale back spending. The strategical engineering of these boards can result in the need to utilize fewer parts and components which will immediately begin to lower the cost per PCB. In the long run, this can begin to add up to significant savings.

Tip #2: Develop Relationships

Developing a strong and ongoing relationship with one or two parts suppliers is much more cost-efficient than spreading your business out amongst a wider range of businesses. When you develop a rapport with your parts supplier, you'll often be given the opportunity to enjoy better deals and savings, and you may also be entitled to discounts for prompt payments, amongst other things. 

Tip #3: Avoid Fines - Stay Americanpc-board-repair

Thinking about taking your PCB assemblage offshore? You might want to re-consider. Overseas contract manufacturers often appeal to smaller businesses because of their cheap services, but if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many times, these companies make use of counterfeit parts that don't comply with American industry standards. The use of these parts in your boards could result in your being fined, or being dragged into a lawsuit should the part(s) cause serious problems or malfunctions. 

Tip #4: Repair vs. Replace

If something goes wrong with one of your boards, it can be tempting to offer a customer a warranty replacement rather than taking the time to troubleshoot for the problem and repair it. In reality, though, the latter is the much more affordable and cost-efficient option.

Tip #5: Consider Outsourcing

Although hiring a contract manufacturer may initially seem more expensive, a partnership can give you access to a team of experts without having to pay their salary, and to advanced equipment without having to purchase or maintain it.

Saving money on PCB assemblage doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of your product to your end users. By following these tips, you can cut your own costs while keeping your customers happy with your boards and services.

New Call-to-Action

Topics: assembly manufacturing, American PC Board Assembly, PCB Assembling

PC Board Assembly Made In U.S.A

Posted by Laura Austin on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Made in the USA is a label you don't see nearly as much as you used to. Or, perhaps worse, it also doesn't mean as much as it used to. The flood of outsourced PC board assembly to China and other developing nations meant that, very often, only the final assembly of “made in the USA” products was even done in the country. 90% of the work was done offshore.

This, unfortunately, has led to something of a decline in the quality of “American-made” products, at least in some sectors of the market. Consumers in the US are becoming increasingly leery of offshored products or they are, at least, becoming more aware that you're getting what you pay for with cheap electronics.

However, this has led to a fairly inevitable market bounce back: The idea of reshoring. It's onshore-assemblyfunny, actually, that business people have to invent a catchy buzzname for the idea when it's as simple as it gets: bring manufacturing back to the people you're selling to.

Offshoring Is Not Sustainable

Why spend the time and effort setting up and maintaining overseas operations, when they are quickly proving to have a quickly-rising TCO? Chinese wages are expected to rise 15-20% each year going forward, with the accompanying rising pressures on local prices across the country. The cost benefits of foreign manufacturing are evaporating.

The same phenomenon is being seen at most offshore manufacturing centers around the world: the more successful the center is, the closer it comes to driving itself out of business. It's simple market economics in action. Basing your decisions on where to manufacture based solely on local prices is a self-defeating strategy unless you're willing to relocate constantly while you chase cheap labor.

For businesses looking down the road more than a few years, moving their operations closer to home makes a lot of financial sense. Then, it makes even more when you consider that reshoring will also help strengthen the economy and create more people able to buy your goods.

However, the icing on the top is that reshoring is a great PR move as well. American-made products are becoming “The New Cachet” with consumers at home and abroad still recognizing the ability of the USA to produce great products. It's not even solely in the realm of specialty electronics and PC board assembly: bringing work back to the US is just plain becoming popular with the public.

The Buzzworthy Benefits of American PC Board Assembly

Here are just a few of the great things about American electronics contract manufacturing that should sound great whether you're pitching it to your CEO or to your Facebook fans:

  • Producing better products backed by the American-made logo.

  • Creating jobs here in America, in the market your products are likely destined for.PC-board-assembly

  • Much shorter pipelines make it easier to adjust to rapidly-shifting market conditions. The upshot for consumers is: fewer sold-out products!

  • Showing an interest in sustainability and long-term planning.

  • Helping build more great American scientists and engineers, rather than seeing more “brain drain” to Asia.

  • Local sourcing greatly reduces transportation needs, cutting your fossil fuel use and its associated pollution.

When you add it all up, this looks like a real win-win scenario: The public gets jobs and better electronics, you get manufacturing that's cheaper in the long-term with a more stable local economy, and it even helps the environment a bit as well.

That's a winning sales pitch, and that's why even major brands like Google are bringing their manufacturing back to the US. Offshoring was an interesting experiment, but we're seeing the results of it today. However, that can stop at any point, just as long as more people start bringing their PC board assembly and other manufacturing needs back to the USA.

Topics: American PC Board Assembly, American based product assembly, pc board assembly