A company that wants to manufacture electronic devices in bulk but can’t make circuit boards can consider the contract PCB assembly option.
But what are the upsides and downsides of electronic Contract Manufacturing Services?
Does the volume production generate quality products, or does the assembly service help you save anything?
We’ll generate answers to these queries below while also touching on the PCB production process.
Therefore, let’s explore circuit board assembly services in depth without further ado.
What is contract PCB assembly?
It is whereby you seek the services of an experienced company to produce PCBs.
Most modern-day PCB manufacturers operate contract assembly projects, which is ultimately cheaper for the customer.
Fundamentally, the specialization in one trade means the company offering circuit board assembly services is experienced and equipped to produce in bulk.
Hence, due to the economies of scale, the overall price of the boards is cheaper than if the customer did all electronic assemblies.
Why Choose A Contract Manufacturer for Your PCB Contract Assembly?
Soldering iron tips of automated manufacturing soldering and assembly.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been increasingly subcontracting most of their services, which is imperative in increasing production volumes.
It is primarily due to the flexibility of contract PCB manufacturers.
But this is not the only reason for OEMs to contract manufacturing. Others include the following:
Accuracy and Production Speed
Electronics Factory Workers Assembling Circuit Boards by Hand.
Most knowledgeable contract manufacturers have efficient systems thanks to the rapid optimization that they do to ensure production efficiency.
Therefore, their products have remarkable compact and value-efficient designs.
Also, since the manufacturers streamline their production lines over time, they can replicate the creation of high-quality designs at top speeds.
Minimum Designing Time
PCB design is a time-intensive undertaking, and this is where Electronic Contract Manufacturing Services come in handy.
It would take ages if an electronics equipment manufacturer decided to perform all the duties from design to producing the PCB and incorporating it into the final product.
Hence, contracting means delegating the time and labor costs to the manufacturer.
Minimizing the design time, which is highly labor-intensive, also helps you save money.
Consultations in a Modern Electronics Factory.
Every electronics manufacturer has a product line of similar models but with small differentiating factors from one model to the other. Therefore, most of the components of one line are similar in all the models.
Contracting a PCB manufacturer means a company can ask for mass production of similar components.
It frees up more time for the company to work on the differentiating aspect that separates one product model from the other, a process that is essential in enabling expansion.
Circuit Board Manufacturing under one Umbrella
Reducing operational costs is imperative to the profitability of any electronics manufacturer.
Therefore, having one company handle everything in the supply chain network, from designing, shipping, and warehousing, is critical in cost cutting.
It enables the company to focus its energy and resources on other processes that are key to improving the product lines and increasing profits.
Quick Component Sourcing
Time-saving is a critical aspect of electronics manufacturing, and having a quick component sourcing strategy can improve the time it takes to produce electronics.
After establishing connections with a reliable PCB parts manufacturer, a company can seamlessly source any part.
It reduces the research time and the overall throughput increases.
Reduces Rework Expenses
Removing Printing in a PCB.
Consider a scenario whereby a company handles all the electronic manufacturing processes from scratch, including PCB design.
In case of a PCB fault, the company would have to do the rework.
It would increase the expense a contract manufacturer would have otherwise handled if the company subcontracted the PCB design services.
Ease of Research
Keeping a company’s proprietary information safe is a major reason companies manufacture components in-house.
However, there are ways to reduce this approach’s associated labor costs while retaining the trade secret.
An electronic firm must enter a contract that protects/patents its design.
It will lower labor costs and help the company invest in other critical areas, such as research for more designs.
Guaranteed access to quality materials
Electronic devices manufacturing abstract concept.
Buying individual PCB components can prompt you for low-quality parts to save on production costs.
However, contract manufacturing eliminates this challenge by ensuring you can get all quality components from one manufacturer thanks to economies of scale.
Disadvantages of using a contract manufacturer for PCB assembly
Contract manufacturing is not the holy grail process in electronics production as there are remarkable downsides as those we’ll highlight below.
High Initial Investments
Entering a private contract with a PCB manufacturer can be quite expensive in the long run, primarily due to the necessary high initial capital outlay.
Most companies cannot meet these initial costs and therefore opt to manufacture everything in-house.
Lack of control
Contracting PCB parts manufacturing means you have no control over the entire process.
For instance, if there’s a delay in the production of the parts, this will translate to a delay in the final electronic product output.
There’s nothing significant an assembly for electronics outsourcing firm can do to improve on this issue.
Hence, contracting denies essential control that sometimes is highly necessary.
Companies are reluctant to contract some services as they fear leaving them short of significant knowledge in production.
It is true to some degree, as contracting confines a company to produce products of only one particular type.
Discourages Internal Employees Training
Getting a contractor to do the job means a company saves on labor costs.
Companies don’t need experienced professionals for the delicate PCB assembly processes.
However, this is counterproductive for companies in the long run as the lack of investment in training (which is expensive) leaves them stuck with less knowledgeable employees.
In the grand scheme, a company without well-trained employees cannot be innovative.
Shipping Expenses and Taxes
Often, electronic manufacturers are not considerate of the shipping expenses of contracting an abroad electronic parts manufacturer.
If ignored, the production costs can be higher than if the work was done in-house.
Also, the process may come with additional taxes and require the electronics company to hire accountants to manage the transaction.
How to choose the right contractor for your PCB assembly?
Follow an Appropriate Timeline
Automatic Pick and Place machine used in PCB production.
Engaging the contract manufacturer for the first time means patiently allowing them to understand your desired electronics design.
Therefore, settle on a contractor who understands the designs and is likely to deliver within the right timelines.
At the same time, don’t be too hasty, as most quality contract manufacturers are busy and may require quite some time to deliver.
Check the Final Product for Quality
Contract manufacturers give quality assurance, but there’s no guarantee that the final product will match what you initially wanted.
Therefore, check if the product fits high-quality PCB assembly standards by inspecting the final products after sending design specifications.
Lastly, consider if your clients are happy with product quality and send the feedback to the contract manufacturer for rectifications.
Modern electric pcb factory assembly line.
Experience matters greatly; it translates to more efficiency and fast turnaround times.
An experienced manufacturer also knows how to handle production issues and deliver as per the agreed timelines.
Also, PCB assembly is evolving every new day. Therefore, experience comes in handy in ensuring your manufacturer is equipped with the latest assembly techniques.
Some contract manufacturers perform all the manufacturing processes, from creating the board to the final testing
. Others don’t have the sufficient testing capacity and must outsource this from other firms.
Ask if the manufacturer you’re dealing with can do everything to the end or if they need assistance. It is critical to negotiate a deal as it affects the production cost.
Consider Customer Support
You don’t want to be stuck with an unresponsive manufacturer who doesn’t appear whenever you want to clarify the PCB design.
Many reputable contract manufacturers invest heavily in excellent customer support as they understand its impact.
Therefore, perform a background check of the manufacturer’s mode of communication and responsiveness.
Finally, the costs are everything; if you don’t keep them under check, you risk producing very expensively, impacting the final product price.
Several factors impact the overall PCB costs, and they include the following:
- Order Size
- Type of Service
- Necessary Resources
- Shipping Cost
- Labor Cost
Considering all the above factors would be best as they will ultimately impact the production costs.
Applications of PCBs Produced in Contract Manufacturing
PCBs are important in the functioning of the following areas:
- Computers & Computer Accessories
- equipment and instrumentation
- Life Support Systems
Division of labor and specialization is an economic principle that improves turnaround times and overall productivity.
This is the basis of the contract PCB assembly, and we have highlighted how it works in the article.
While it has some apparent downsides, companies that get it right can significantly boost their production and profitability.