Standard of Excellence: The Importance of Supplier Retention

Anaya_Vardya.jpgThose of us in business are always pre-occupied with customer retention. It is a known fact that it costs 10 times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep one. Even venture capitalists judge a company on its “churn” (customer turnover) rate and give companies with a lower churn rate the highest valuation.

We spend a great deal of time and money on attaining low customer turnover rates, making sure that we keep those good customers we worked so hard to attain. But what about holding onto our good PCB vendor/partners? We need to be sure that we are retaining our good suppliers with the same diligence that we hold on to our customers.

Certainly, at times this goal can be challenging. Simply put, stuff happens. Companies and suppliers have challenges that can cause them not to perform as well as they should. Processes can break down, key personnel can leave, equipment breaks, or they run into money problems. In our industry there are so many steps to building good circuit boards day in and day out that there can be many opportunities for something to go wrong.

Therefore, as good customers, we must closely partner with our suppliers to make sure that we help them stay on track—no matter what happens. We need to do everything we can do to keep our valued suppliers happy and profitable enough to stay around to help us with our PCB needs.

A good solid, consistent, reliable and trustworthy supplier is hard to find and keep. Here are five things we can do to make sure our partnerships with our suppliers are always healthy.

  1. Communication: Set up a steady channel of communications with your suppliers. Have regular meetings with them to make sure they are on track to meet your needs. I strongly recommended setting up a schedule of regular meetings. Create that time to talk, whether things are going well or not; always stay in touch.
  2. Respect: Respect their needs as much as you want them to respect yours. There is nothing more counter-productive than a customer shouting at a supplier when things go wrong. If you truly value your relationship with your supplier you will always treat them with respect, even when things are at their most challenging.
  3. Be helpful: When things go wrong—and sooner or later they will—help them. Be ready to help your suppliers solve their problems. If they need more time, figure out how to give it to them. If they need a deviation to the spec and it’s something you can live with, do it. If they need some technical help that you can provide, then provide it. If you are really your suppliers’ partner, you will do whatever you can to help them.
  4. Pay them on time. PCB shops operate on very slim margins. Anyone who has worked in a PCB facility knows first-hand that they are not making money hand over proverbial fist. Their profits are very slim, if they have any at all. They never have enough cash flow to act as your company’s personal bank. I know for a fact that many of their other customers, especially the mega companies, love to force them to accept terms that can reach out to half a year! Don’t be one of those customers. Here’s a real tip for having a great partnership with your PCB vendors: Pay them and do it on time. Let me say that again: Pay them on time, which is 30 days out at the longest. Do that, and you will receive the best service you’ve ever had.
  5. Let them make money too: I know this sounds obvious, but it’s not. There is a weird assumption that PCB fabricators are making too much money. I cannot tell you where this idea comes from, but I know that it’s not true. For some reason, companies believe that PCB suppliers are rolling in dough. They are not; they operate on very slim margin with processes that can be precarious at times. Most PCBs take more than a hundred steps to build. The equipment is very expensive and the materials they use have steadily gone up in price over the past 20 years. Yet year after year, some of their customers insist on price cuts. Don’t be one of those customers. Help your vendor partners make some money and stay alive to work with you for another day and another year into the future. What good is a great PCB vendor/partner if they are out of business?

These five things are not difficult to do. In fact, they are the humane things to do, and by far the right way to treat your PCB partners. In the end, it will only benefit you and your company to have PCB suppliers who treat you the way your treat them—which is as much the case in business as it is in life.

Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits; co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals; and author of Thermal Management: A Fabricator's Perspective. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download these and other free, educational titles. He also co-authored “Fundamentals of Printed Circuit Board Technologies.”

 

 

 

 

 

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2021

Standard of Excellence: The Importance of Supplier Retention

01-14-2021

We spend a great deal of time and money on attaining low customer turnover rates, making sure that we keep those good customers we worked so hard to attain. But what about holding onto our good PCB vendor/partners? We need to be sure that we are retaining our good suppliers with the same diligence that we hold on to our customers.

