Making Your PCB Fabricator Your PCB Partner

Are your PCB needs exceeding your vendor base’s capabilities? Do you feel that your suppliers are no longer able to keep up with your PCB needs? Do your designers feel limited by your vendors’ limited capabilities? Are you finding an issue locating alternate sources for PCBs due to the consolidation of the larger shops in our industry? If so, you are not alone.

Many of our customers are now developing products (rocket ships, electric cars, super LED lighting, cloud memory stations, and more) that are so advanced, they have a difficult time sourcing the right PCBs to fit into these products.

I have been told by many of our customers that this is indeed a challenge that has created a high level of concern. Many are now desperately and immediately seeking solutions for these issues, which means they will have to develop guidelines for both choosing and partnering with the right PCB suppliers.

With that in mind, here are six guidelines from the board fabricators point of view for making your PCB vendor your PCB partner:

  1. Make sure you have the right suppliers. This means checking their capabilities, technology levels, service capabilities, customer care, capital plans, and desire to work cooperatively with your company. You will have to visit each other so both parties can gain a thorough understanding of how each company does business. Look for chemistry and synergy between your companies.
  2. Be open and trusting. To break down the barriers and create the openness that is required in a true partnership, you will have to trust the right suppliers once you have chosen them.
  3. Understand their investment strategy. This includes people, equipment, and software. Ultimately, a company that is going to be around for a long time must be continuously investing in all three.
  4. Share your visions for the future. You must open up to the right vendor/partner by giving them a complete description of where your company is today and where it plans to go in the future. They should do the same thing. Once again, there must be synergy for a strong partnership to develop.
  5. Share and share alike. This means everything. You will be working together. Their technical people are going to have to visit your facility to see what you need, and vice versa. This will be especially true when you start building boards with cutting-edge technology—boards that no one has ever built before. Your teams will have to come together and work as one team looking for solutions that will help you produce a better end product.
  6. Forget those purchasing rules. Once you have turned your vendor into a partner, you will have to treat them as a true partner. You will not be able to take the technology you learned about and developed together to a cheaper vendor, as so many of our customers have done in the past. By choosing to elevate a PCB fabricator from mere vendor to a vendor partner, you have made the decision to stick with them for the long haul. And they have made a commitment to you to turn over their resources and proprietary technology for the good of the partnership. Taking that technology to a cheaper vendor who does not know how to develop technology, only how to build cheap products from established technologies, will break the trust with your vendor partner and they will never work with you again.

In the end, it all boils down to one simple rule. Treat your vendor partners with respect and you will have an excellent board source for all your needs, both today and in the future.

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