Standard of Excellence: Forging Partnerships Through Adversity and Problem Solving

For the past few months, this column has discussed how to find and work with a great PCB vendor, and most importantly, how to form a strong, productive partnership. We’ve covered working on new products with your vendor, trusting them to work with you on future products, and using your vendor’s shop as your PCB R&D lab. This month, I will address how adversity can forge a great partnership between you and your PCB vendor that will last for life.

Yes, I am saying that when things get tough on a project that a customer and vendor are working on and they solve difficult problems together, that is where great partnerships are made.

For example, imagine you are trying to come up with a way to laminate various substrates together with CTE management materials such as copper molybdenum cores with 8-layer polyimide boards bonded on either side of that core. However, the boards are failing test no matter what you do. The very act of solving this problem will bring your engineers and those of your vendor together hour after hour in the vendor’s shop until you find the solution. Finally, after weeks of working hard, eating and spending a great deal of time together, you solve the problem and start producing the boards the way they should be.

This is a situation that both parties will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives. Besides producing a great solution, this experience also produces an unbreakable bond of mutual trust and respect between your two companies, which is priceless. The relationship you developed with your PCB vendor becomes a great partnership that will serve you today and well into the future as well.

Too often, customers and their PCB vendors are not willing to trust one another enough to develop this kind of relationship. Some companies do not want their engineers to work too closely with their suppliers, which is not a good way to go if you want to develop a productive relationship. Today, the trend is to distance yourself from your vendors and not get close to them or trust them. This is foolish, dangerous, and counterproductive.

The equation I propose is based on simple facts. Your engineers are developing and building your end products. As the developers, they know exactly what they need, including the types of PCBs their required capabilities. Meanwhile, your vendor’s engineers know all about PCBs, including what their process can yield. They are PCB experts with many years spent perfecting their craft. Doesn’t it make sense to put these two experts together so they can build the best PCB possible and help you produce the best end product possible?

Think of your vendor as your PCB expert and consultant. Learn to trust them enough to work closely together. Let them know what you are trying to accomplish so that they can help you get there. Most importantly, bring your engineering teams together to meet so they can tackle all of the challenges that producing your new products require.

Partnerships forged in adversity will be partnerships for life. Trust your PCB vendors and partners enough to let that happen.

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