Know your PCB Manufacturing Partners!

The entire process of realizing a populated functional PCB Board is fraught with details and pitfalls.   Typically, there is no sole source for the bare board, the components, and the assembly.  Often, there are complimentary partnerships involved with various aspects of the manufacturing process.  Who manages all entities involved?

It’s very possible to contact a board fabrication source and ask for fully populated boards.  They have experience working with component and assembly sources.  The board source will make the contacts and will interface with the various sources to meet the requirements.   It’s possible to achieve the same result by initially contacting an assembly source, or a components source.   So where is the best place to start to ensure the highest quality, best pricing, and guaranteed delivery?

The truth is you can start your project with anyone of the entities mentioned above.  BUT, insist on transparency.  Ask to know who the partners will be in the overall process.  If you have a preference in a specific manufacturing source, say so.  Clearly state what the expectation is and hold each entity responsible for the quality of their workmanship.

For any questions on PCB Project Management, contact one of our Project Coordinators for answers.  We’re here to help.

www.cic-inc.com

Cherie Myers

6 Steps to Prepare Components for Successful PCB Assembly

Ordering, confirming, tracking, verifying, preparing and identifying electronic components for a PC assembly can be very time-consuming and a bit tricky.

1.  We highly recommend ordering components only from an Authorized  Distribution source or directly from the manufacturer.  Rule #1 will help avoid the issue of counterfeit components.

2.  Confirming the component intended delivery date, expediting (as necessary), and tracking the order until delivery takes effort.  It’s a necessary step to avoid missing shipments going unnoticed until it’s critical.

3.  Once materials arrive, they need to be counted; but most importantly, verified.  All handling of the components needs to be done within an ESD safe zone with ESD safe handling processes.  A digital microscope is a valuable tool as you read part markings, values, etc.  Always decipher or compare with the datasheet to know that the component ordered is indeed the part received.  Most all issues are uncovered during the verification process.

4.  Should a board-level performance issue arise, it is very important to have retained the original Lot Code and Manufacturing data from the shipping packages of each of the components to ensure the traceability.  This information will be required to enlist manufacturers support.

5.  Prepare the components for the chosen assembly requirements.  Each assembly facility has a list of consigned kit requirements.  These requirements need to be under consideration at the time of purchase and again at material prep time.  They may include items such as length of leaders and trailers, reel preference, allowable types of splicing, and overage (attrition) guidelines.

6.  Label the components to provide an efficient and  accurate audit prior to assembly.  The label does not need to be fancy.  The information must be easy to read, consistent with the original BOM, and contain all pertinent information.

Assembled PC boards can consist of thousands of components.  At best, one issue slipping by can throw a deadline out the window;  the worst that can happen is unimaginable.

In addition to the processes identified so far, the kit preparation may involve numerous phone calls, issuing of purchase orders, packing slips, invoices, RMA resolutions, etc.  California Integration Coordinators, Inc. is known as a leader in the area of procurement and kit preparation.  Call us – (530) 626-6168 if you have any questions or would like some assistance.

5 Rules of BoM Scrubbing

Our Project Coordinators have been helping customers ensure successful builds with their PCB assembly materials since 1988.  They have some secrets to share which are often the key to successful PCB assemblies.

The biggest source of potential problems is in the Bill of Materials (BoM).  When a new or legacy product is to be built, the BoM needs close scrutiny for issues; this is called BoM Scrubbing.

  1. Look up the manufacturer’s part number called out in the BoM and compare it to the description on file to ensure all parameters match.
  2. When looking up the manufacturer’s part number, is there availability or is this component noted as NRND (Not recommended for new design) or Last Time Buy? This may not be a serious concern if the requirement is supporting a final legacy build.  If this is a component chosen for a new product, alternates should be found.
  3. Compare the number of reference designations to the quantity required. Occasionally, during the design stage, removal or additions of locations may not carry through to the quantity required.
  4. Is the manufacturer’s part number complete? Often, manufacturer’s part numbers will have the basic part number on the datasheet, but the order code will be the part number plus the package code.  Make sure the package code is included.
  5. Are their approved alternates included in the BoM? Approved alternates, especially on commodity components, can help the project stay on target with pricing and availability when there are changes in the marketplace.

