There is no doubt that in this fast-paced world of innovation and time to market, speed is one of the most important aspects of making your products and company successful. And now more than ever, time is money, and the speed with which you get a product into the hands of the users can be a matter of life and death. Think about how important it has been during this pandemic to get ventilators built and into the hospitals as quickly as possible so that they could save lives.
While speed is critical, let me pose this question: By the time the product specs and BOMs get into the hands of your vendors—with demands that they design, fabricate, and assemble your product at lightning speed—was it really necessary that they have to build it in such a short time?
There is an old saying in the bare board business that goes, “The PCB is the last thing designed, and the first thing you need to build your product.” This is true, but are there things pre-manufacturing that you could have been doing to speed things up before the product got to the manufacturing stage? Are there steps and precautions that could have been taken in advance that could have greatly cut down that vital time to market time before the product manufacturing began?
Ultimately, yes, things can be done to not only cut down the need for speed at the manufacturing level and make a much better product in the end. Here are four actions that can be taken pre-manufacturing to cut down the critical need for speed at the manufacturing level.
1. Know Your Vendors
Have a complete understanding of where your boards are going to be built and assembled. Know what they can and cannot do easily. Learn what processes take more time. Learn enough about their factories and lines to design your products in the fastest, most efficient, and most cost-effective way to manufacture that product. Remember that being armed with this kind of knowledge can go a long way toward cutting costs and reducing that valuable time to market.
2. Listen to Your Vendors
They are your expert consultants at building and assembling PCBs. They know their business. They have spent years perfecting their processes. Almost all good vendors offer a number of guidelines, such as for DFM, for building and assembling PCBs, and most offer impedance calculators on their website. Many are begging for the opportunity to show you how a board is built and assembled. They offer their valued customers great advice that will save you time and money; all you have to do is respect them enough to listen and take that advice.
3. Trust Your Vendors
You know your business, and your vendors know their business. You have to respect them enough to take their advice when it comes to the best way to manufacture your products.
One of the best examples of how you can productively do this is to heed their advice when it comes to laminate selection. All it takes is one inexperienced designer to call out some hard-to-get and expensive laminate to completely disrupt your time to market, as well as the price of the product. A more experienced and knowledgeable designer would know that there are other more economical laminates that have the same technological properties and are much more available and less expensive.
Too often, when the PCB vendor offers this same advice and suggests the less-expensive laminate, they are shot down, and the substitution is not allowed, costing the customer extra time and money that could all have been avoided if the designer would have been better informed and respected and trusted their PCB fabricator.
4. Invite Your Vendors Into the Design Process
Use their knowledge and experience from the very beginning. It only makes sense that the person actually building the product should have a say in the original development of that product. They know which laminates and surface coatings will work best for all your needs. Your PCB fabricator knows how to build your product the most efficiently, productively, and economically, as does your assembly company. It is up to you to trust them.
Business, like everything else in life, is all about how you work with people. If you allow the people you rely on most for the success of your products and company, you can save a lot of money and time when it comes to new product introduction.
Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.