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The 6 Stages of Turnkey PCB Manufacturing

Over the last few years, a quiet revolution has happened in turnkey PCB assembly and manufacturing.  Traditional overseas manufacturing models require high minimum quantities and extended lead times that no longer suit today’s innovative startups. 

Printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) are the brains and heart of electronic devices.  Cost-effective and efficient manufacturing is key to frictionless production. 

 But the PCBA itself is only one part of the electronics puzzle.  Modern manufacturing partners must provide more to give clients an exceptional experience.  This is why the best PCB manufacturing service providers offer much more. 

Here are the six stages of turnkey PCB manufacturing you can expect to find at a full-service CM like MacroFab: 

Stage 1 – Painless PCB Prototyping

In the past, it was notoriously difficult to find a PCB manufacturing partner that would also take on prototyping orders

Legacy manufacturing equipment took a significant amount of time and effort to set up for each production run.  This made it expensive and wasteful for manufacturers to accept small prototyping orders.  When they did accept them, the high prices reflected the significant set-up fees.  

But today’s PCBA contract manufacturers have overcome this challenge using sophisticated software platforms to integrate and combine small quantity orders together to save each customer significant amounts of money.  This collaboration also boosts efficiency, improving delivery times.   Designers can upload their PCBA designs at any time using a connected online portal that offers real-time access to parts availability from multiple vendors.  Through this portal, quotes can get populated instantly, with insights into how delivery speed, component choice, and quantities affect pricing. 

Stage 2 – Turnkey PCB Manufacturing

Following the prototyping and iteration process comes the production manufacturing stage. 

While large quantity requirements used to be the norm, those restrictions no longer apply.  Now PCB manufacturers like MacroFab can accept orders as small as a few dozen pieces upwards to hundreds of thousands, providing turnkey PCB service designed to your needs.   Turnkey projects get delivered completed and ready to operate. This service allows your CM to handle all aspects of your PCB project, from parts procurement,  manufacturing of the PCB assembly,  as well as assembly of all cable harnesses and enclosures.  It can also include inventory management, logistic services, and delivery to your end user. 

While quantity still impacts unit cost, you can find reasonable prices for even very small orders.  For smaller, less complicated builds, online pricing tools instantly show what your cost per PCB will be. This is helpful when calculating capital requirements or setting pricing.

When CMs like MacroFab take care of part sourcing and ordering on your behalf,  they can often leverage discounts on popular parts that lead to lower costs for you.   Meanwhile, other options like component inventory and consignment still provide clients with the option to provide components to the CM.  As your manufacturing progresses, online tools let you track and report on your project at any time from anywhere.

Stage 3 – Electronic Device Assembly

The turnkey PCB manufacturing approach means that the same partner manufacturing your PCBs can also handle the assembly of your complete electronic device. Your CM partner sources components for your build or adds inventoried/consigned parts sent from your warehouse into their possession for your build, providing a seamless and painless experience. 

Utilizing one service provider for both PCB and device manufacturing means that everything happens in one place, reducing the risk of shipping delays or mishaps. You can confidently focus on your business while your partner manages production.  Additionally, by choosing an onshore partner like MacroFab, communication issues, delays, and intellectual property (IP) risks can be eliminated or minimized. 

Stage 4 – Inventory Storage and Management

After device manufacture is completed,  they’ll need a home until they get shipped to your customers. Rather than rent space and manage inventory yourself, let your PCB manufacturing partner do it for you. Full-service contract manufacturers like MacroFab offer inventory and drop-ship services as after-build value-added options. 

Stage 5 – Integrated Fulfillment

Today’s best PCB assembly services will also package and ship your products directly to your customer. 

MacroFab can see your product lifecycle through to the end.  By providing order fulfillment options, you can decrease both shipping costs and the hassle involved with distributing your product.  Our team will be happy to inform you about our terms and available shipping carriers. 

Stage 6 – System Integration

You might think that stage 5 wraps it up, but there’s actually one more integration level.  Manual order placement means you still have to alert us every time an order is placed.  But with eCommerce or ERP integration through an application programming interface (API), orders can get placed and fulfilled automatically.  

You probably experience APIs every day, though you might not realize it. Your online banking application is a good example. If your bank gives you access to your credit score, it’s pulling in data from the credit rating agency into its website using an API.

 In turnkey PCB manufacturing parts assembly, using an API means orders can automatically ship after placement without any manual intervention on your part. By choosing a turnkey PCB manufacturing partner like MacroFab, you free yourself from the production side of business so that you can focus on ideas instead.  Focus on marketing products and growing your business.  We’ll handle parts vendors, project tracking, and order management from here.