There has been a quiet revolution in the world of manufacturing happening over the last few years. The traditional manufacturing model with high minimum quantity requirements, long lead times, and overseas production simply isn’t a good fit for the needs of today’s innovators. These days, lots of people have the skills and desire to create new electronic devices. New ways of funding projects like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites have opened up the floodgates of invention and a new type of manufacturing service provider has evolved to meet the demand.
Printed circuit boards, of course, are the brains of electronic devices and manufacturing them efficiently and cost effectively is the key to taking the friction out of device production. But the PCB is only one piece of the puzzle. Modern manufacturing partners know they need to provide more to truly give the best experience to their clients. That’s why the best PCB manufacturing service providers cover each of the six stages.
Stage 1 – Painless PCB Prototyping
In the past, it was notoriously difficult to find a PCB manufacturing partner that would take on prototyping orders. There’s a good reason for this. Legacy manufacturing equipment was not designed to handle small orders and it was very expensive and wasteful for manufacturers to take them on. So many refused prototyping orders or charged sky-high prices for them.
Today’s PCB manufacturers have overcome this challenge with sophisticated software platforms that are able to integrate prototyping and small quantity orders into larger ones, keeping costs down and speeding delivery. Designers are able to upload their design documents and bills of materials into an online portal where they receive an instant quote. Delivery of the prototype can be counted down in days, not the months it once took.
Stage 2 – 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 need apply. There are PCB manufactures that are delighted to accept orders from one to 10,000. Quantity still impacts unit cost, of course, but today, you can find reasonable prices for even very small orders. Some vendors provide online pricing tools so that you can figure out what your cost per PCB will be at any quantity. This is helpful when calculating capital requirements or setting pricing.
You can find a partner that will take care of parts sourcing and ordering on your behalf. In fact, some even offer discounts on popular parts. With these “House Parts” programs, you benefit from the buying power of the manufacturer’s entire client base.
Online tools let you track and report on your project at any time, from anywhere.
Stage 3 – Electronic Device Assembly
The turn-key approach to manufacturing means that the same partner that manufactured your PCBs can also handle the assembly of your complete electronic device. Your partner can source the parts for you or inventory parts you send in, making the entire process painless and seamless. Using the same 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. There are also big advantages of choosing an onshore partner including the elimination of communication problems, delays, and intellectual property risks.
Stage 4 – Inventory Storage and Management
After your devices are manufactured they’ll need a home until they are ready to be shipped to your customers. Rather than rent the space and manage your inventory, why not let your PCB manufacturing partner do it for you? Those with integrated services are happy to do so.
Stage 5 – Integrated Fulfillment
We bet you can see where this is going. If you guessed that today’s PCB assembly services will also package and ship your products directly to the customer upon order, you are right! It only makes sense that they should see the product lifecycle through to the last step. In addition to saving you the hassle of fulfilling orders, it also can reduce your shipping costs significantly. In much the same way you save money with House Parts, the best partners also negotiate great terms with shipping carriers based on the volume of all of their clients and then pass the saving along to you.
Stage 6 – System Integration
You might think that stage 5 wraps it up, but there is one more level if you will. Your partner can only fulfill an order if it knows that an order has been placed. This can be done manually, but who wants all of that headache? The alternative is to choose a turn-key PCB manufacturing service with software that can integrate with your eCommerce or ERP system through an application programming interface (API).
You probably experience APIs every day, even though you might not realize it. Your online banking application is probably a good example. If your bank gives you access to your credit score, it is most likely pulling in data from the credit rating agency into its website using an API. In turn-key electronic parts assembly, the API means that orders are automatically shipped whenever they are placed without any manual intervention on your part at all.
By choosing a turn-key PCB manufacturing partner, you free yourself from the production side of the business so that you can focus on the idea side. You can spend your time marketing your products and growing the business, rather than trying to figure out how to handle multiple vendors, keep track of your projects, and stick to your budget. The top-tier modern manufacturing service partners cover all six of these stages giving you the most cost effective and convenient solution available.