A Seven Point Checklist for Selecting a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Assembly Manufacturer


When it comes to selecting a contract manufacturer to outsource your printed circuit board (PCB) assembly jobs, there are seven areas to consider when deciding upon the optimal PCB Assembly company:

1. Location: Selecting a contract manufacturer that is within a drivable distance from your business gives you more flexibility and agility to adapt to changing conditions especially when a deadline is imminent. A PCB assembly company that is in your regional area also is more convenient when site surveys need to be conducted and when a shortage of materials and components occurs.

2. Functionality of Manufacturing Equipment: The functionality of the manufacturing equipment of a PCB contract manufacturer is critical to their ability to fulfill the contract’s requirements. Do they have new or obsolete equipment? Are the pick-and-place machines, reflow ovens, and wave soldering equipment well maintained? Reviewing their maintenance logs can give you the confidence that the company is serious about quality. This builds trust in the business partnership.

3. Assembly Staff Certifications: To ensure the PCB contract assembler can complete your production run on schedule requires not only well maintained equipment, but also a certified staff of assembly technicians. So, review the training and certification records of the assembly staff. pcb board manufacturer Ensure they have obtained the technical credentials to enable them to perform their assigned tasks. For those staff members who are not certified, check on their progress in the certification process.

4. Quality Systems: Does the assembly company have a quality system in place such as ISO 9001:2008? This should be the minimum certification attained by the company to ensure they can deliver a quality product. If it has another quality system in place, is the company currently certified by a licensed registrar? Finally, would the PCB assembly company agree to invest in becoming certified to the same quality system as your company? By doing so, it means the company is committed to a long-term business relationship with you.

5. Shipping Deadlines: The ability to meet shipment deadlines is a critical metric for you to determine if a contract manufacturer has the capacity, personnel and resources to meet your business needs. When possible, obtain records from the PCB manufacturer regarding their ability to meet deadlines. Obtain a detailed understanding of who is manufacturing the PCBs and where they are produced.

6. Parts Procurement: Conduct a review of their procurement department. Do they maintain an adequate in-house inventory? Are their vendors local, regional, or geographically diverse and what is the nature of those vendor relationships? Are the relationships close enough such that cost discounts can easily be passed down to you? How does their procurement department deal with hard-to-fine or obsolete parts? Do they have procurement specialists who have expertise in sourcing substitute parts for obsolete parts? Can they take your schematics/drawings and develop a Bill of Materials with little or no assistance by you?

7. Cost Effective Pricing: Since labor rates vary, you should obtain an itemized breakdown of the total cost of manufacturing. Verify what is included in the manufacturing costs. Then you should conduct a cost comparison study to determine if their costs are commensurate with the industry average and their competitors. Ensure you have and accurate comparison of all costs and the bottomline price.

By using the 7-point checklist above, you can accurately determine whether a particular PCB Assembly House is a good fit for your business and PCB assembly needs.

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