Now more than ever, our customers are looking for complete solutions. They are looking for quick turn new product introduction solutions that will include the three services: PCB design, fabrication, and assembly.
They want to place their business as easily, simply, and quickly as possible. This means that they want to place one purchase order with one company and that company will act as the prime on the job and will give the other two partners their purchase orders. The three companies will then work together to provide their customer a complete synergistic solution.
This means that there has never been a better time to work closely with your partners. If the design service bureau gets the prime order they can then work with their fabrication and assembly partners to fulfill the rest of the order.
It’s interesting to note that at any one time any one of your partners can become your customer or, if the case may be, your supplier.
Traditionally the designers bought boards from the fabrication houses, and in some cases the assembly houses, and all transactions were done independently of one another.
But now, driven by customer demand, any one of the three entities can be the prime contractor, having the direct purchase order from the customer and then issuing purchase orders to the other two partners.
It’s a interesting turn of events and a phenomenon that is driving us, now more than ever, to create strong alliances—those strong vendor-partner relationships.
There are now even cases where companies that provide the PCB fabricators with laminates and substrates are getting into the act as end customers create relationships with these suppliers and then ask them to build boards for them by contracting with the fabricators.
This evolution of our customers wanting complete synergistic suppliers was already occurring prior to the pandemic. But certainly, the pandemic crises have created new challenges that have caused the need for total synergistic solutions to accelerate.
Here are some of the more obvious reasons for this acceleration:
- The desire for more products to be built here in North America. Companies are increasingly suspicious of sending their proprietary products to China. This is not only because of the dependency issues that became evident in the last two years, but also because of the logistical issues when it comes to supply chain management. Of course, there is also the geopolitical negative sentiment–valid or not– toward China right now.
- Then there has been a huge increase in innovation and new products. When times get tough, people innovate and that has happened in the U.S. More new products are being developed by American companies than in the past 20 years. Everything from security systems and medical electronics to purification gadgets are being developed. Of course, we continue to have tremendous growth in energy, transportation, space exploration, and autonomous electric vehicles. All these products have to be built quickly and by people the customers trust, which right now means American companies.
- There is the need for speed. When new products are being innovated, time to market becomes critical. Companies are searching for ways to cut time corners, to shorten the time for proof of design, prototyping, pre-production, and finally production. There has never been a more important time for shortened time to market.
With these three factors considered, it behooves us to work closely with our partner/vendor. We have to find the best partners possible and create rock-solid alliances where we can all work together as one unit. Your customers are looking for it right now.
In fact, I am positive that most of us have already been asked by our customers to produce these alliances with our partners so that we can already be providing them with their own complete solutions.
As I have talked to various companies about this idea, some of them have brought up the challenge of partnering with one PCBA company and how it might be viewed by other PCBA companies they are also selling to. Not to worry; the answer is simple. You are going to need as many good partners as possible. Not every company can do everything. Not every company can assemble any and all technologies. Not every PCB fab house builds every kind of PCB needed today and the same applies to design service bureaus. We are all going to need a number of good supplier-partners if we are going to be able to provide our customers with all of their complete synergistic solutions needs.
This means that if one of your customer complains that you did a project with one of their competitors, simply talk to them about entering into an alliance with you as well. It will be good for them, and it most certainly be good for you and best of all it will be great for your end customers.