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

Written by: Anaya Vardya on May 3, 2019

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We are going to assume that 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, so you should trust them enough to listen to them.

Here are four tips on listening to and learning from your suppliers, which will ensure that you have the best PCB value that money can buy.

1. PCB Designers and Fabricators Must Talk to Each Other

Connect your PCB layout people with your supplier. Most PCB designers have never been in a board shop. Insist that the people designing your boards have a solid working knowledge of how a board is built. If they have a complete understanding of the processes required to build a board and best practice manufacturing rules, their PCB design will more functional, manufacturable, and economical.

2. Consult Your PCB Fabricator About Laminates

This is especially important right now with the long laminate lead times and, in some cases, overly expensive prices. A trusted PCB shop will be able to guide you through the laminate selection process. They will let you know when one laminate type can be responsibly substituted for another in some instances. Remember that most laminate companies sell the end user on the laminate and have their laminate specified to the exclusion of others. If your company is the end user, you can develop more laminate choices by listening to your PCB fabricator. And if you’re a contract manufacturer, don’t rule out the option of letting your customer know about other lamination selections that could be used. If it is a better product and more available and cost-effective, they will thank you.

3. Trust Your Fabricator With Your Design Challenges

You should have a signed NDA between you by now, so you’re safe to let your fabricator know what you’re doing and exactly what your PCBs need to do. If you let your PCB vendor know, they will be able to produce PCBs that meet your particular needs. For example, take a board going into a very tight space where it must be perfectly flat or have a barely holdable thickness measurement. When your fabricator is aware of this, they will aim to meet those crucial criteria.

4. Inform Your PCB Fabricator About Your Business Needs

Business needs could be anything from ship to stock, just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, and sticking the boards so that you receive 10 per day to giving them advice on how the boards should be packaged for maximum efficiency and minimum effort for your receiving department. No matter what your needs are, a trusted PCB partner will do whatever they can to meet them.

In the end, it’s all about trust and building strong, long-term partnerships. Two companies should trust each another so completely that they are willing to be open and honest with each other.

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