Doing a BoM Scrub will provide the buyers with a clean BoM and ensure the materials are exactly as intended for the PCB assembly.

Any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Cherie or visit our website for additional information www.cic-inc.com.

Supporting Legacy PCB Assembled Products

Many great electronic products  were produced 10 years ago or more.  If the function is true and the production quantities don’t justify a redesign to upgrade the board level components, the challenges are numerous.

There have been so many changes over the past  10 years within the electronic component industry that affect legacy product.  The conversion from leaded components to RoHS forced many manufacturers to reconsider which products were justified keeping in their portfolio.  Those who did support their products with a RoHS conversion often changed the part number.  Challenging the documented Bill of Materials and the buyers with both obsolescence and updated part numbers.

The semiconductor and passive manufacturer’s are trying to keep up with design engineers and are offering smaller component package sizes and are focused on the surface mount application.  The common sizes of 1206 and 0805 are now 0603, 0402 and smaller!  Dip packages are rare and many components are now exclusively offered in surface mount packages.  Manufacturer’s are adjusting production offerings to meet the demands.  The legacy electronic components in the larger package sizes are becoming less common and more difficult to source.

A long history within the electronic component arena is extremely valuable.   Sourcing, procurement and kitting to support legacy product is now an “art-form.”  California Integration Coordinators, Inc., has been focused on supplying board level components to OEM’s and Assembly Facilities since 1988.  Our Project Coordinators on staff have a combined average of 10 years exclusive to electronic component sourcing.

Tell us  the issues your legacy BoM faces and allow us to help you.  Call (530) 626-6168 and we will assign an experienced Project Coordinator to you.

Cherie@cic-inc.com

www.cic-inc.com

 

Efficient Purchasing to Accelerate PCB Assembly

Knowing when to source materials can accelerate the schedule of your PCB build and significantly reduce the transition from engineering design phase to product delivery.  Purchasing material too early can result in procuring material that may be unnecessary for the final design.  Likewise, waiting too long to begin the purchasing will likely lead to an unnecessarily extended production time.  In purchasing timing can make or break a production schedule.  Not every build is the same but the following guidelines can provide a path to efficient and timely purchasing decisions.

When a design is 50% complete, it is time to get a budgetary quote and DFM from the PCB fabrication source and an assembly provider.  At that time, ask the assembly provider for their list of consigned material requirements.  These are an outline of the documents, labeling and material requirements for the assembly process to proceed efficiently and without significant additional preparation.

When the design is 80% complete and the major components have been chosen, it is time to get the initial quote for the component material kit.  The list of material requirements for your chosen assembly provider should be provided with the RFQ.  The material quote and feedback should be provided within 4 hours to 48 hours from the request.

The feedback on the initial Bill of Materials quote should include:

  • any obsolete components and suggested options for replacement
  • lead-time for components and suggested options for items which will impact the initial build
  • an alert for any components found identified by the manufacturer as End of Life
  • any components which need additional prep for the assembly process and estimated time

Resolve any issues from the feedback on the initial BoM; finding replacements or approving suggested alternate components.  Components, which are design-firm and have a lead-time, should be authorized to be purchased so the component lead-time and finalizing of the design / layout can run concurrent.

With the design 100% complete, the board fabrication and the remainder of the components can be ordered.

If you need help planning your PCB assembly or would like to discuss your upcoming project with a professional project coordinator, send me a note or call.  We’ll be glad to discuss how we can help to improve your product delivery timeframe.

Cherie@cic-inc.com
www.cic-inc.com
(530) 626-6168 Read More

Acknowledging the Electronic Manufacturing Craftsman

Purchasing and engineering can sometimes mistakenly classify the production of the electronic assembly as a commodity.

There is true craftsmanship in those performing electronics manufacturing services.  Artisans perform the design for manufacturability review, quote the BOM components, source creatively to keep the build on time, kit and prepare the components for assembly, engineer the assembly process and artisans place the components.

The dictionary definition of Craftsmanship:  a member of a skilled trade; someone who practices a craft; artisan.