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2020

Standard of Excellence: Going Public With Your Partner

12-14-2020

One aspect of a great partnership with your vendors is to show the world how you are working together. Demonstrating how a great partnership can serve both your companies well and is beneficial to your industry too. Anaya Vardya shares nine ways to go public with your partner.

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Standard of Excellence: Bringing Your Salespeople Together

11-23-2020

One of the most overlooked aspects of having a great partnership with your PCB vendors is making sure that your salespeople know each other. Anaya Vardya shares six key reasons to develop a partnership between your sales team and your PCB vendor's team.

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Standard of Excellence: 4 Areas That Will Improve by Next Year

10-13-2020

As we continue to work our way through this pandemic, it makes us wonder about—and even yearn for—what things will be like one year from now. Looking ahead to what doing business will be like, Anaya Vardya shares four things that we have been forced to do today that we will still be doing—and, hopefully, doing even better than now—in October of 2021.

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Standard of Excellence: Five Ways to Ensure You Have the Right Military PCB Supplier

09-21-2020

With the current shortage of qualified and certified military PCB suppliers, finding one has become more challenging than ever, and the trend toward consolidation over the past few years has only added to the shortage. Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines to consider when developing a bilateral relationship with your military PCB supplier.

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Standard of Excellence: Looking at the Future Together

08-10-2020

With so many things changing right now, as well as lots of innovation happening and new products being developed, it’s important that you share your vision of the future with your PCB suppliers. Anaya Vardya shares six general logistical processes to use when working with customers on their product innovation and development.

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Standard of Excellence: Being a Valuable Customer

07-14-2020

We always talk about being a valuable vendor, but what about being a valuable customer? Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines for making sure that you are always your suppliers’ most valued customer.

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Standard of Excellence: A Great Partnership Is a Two-Way Street

06-08-2020

Are you a good and true partner to your PCB vendors? Are you doing everything you can to participate in an honest partnership where both partners equally look out for one another? Anaya Vardya shares 16 questions to consider when contemplating how good a partner you are to your PCB vendors and others.

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Standard of Excellence: You Get What You Pay For

05-12-2020

When you work with a good PCB fabricator, you need to have a good understanding of the total value of the product. Many companies look for the bottom-dollar price of PCBs and do not take the time to make sure they are getting the very best deal they can. Anaya Vardya discusses the value of a PCB and what makes up the true costs.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnership in Challenging Times

04-14-2020

Now, more than ever, we need to partner with one another. Traditionally, Anaya's columns have focused on developing a strong working bond with your PCB vendor partners. In this column, Anaya discusses how we must have partnerships with everyone we deal with during our daily business lives.

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Standard of Excellence: Successful R&D With Your PCB Partner

03-17-2020

Now, more than ever, we have to rely on our PCB partners to help us with new product development. A great deal of trust and confidence in our PCB vendors is required to create and fulfill this type of partnership fruitfully. Anaya Vardya shares eight things that must be in place to have a successful R&D relationship with your PCB partner.

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2019

Standard of Excellence: Respecting Your PCB Vendor Partner

12-10-2019

One of the more important aspects of any partnership is mutual respect for one another. And, of course, this is extremely important when it comes to your PCB vendor partner. Many times, in the past, PCB fabricators have been treated as the third wheel in the relationship, stuck between their suppliers on one side and their vendors on the other. In most cases, both of these other entities were much larger and more powerful that the PCB shops.

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Invite Your PCB Partner to a Strategic Sales Meeting

11-11-2019

The best way to work with your PCB vendors is to treat them as strategic partners. This means not only sharing your current needs but your future ones as well. I know that this requires a great deal of trust on your part as well as that of your PCB vendor partner. But if you have been reading this column, and doing everything we have recommended, then you should already be prepared for this. If you want your PCB vendor to be prepared to meet your future needs, you have to tell them what they are; it’s that simple.

