Now more than ever, speed is more important than anything else. When we talk to our customers, especially the ones who are working on new and innovative products (and almost all of them are), there is a growing concern that their suppliers are not going to be able to keep up with their need for speed.
We are rapidly heading to a post-pandemic America—a world that will be resplendent with innovations and new products; this has customarily been a result of a war or in the case of the 1960s and ‘70s, the space program.
We should be looking forward to a bright future filled with new and exciting products. Despite the lockdown, people never stopped thinking. Actually, they had more time to think, which means more time to create new products.
Many of these products are based on the needs that emerged because of the pandemic. Products like respirators, purification systems, automatic door openers, testing systems, temperature indicators, and many more were either invented or improved during this time. Now, with the world opening, we are seeing a rush to get these products prototyped and to the production stage.
But this phenomenon is being hampered by shortages of everything from laminates and components to equipment even a shortage in the workforce. Many companies in our industry are waiting weeks, if not months, to get their equipment orders filled or their existing equipment repaired.
This issue, combined with the need for speed, has created a perfect storm of challenges that need to be overcome. So, what can we do about it?
Those of us in the business of providing our customers with printed circuit boards and assembly have to do whatever we can to shorten the process. Our customers need it—and the world—need it.
Here are six things we can do right now to meet the need for quick-turn PCBs and PCBAs.
- Make it easy for the customer to quote and place orders. So much time is wasted during the transactions of quoting and place business. Have tools on your web site that allow your customers to quote and place orders without talking to anyone. Make it as easy and effective as ordering a plane ticket on Expedia.
- Allow the customer to track her orders in real time. Set up a tracking system the notifies her each step of the way. Take the mystery out of the board delivery date so she can plan the manpower she will need when your product is delivered. Her team will be poised to grab your product and run to the next step in the process of building the end-product. And she will do it all without skipping a beat.
- Prepare everything you can. Look at everything within your control, from the laminate you have on hand to the components you’ll need for assembly. The minute you know you will get the order, get everything ready. Actually, if you develop the right automatic and order placement system, much of what you need to build and assemble the product will be ready when the order is placed. I have witnessed a demo of one unique and proprietary BOM quoting and ordering system that finds and assigns all the right components as the quote is being prepared. This makes the ordering fast, efficient, and most importantly, foolproof.
- Create a completely synergistic system where each element of the product works together concurrently. This means that while the board is being designed and laid out, key information is being sent to the fabricator so that he can put the right laminates on order even before the design is complete. Using the same concurrent system, the components that are going to go on the board are being ordered days or even weeks before they will actually be needed. This will assure that everything is at the ready when the time comes. It will cut out all of the lead times needed to wait for the right components, laminates or whatever else is needed to complete the project and help your customer improve their time to market.
We are on the threshold of a very exciting time in our industry, where everything is going to change for the better; this means that all of us have to change for the better. Those of us who provide PCBs and PCBAs have to improve as well. We must find ways to not only do things better but to do them faster—much faster. Our customers’ demands for faster turnarounds of everything from the quote to the order to the completed products is here right now and it is up to us to make sure that we are prepared to meet those demands and help them improve their time to market.
Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB. He can be reached at email@example.com.