Synonyms for craftsmanship (noun skill, creativity)

aptitude, artistry, expertise, inventiveness, knowledge, mastery, method, profession

An online search of Electronics Manufacturing turns up pages of options; one begins to imagine why it could be mistakenly identified as a commodity.  Look below the surface and the differences begin to emerge.   The variety of equipment, specialized skills and focus, all help to differentiate one from another.  When searching for the perfect partner for an electronic assembly, understand the skills needed for the assembly.

Matching the PCB assembly needs with the skilled artisans can be difficult, but a bad match can cause a project to miss the timeline or the performance projections.  Do your due diligence to find the right match.  Understand the assembly requirements; search for local talent, get referrals, and interview the artisans.

Electronic manufacturing services are not a commodity.   We are fortunate to have such skilled artisans available.   Collaboration and partnerships with talented individuals will positively impact any PCB assembly projects.

Capabilities of CIC, Inc.

California Integration Coordinators, Inc. has focused on Procurement and Kitting electronic components for PCB Assemblies since 1988.  We’ve developed processes and proprietary software which allow us to present a real-time quote for components, including lead-time, availability, and part number clarifications, within hours.  Our goal is to compliment our customer’s needs as a partner. 
CIC’s experienced project coordinators are assigned to a customer.  This central point of contact specializes in understanding the individual requirements and expectations of that customer.  It’s like having a Personal Shopper for your PCB Assemblies.
We’ve helped numerous customers through the years.  The following is an example of a typical engagement. 

CIC was approached for the component kitting of prototype boards.  The potential customer had a staff of production buyers utilizing an established MRP system equipped to forecast and manage long-term production builds.  Unfortunately, their system was not nimble enough to adjust for quick-turn prototype production.  The MRP system could not manage components in the reduced timeframe.  The customer needed a side by side system which would compliment not complicate.  California Integration Coordinators methodology offered the perfect partnership.


Customer Service and Support is a major element of our overall performance; so much so that it is measured internally as a quality standard. 

  • It is our goal to acknowledge the RFQ from a customer and begin working on the quote within minutes of receipt. 
  • It is not always possible due to custom parts or overseas factory confirmations, but it is our goal to provide a Costed BOM and formal quote within 24 hours. 
  • The CIC project coordinators acknowledge a new customer Purchase Order within 30 minutes from receipt, order all materials per the PO within 60 minutes and provide assurance of the specified dock date within 24 hours.

Consider:

Have you been involved with recent small PCB assemblies? 

Was the timeline for the project extended?  Were there any communication delays which jeopardized the project? 

Did you have to “cross your fingers”  and hope it all came out right? 

Please discuss your project expectations with us.  You may be amazed how little it costs to add quality and timeliness to your PCB assembly project.   www.cic-inc.comor Cherie@cic-inc.com


5 reasons to outsource PCB component kitting

PCB assembly is the process of placing all electronic components on the printed circuit board exactly as the design plan dictates.  Some assembly designs can require 100’s of different components.  Those components are purchased through a variety of Authorized Distributors.  With complicated builds requiring hundreds of components it is not unusual to purchase from 5 to 15 different distribution sources. 
Imagine the time, attention and manpower it takes to place, receive, inspect, approve and organize for line readiness:
          ·        15 separate shipments
          ·        15 email notifications/issue alerts
          ·        15 packages to track
          ·        15 boxes to inspect
Now imagine the outsource option requiring 1 purchase order.  Shortly after placing the purchase order you receive 1 complete kit containing all the components required, with each component type already inspected, full trace-ability documented, and prepared for the assembly line.
Top 5 Reasons to Outsource
#1 – The electronic component kit is TIME (which can be translated to multiple trained, skilled staff members).  TIME = MONEY
#2  – Eliminating the numerous problems which arise with distribution warehouse picking errors, damage in shipping, etc.  These issues take time to resolve.
#3 – The knowledge base gained when partnering with outsourced staff whose only role is to understand the marketplace, the various manufacturer’s, the requirements of the assembly floor. Partnering with a staff that is knowledgeable on how to calculate assembly attrition, read datasheets, understand the part numbering systems and find alternate sources or drop-in replacement components to recommend.
#4 – The efficiency gained in the PCB assembly process.  The electronic component kit is prepared to be auditable, quick and efficient.  With a successful audit, the PCB pick and place assembly process can begin immediately saving precious TIME ( = MONEY) for the assembly.
#5 – Full trace-ability of all the components.  Lot codes, date codes and distribution sources should held for at least 2 years to aid in identifying any errant issue down the road.  
Outsourcing procurement and kitting has proven to be a very successful option for OEM’s and assembly facilities.  The cost savings and efficiency gained by partnering with a kitting source can more than pay for the service!  www.cic-inc.com

