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There are many improvements being made in the PCB and electronic manufacturing industry. Driven in part by an agile workforce, and companies wanting to iterate faster, the need for rapid PCB prototyping is exploding. Innovative designers are building companies, upgrading old designs or designing for new product introductions. It’s no wonder that more electronics manufacturing companies are being formed to meet this increasing demand. But some challenges car arise when selecting the best electronics contract manufacturer.
This guide is designed to help you. We’ve found that EEs and supply chain managers can’t go wrong if they choose a partner that meets these criteria.
It may seem odd to begin by talking about software, but the secret to providing fast service at a reasonable price for small quantity orders is a digital manufacturing platform that controls the entire process and helps the OEM manage their orders through version control and information transparency and real-time status updates.
You don’t want to wait weeks for your prototype, much less for your quote. Traditional CMs are notorious for taking forever to get you a quote (assuming they are even interested in your prototype order). Having an online solution that lets you upload your design documents and Bill of Materials then get a quote back instantly is the modern solution to manufacturing. Once you upload your files, you should be able to see your price changes in real-time as you update quantities. There should be no hidden fees or surprises.
These days, you can expect to find a CM that will take care of your supply chain sourcing and purchasing. They work with authorized distributors so you receive quality components every time. These CMs will also help you find alternate solutions for out of stock or end-of-life parts, often at the same or better price points.
Look for the best of both worlds by finding a PCB prototyping service that will be happy to take your order at any quantity from small to high volumes. Prototype with agility then stay with that CM when you’re ready to move to higher volumes. This saves you the headache of onboarding multiple CMs for the same SKU.
The best solutions offer an digital manufacturing platform that lets you track the progress of your project, manage your design documents and Bill of Materials, make design changes, and report on results all in an easy-to-use interface that’s available 24/7.
You may only need a few of any given part, making it difficult to get the best price. However, many CMs leverage their customer base and vendor relationships to place large quantity orders on popular parts that they can then offer to you at a lower price than you may be able to negotiate on your own.
Even if you are only thinking about your PCB prototype right now, it is a good idea to look for a partner that can handle the complete assembly of finished products, including box build, programming and testing. By choosing a CM that can take your concept from the design file to the customer, you’ll eliminate the painful management of multiple vendors and keep your costs as low as possible.
Along those lines, why not choose a PCB prototype company that will also serve as your inventory and fulfillment specialists? They’ll assemble your PCB, manufacture the final product, store it until it is ordered, and ship it directly to your customer. You can keep your shipping costs down by choosing a partner that negotiates with the shipping carriers and passes lower costs on to you. As an added bonus, some CMs even have an API that integrates your e-commerce or ERP application with their software to make the fulfillment process seamless.
Getting the right partner at the outset is extremely important to the success of your project, product, and company. Don’t be fooled by low prices without the services, track record, or infrastructure to deliver quality results quickly. Your electronics manufacturing experience should be easy, competitively priced and offers reliable information, faster, not to mention a high-quality end product. You should be able to focus on your design and business objectives while your partner takes care of the details. When it comes to PCB prototyping and high volume production, you really can have it all.