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Standard of Excellence: Your PCB Technology Partner

10-15-2019

There are regular PCB vendor relationships, and then there are the partnerships where you invest in future projects, such as developing processes for a new technology where you will have to share the work, responsibility, and success of the project. In short, project partnerships require a much deeper and more trusting relationship with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Great Partnerships Are Forged in Adversity

09-24-2019

When you’re in the PCB business, the one thing you can count on is that something will go wrong; it always does. Here are six steps to not only help and support your vendor through problematic times but also use the adversity as an opportunity to develop a deeper and more productive relationship.

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Standard of Excellence: How Strong Is Your Vendor Partnership?

08-28-2019

For the past year, I’ve talked about various aspects of developing a great vendor-customer relationship with your PCB fabricators from trust to confidentiality and sharing the future. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when testing the strength of your current partnership with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Finding a Global Solution With Your Domestic Supplier

07-23-2019

As the world goes global, so does the PCB industry. It is no longer sufficient to have a domestic PCB vendor; it has become critical to have a portal to offshore PCB acquisitions as well. But here are six reasons why, in many cases, it is better to go through your own domestic PCB supplier when you want to take advantage of the global PCB vendor base.

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Standard of Excellence: Choosing the Right Replacement Vendor

06-24-2019

What happens when you have all of the suppliers you need, but a larger firm acquires one of them all of a sudden, and there is only one qualified supplier left when there used to be two. As a smart PCB user, you always want to keep your options open in case you are going to have to qualify another supplier to buy your PCBs from.

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Standard of Excellence: Three Ways to Face the Future With Your PCB Suppliers

06-03-2019

Once you have established a solid, trusting relationship with your PCB vendor, you can start working together developing new products, technologies, and in some cases, services. There are even times when your PCB supplier will bring projects to you. Here are three ways that you can work with your PCB suppliers to face the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Four Tips on Listening to Your PCB Suppliers

04-29-2019

Once you have done your due diligence, have developed a strong working partnership with your PCB suppliers, and now feel confident that those suppliers are the right ones, the next step is to recognize that your PCB suppliers are indeed the true experts, and that you can trust them enough to listen to them. Here are four tips on listening to and learning from your suppliers to ensure that you have the best PCB value that money can buy.

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Standard of Excellence: Buy Based on Value, Not Price

04-02-2019

There are only two ways to buy PCBs; the first is based on price, which is the wrong way because it encourages a very shallow relationship based on just one thing—the price of the boards; and the second, and right, is based on value. A great company should understand what it means to buy value.

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2018

Standard of Excellence: Preparing Your Vendors for the Future

12-03-2018

Now, it’s time to talk about the future with your PCB vendors. Referring to our previous columns, if you’ve done everything right so far, you will now have a strong working relationship with your PCB supplier. They understand all they need to know to fabricate perfect boards for you at this time. With trust and respect between you, you’ve truly formed a strong partnership going into the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Forging Partnerships Through Adversity and Problem Solving

10-29-2018

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. This month, Anaya Vardya will address how adversity can forge a great partnership between you and your PCB vendor that will last for life.

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Standard of Excellence: Working for the Future—Partnering with PCB Vendors on Innovative Technology

10-01-2018

The true test of the vendor-customer relationship comes when you need innovative PCBs—boards that are not easily found in the common marketplace and are so technologically advanced that they require your designers and suppliers to work together to go where neither has before.

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Standard of Excellence: Preparing for the Future with the Right Supplier

08-13-2018

Is your PCB supplier ready to take you into the future? Sure, they are doing a good job today, but what about tomorrow? What will happen when new designs require boards to be made with thermal or RF materials, or have lines widths down to two mils?

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Material Selection: The Key to RF/Microwave Success

07-23-2018

This month's column is written by Anaya Vardya and John Bushie. In today’s environment, there are a number of suppliers that may have similar materials but price points and lead times may vary. If you are open to trying different options, it is a good idea to work closely with your PCB fabricator so they can educate you on these aspects. Another option is to do parallel builds with multiple materials in the early stages of honing a new design to determine the optimum material set.

