Standard of Excellence: Keep Your PCB Supplier Sharp

The best way to create a solid and productive partnership with your PCB supplier—and all of your suppliers for that matter—is to keep an open line of communication with them. No matter what kind of relationship you currently have with your suppliers, you can never communicate enough. Let them know at all times what you need from them.

This is not as easy as it sounds. I know from personal experience that I have sometimes made the mistake of assuming that my suppliers had a good understanding of my needs and what was required of them to service my company in the best way possible only to discover—sometimes too late—that we had a complete disconnect. What the supplier thought I needed was not correct at all, which led to a great deal of heartburn.

Ensuring that you and your PCB supplier are on the same page is especially important considering today’s fast-changing technology and service requirements. Here are five guidelines to make sure you’re always in sync when it comes to understanding your needs and requirements:

  1. Set up regular touch-base meetings: These could be once a month or once a quarter, but insist on face-to-face meetings serving as a check-in to make sure that the supplier knows exactly what your needs are, what your hot buttons are, and what has changed since the last time you met. This, more than anything else, will keep you and your supplier completely coordinated. If these meetings start to get a bit boring, it means that you are doing a great job communicating. You could come up with some ideas to make them more interesting. Use the time to brainstorm on how you could do things better together. But never stop having these meetings.
  2. Share your future with your supplier: You have an NDA and mutual trust, so don’t be afraid to share your company’s future plans. Where are you going? What will your future needs be? Discuss your products, both the ones you are building currently and the ones you plan to build. Ask your supplier if they have any thoughts on how you could improve your products through new innovations in their own PCB technology.
  3. Listen to your PCB supplier: Ask them about their company and how things are going. What new equipment are they buying? What are their plans for the future and how can those plans affect your needs? By asking these questions, you will not only gain insight into their company but into their industry as well. Use your PCB supplier as your expert consultant for their products. It is good to trust your supplier enough to solicit and pay attention to their advice.
  4. Create teams consisting of your people and counterparts in your supplier’s company: Create a bi-company quality team, and same with an engineering team. The more bi-company teams you can create, the stronger the bond and communication between your two companies will be.
  5. Try to help your supplier just as you want them to help you: If they have a problem, try to be there for them. If they have to push a delivery, try to accommodate their needs. As long as you have created a strong relationship, you will feel comfortable helping each other.

Any company is only as good as its suppliers, so it makes perfect sense to always work on your supplier relationships. It is an investment that is guaranteed to pay off for years to come.

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