Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities


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Let’s start by defining exactly what a supply chain is. It’s not a nautical term for an anchor chain, or a dynamic part of a chainsaw that never runs out of chain.

No, it’s a key term used in the organization of resources which may form a system between entities. Now this sounds a little closer to something that may be utilized in producing an electronic end-item, in our case, a printed circuit board.

Some prepared formal definitions supplied by a couple of Internet sources: 

Wikipedia: “A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.”

Investopedia: “The network created amongst different companies producing, handling and/or distributing a specific product. Specifically, the supply chain encompasses the steps it takes to get a good or service from the supplier to the customer. Quite often, many people confuse the term logistics with supply chain. In general, logistics refers to the distribution process within the company whereas the supply chain includes multiple companies such as suppliers, manufacturers, and the retailers.”

Those formal words are rather nice, but let’s reel this in a bit to focus on PCB design. What does supply chain management have to do with PCB design?

Just so we are all in a similar frame of mind, PCB design data contributes to the fabrication of a printed circuit board. The PCB mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive (usually copper) traces, pads, vias and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate or dielectric material.

First, let’s take a look at the supply chain from the point of view of PCB design as its own organization or function. Who would be the suppliers and customers, and what is required for success? In this gander, PCB design and layout supplies only board software outputs and drawings.

But is that all there is? No, there is much more interaction required to have a successfully completed, working PCB assembly ready to be installed in the end-product. 

To read this entire article, which appeared in the July 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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