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Standard of Excellence: Making Your PCB Fabricator Your PCB Partner

06-12-2018

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.

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Standard of Excellence: 5 Things a Total Global Solutions Supplier Can Provide

01-10-2018

Our world now extends far beyond the traditional brick and mortar of the domestic board suppliers of yesteryear. Now our customers demand that PCB fabricators provide them with a complete and total printed circuit board solution, from domestically built ITAR-registered defense and aerospace boards to high-volume, offshore solutions.

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2017

Standard of Excellence: Customers are Shooting for the Stars—Are We Coming?

08-17-2017

For years we have been calling them “science projects,” those PCB orders that did not quite fit into our normal process stream and therefore needed special attention, as well as special handling. Often, we have had to use trial and error to come up with just the right process to successfully complete the order.

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Standard of Excellence: The Challenges of Hiring Good People and Methods for Success

05-17-2017

Increasingly, we hear about the challenges of finding and hiring good people in our industry. We are being hit on all sides; much of our work force is aging out while young people don’t seem to be too interested in joining the printed circuit board industry. Let’s face facts: Fewer young people are going to college to become circuit board process engineers.

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Standard of Excellence: The Advantages of Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuits

05-01-2017

Since their introduction, flexible and rigid-flex circuits have been steadily moving from the fringe of electronic interconnection towards its center. Today, flex and rigid-flex circuits are found in countless products from the very simple to the highly complex. The reasons for this shift to the center are numerous; most of them are related to the advantages they offer. An examination of some of the benefits and advantages will make this clear.

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Standard of Excellence: Staying Prepared with Operations

03-08-2017

Handling the operations of a PCB company these days is a challenge, to say the least. When I started in 1979, we were building single-sided, double-sided, four-layer multilayers, and the occasional six-layer if you really had your act together. We were using FR-4 materials sprinkled in with an occasional polyimide build.

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2016

Standard of Excellence: Selling Technology—A PCB Engineer Transitions to Sales

12-21-2016

Selling technology today takes a great deal of time, patience and most of all knowledge of the product. There was a time when a salesperson was just that, a salesperson. Now, with the onset of all the new technologies, from RF and metal backed boards to flex and rigid-flex boards, to HDI and microvia boards and heavy copper boards, a salesperson must know what he’s talking about.

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Standard of Excellence: RF Microwave Technology—The Future is Now

11-29-2016

Although RF/microwave technology has been around for a considerable amount of time, many people are still not sure exactly what it is. This month, I am going to dedicate my column to explaining exactly what it is, why it is used, and in what products is it used. I’ll also discuss who needs it.

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Standard of Excellence: Let’s Get Flexible

11-18-2016

Although flex and rigid-flex technology has been around for many years, it is only in recent years that it has come into its own. The reason for the increased requirements for the flex and rigid-flex technology is simple: Devices are getting smaller.

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Communication Breeds Success

08-29-2016

We all need to talk to one another. You need to work closely with your customers. And we all need to work with the new generation of PCB designers and design engineers, many of whom have never set foot in a board shop. Fortunately, they make up for their lack of DFM knowledge with their hunger for information.

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The Future is in Fine Lines

07-11-2016

The age of much finer lines and spaces is upon us. After years of slowly moving towards this technology our customers are now demanding that all of us provide them with fine lines and spaces.

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LED and Metal-Backed Technology—Today and in the Future

05-25-2016

Probably one of the hottest, or should I say coolest, technologies today is LED. I would also venture to say it is one of the fastest growing as well...

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Tips for Finding a Great PCB R&D Partner

04-06-2016

This new column, Standard of Excellence, represents a cooperative writing effort by a team of experts at American Standard Circuits. This month, we begin with CEO Anaya Vardya, who focuses on R&D. In his piece, he provides his insights on what characteristics to look for in a good R&D PCB fabrication vendor partner, and a few things that are expected of them to do for you.

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