“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” — Ben Sweetland
These are unprecedented times. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. In fact, I’ve shared my views in this column many times that we must seek out new ways of doing business, especially in doing business with one another.
Let’s work together toward success. No matter what, partners must look out for each other, even to the point of making sure we’re making enough money to survive and to invest in the future.
Right now, our PCB fabrication partners are facing a time when they must to increase their prices to survive as a business. It is not about greed or selfishness but out of necessity.
We’re all witnessing rising consumer prices, from groceries and shipping to electricity and, of course, oil and gas. It affects every single one of us. In our industry, the price of precious metals is rising as are costs of laminates, shipping, equipment, and labor.
Like consumer costs, these rising prices affect all of us doing business with PCBs. No matter what link of the supply chain you represent, you must raise your prices to stay in business. Everybody knows it and everybody is getting ready for it. We may not like it, or wish we didn’t have to, but we want to stay in business.
In all of this, we must sustain our extremely valuable partnerships as we find the right way to raise prices on our valued customer-partners.
Here are a few tips on how to do that:
Be honest. Calculate precisely what the factors are that are causing you to raise prices on your customer-partner. Whether you are selling laminate to a board house, a board house selling boards to a contract manufacturer, or a contract manufacturer selling assemblies and box builds to an OEM. Make sure you complete build your case on exactly why you are raising your prices.
Give your customers plenty of warning. Let them know when the price change will occur so they can plan for it and accordingly pass on the prices to their customers.
Be understanding and loyal. If you are the customer-partner, try to understand what your vendor’s motives are. Remember that they are simply passing on the cost that they have been dealt. Work with your vendors to make sure they get what they need to live for another day. These are not companies who are raising prices for the sake of greed. They are doing it because they must.
Find ways to help each other. Look for money saving compromises, such as increasing the order if you know you are going to be ordering the same product for months to come. Order them all at once to earn economies of scale. If you work together with your partners, you will both benefit, you will both find a ways that you can both save money
Stick together to protect domestic infrastructure. We certainly have seen the repercussions of going offshore and buying the cheapest products available. The shortages during COVID, right down to critical medical devices, certainly has taught us a hair-raising lesson about abandoning a robust domestic supply chain for cheap overseas products. Certainly, the global supply chain we have developed will remain strong and there is nothing wrong with that; we all need to be more global but not at the cost of our own independence. We now must work together and make sure that domestic supply chains are strong, insular, and kept intact. Done right, this will create a strong global and domestic infrastructure.
Play the long game. For many years we have heard complaints that other companies work together and that is unfair. Who said that’s unfair? Who said that working together is cheating? There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of us working in good, cooperative, and energetic partnerships.
For example, this is an especially good time for the bare board fabricators, and for a number of reasons. Your customers are looking for domestic suppliers. The overall value of purchasing globally has diminished greatly for a number of reasons, ranging from: shipping (it has become unreliable and not very feasible geopolitically right now); to security; to conveniences, especially when it comes to new product development. PCB users are more comfortable using the shop down the street or down the thruway.
If you are in the PCB or PCBA industry, your supplier partners are looking out for you. They want you to succeed. There has never been a better time to work in cooperation with them
Your customer partners are looking for ways to stay domestic. They want to work with you. They want to find you and start working with you. More than ever, they understand with a true clear-eye vision that this is a time when you will be raising their prices.
So, send your sales team out there. Your customers and prospective customers are looking for you. It’s up to you to be found.