Material Kitting variations based on PCB Assembly facility

The process of procuring PCB component materials and kitting varies depending on the requirement of PCB Assembly facility chosen.  If the kitting source does not take the assembly requirements into consideration, there could be a great deal of waste and over-expenditure for the PCB materials.

Choose the assembly facility prior to preparing a quote for the PCB component materials.  

There are several standard assembly requirements found within the industry.  Depending upon automated Pick and Place equipment and assembly engineering staff, assembly material requirements at Assembly facility #1 might be:
        1.   All materials must be on 7″ or 13″ reels with minimum 18″ leader and trailers.
        2.   Trays are acceptable.
        3.   No rails/tubes
        4.   No cut tape or 3″ reels.
Material requirements at Assembly facility #2 might be:
       1.   Cut tape with minimum 12″ leader and trailer is acceptable
        2.   Trays, rails/tubes are acceptable
        3.   Accept bulk items when packaged and identified properly.
Material requirements at Assembly facility #3 might be:
       1.   Cut tape with minimum 8″ leader is acceptable (no metal joiners/brads)
        2.   Trays, rails/tubes are acceptable
        3.   Accept bulk items when packaged and identified properly.

The quantity of the current PCB build and cost is not the only factor when choosing the Assembly facility.  Other considerations include investment of NRE costs for multiple, future builds; proximity and transportation; engineering capabilities; and on-site add-on services such as testing, packaging, etc. 

All other considerations set aside, it is typically most cost effective to choose assembly capabilities consistent with Assembly facility #2 when populating 5 – 100 boards.  Assembly facility’s with #3’s criteria work great when populating 1-10 boards depending on complexity.  When running a high volume of boards or when multiple set-ups may be required, requirements at Assembly facility #1 might prove to be the most cost effective option.
The procurement and preparation of PCB component materials taking into account the requirements of the assembly facility will be most accurate and will allow the assembly process to be efficient and cost effective.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss these options further, contact us at cherie@cic-inc.com or call (530) 626-6168 and ask to speak to a Project Coordinator.

Advantages of Outsourcing for Electronic Component Procurement


We have come to learn that not all things are equal in outsourcing.  

At one time outsourcing was a way to eliminate routine, low skill business functions. The other side of outsourcing is that it can be a great tool for the growth and efficiency of business.  Procurement outsourcing has earned its place as a key advantage for high-end, technical business applications.


Electronic component procurement outsourcing is a resource that makes use of specialists with skills, assets, and expertise that are specific to your industries needs.  It is imperative that the person procuring components has a strong background in the electronics industry, not just in general purchasing.  This kind of expertise allows a fluid transition from concept to creation, allowing you to focus on the core competencies of your business.  Your procurement specialist has the contacts, expertise, and buying leverage to see your project to completion on time and on budget.  

Outsourcing through a specialist in the electronics industry means that the risks associated with product procurement and unexpected costs resulting from erroneous components and the resulting downtime are minimized.

Today’s businesses rely on continual improvement to products and processes.  This same rule should be considered when selecting a company to fill your procurement needs.  Here is a list of questions to ask when selecting a company to fulfill your electronic purchasing needs:

  • Does this company have a reputation of outstanding customer satisfaction among its peers?
  • Does this company have a measurable plan for continuous improvement in efficiency and productivity?
  • Does this company have the certifications necessary to meet the standards of your industry?
  • Does this company have staff with knowledge in your specific industry that will allow them to maximize the benefits to your company?

Please consider California Integration Coordinators, Inc. an ISO 9001 certified company specializing in PCB and PCB related sourcing, kitting and procurement for over 27 years.