With so many options in electronics partners and printed circuit board assembly, there are also so many ways the process can go wrong. Simply having a great idea and a market to match isn't enough to guarantee success in the electronics business: The wrong PCB assembler could still undo all your other work.
Many of these issues can be prevented early on, but it's a "forewarned is forearmed" situation. The more deeply-set these problems are in an PC board assembly service, the more likely it is to affect your end product.
Choosing The Best PCB Assembly Service For Your Needs
1 - Communication Issues
Electronics manufacturing should not be treated as a "fire and forget" solution. A good product requires a consistent flow of information back and forth between the assembler and the company ordering it. This includes plenty of prototyping and testing, with feedback to match.
This can be difficult to achieve with domestic assemblers, and it's far more difficult when dealing with overseas operations. If you're looking offshore for assembly, we strongly recommend you hire a translator you can trust (ie, not local to the assembler) and keep them stationed on-site.
If you're relying on your manufacturer to provide translation/communication, you will simply never know whether they're being honest or not.
2 - Long Supply Lines
When choosing an assembly service, their logistics become your logistics. If they're sourcing parts from halfway around the world, with a 4-6 month lead time, this can be hugely detrimental to your operations.
Besides the obvious costs in fuel and transportation, it also limits your flexibility. Today's market is more reactive and faster-changing than any other market in history. Six months can see a product go from fad to has-been.
If you lack the ability to quickly respond to new market forces, and give customers what they want when they ask for it, you're probably going to lose business to other, more flexible companies.
3 - Robust Manufacturing Facilities
You should always have a very good idea of the facilities a manufacturer has on-site. Don't take anything on faith and, especially, don't deal with PC board assemblers who won't discuss their own equipment. This virtually always means it's antiquated or, worse, they're secretly outsourcing the work themselves to a company you wouldn't know about.
To be able to produce a full range of products -especially ones with multiple variations- you need an assembler who has invested in a full range of manufacturing facilities including support for both surface-mount and through-hole production, hot and cold and clean rooms, and computer-aided testing facilities.
Pay attention to standards compliance as well, especially those issued through IEEE. A facility with high-level IEEE certifications will be much more likely to produce high-quality goods.
4 - Computerized Components Tracking
Counterfeit parts are one of THE biggest challenges in electronics assembly today. Even the US Air Force discovered frauds in their own supply lines a few years ago.
The one and only way to counteract this is to work with a manufacturer who uses tracking services to guarantee each and every part comes directly from a legitimate supplier, and is never 'swapped' anywhere in the process. When parts are tracked via QR Codes, RFID, or other computerized services, their provenance can be demonstrated with a far greater degree of certainty than is ever possible using hand-done surveys.
After all, at the end of the day, all it takes is one corrupt manager somewhere in the process to jinx your supply line. Human fallibility must be removed from the process as much as possible.
There's A World Of Electronics Manufacturing. Choose Wisely.
Finding good PC board assembly services requires patience and a willingness to do research. Companies that simply choose the cheapest vendor usually come to regret it due to ongoing and unpredicted problems.
An assembly service with robust manufacturing abilities will virtually always pay off in higher ROIs, better products, and happier customers.
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