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.

Cherie Myers

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.


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.
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How to Kit Components Prior to Assembly

Anyone can use the internet to locate and buy the components for a PCB assembly.

Why is “Kitting” important to the PCB Assembly? Kitting is the term used to describe the function of bringing all material requirements together. With all required items received, verified, placed in suitable packaging and given to the assembly facility; the assembly process may then begin.  Sounds simple.  So why do the Electronic Manufacturing Service (EMS) providers encourage professional kitting services?

Professional kitting services can be found within, or independent of, an assembly facility. With either choice, the function of bringing all material requirements together is essential for the assembly process to perform with the highest efficiency.  Professional Kitting services far exceed the simple act of finding and buying.

· The Bill of Material (BOM) descriptions and the material call-outs are reviewed for any discrepancies.

· Authorized sources for materials are to be found and the BEST source for availability and pricing requirements is evaluated and identified.

· If availability conflicts with the assembly timeline, options need to be found and presented to the BOM owner for approval.

· A Costed BOM should be given to the purchaser of the Kit or BOM owner for approval prior to any purchase.

· With approval, the purchasing is completed based on the Costed BOM.

· All purchased materials are tracked to ensure on-time delivery.

· Incoming materials are counted, inspected and verified with the manufacturers datasheet to ensure the item ordered is the item received.

· Industry standards for ESD prevention are utilized to ensure the condition of all components.

· Materials are identified, organized and packaged to present to the assembly for efficient production.

Professional kitting services are appreciated for the many functions performed, especially the pre-screening and verification of the electronic components.  No assembly line should EVER be down due to incorrect or missing components!  Using a professional kitting service ensures the efficient assembly process and timely delivery of PCB projects.

When evaluating professional kitting service providers, please include CIC, Inc. on the list.  California Integration Coordinators, Inc. has focused exclusively on  kitting services since 1988 and is continually setting the bar for all kitting service providers.  For more information call for any of the Project Coordinators (530) 626-6168 or email

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 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.    

Challenges of Lean Manufacturing in High Mix/Low Volume

Manufacturing in the USA has undergone highs and lows over the last 20 years.  This is especially true in the assembly of printed circuit boards.  There have been the high times with numerous manufacturing sites popping up, investing in state of the art equipment and running 24 hours with 2 to 3 shift changes. 
The most enticing manufacturing projects are high volumes of a stable product with no variables.   These jobs run long enough to develop lean processes and efficient material handling. 
There are many products which do not have a high volume demand such as medical equipment or semi-custom products.  Some electronic manufacturing facilities accept a mix of high volume assembly projects along with the smaller build quantities.   Boutique assembly houses tend to cater exclusively to the low volume projects and have found their niche market. 
There are challenges unique to running multiple variations / projects through assembly in low volumes:
  • ·         High demand on administrative processes and scheduling to maintain floor capacity
  • ·         Documentation and labor in machine changeovers
  • ·         Employee training
  • ·         Lack frequency and/or volume to develop lean processes or process improvements
  • ·         System management and data entry of P/N’s used only used once
  • ·         Material handling costs for ordering /pulling, verifying, and staging for set-up

Despite the challenges, there are electronic manufacturing facilities which have developed the expertise to provide high quality, affordable, low volume assemblies.   Employee retention and healthy partnerships may be two of the keys to address the challenges. 
  • ·         Employee training can be minimized with strong retention, good initial documentation and established best practices for small volume builds will cultivate lean processes at the start.
  • ·         System management and data entry of P/N’s to feed MRP as well as managing material handling issues can be resolved by outsourcing to a kitting provider to allow absolute focus on producing a quality assembly.

Focus, focus, focus.  Success is found in focusing on the strong suit and partnering with others who do the same. 

You can do anything, but not everything. —Anonymous

Successful Partnerships for PCB Assembly Services

Numerous aspects are involved in the PCB Assembly; board fabrication, component procurement, programming and set-up for assembly, component placement, quality inspection and testing (if applicable). 
For prototype PCB Assemblies special consideration should be given to the processes used before, during and after the manufacturing.  Experienced partnerships add substantial value to both manufacturability and production quality. 
·         Partner directly with a board fabrication provider.  The board fabrication engineering group will review the functionality but also will perform a DFM (design for manufacturability) review.  This value added process often costs little to nothing but can save the project.
·         Partner directly with a component procurement specialist.  The Costed BOM will be provided and should include all information regarding pricing as well as availability.  If the prototype project has a timeline, alternate components should be presented by the procurement specialist to keep the project on time.  The value of the vitality check and part number verification can be a cost-effective source of information.  The procurement specialist also provides the assembly line-ready Kit for assembly saving valuable assembly prep time.
·         Partner directly with an assembly facility which is capable of accepting components in various media types for placement.  The assembly facility able to place components from cut tape, tube and trays will allow the components to be sourced in the most economical methods possible.  Prototypes often will have minor changes and draining the budget for a full reel of components, which may be removed from the BOM later, can be costly.
·         Partner directly with an assembly facility which can provide DFM prior to the PCB build and thorough inspections after the build.  The outcome of the DFM and inspection reports should be shared with the design team to review for potential improvements prior to production quantity builds.
·         Partner directly with a test facility if needed.  The quality of the information and the engineering insight can save precious budget money and time for the design engineers.
We look forward to questions, comments and your insight.  Email
California Integration Coordinators, Inc.  “Helping people build electronic products”

Reduce the timeline for PCB Assemblies

Speed is often everything in taking products from development to release.  The faster the delivery of the “brains” (assembled printed circuit boards), the quicker to testing, making adjustments and launch can occur.  The biggest obstacle to overcome is often the board level component lead-times.
Sometimes your product’s unique performance is linked directly to a unique component.  Unique components often are not STOCK but special order items.  Lead-times are a PCB manufacturing reality.  Identifying your boards unique components early in the design process and planning your development timeline will allow the components to be pre-ordered and arrive prior to the day your printed circuit boards will be assembled.
Fluctuations in basic material availability, component demand and “mother nature” can create lead time challenges in commonly available components.  You can prepare by identifying alternates at the design phase and choosing drop-in replacements from different manufacturers. 
If possible, avoid choosing components at the far end of the spectrum on a manufacturer’s datasheet.  For instance, if a capacitor is available in a specific package from 4 volts to 150 volts from one manufacturer and all other manufacturers offering range is between 6.3 volts and 100 volts, consider utilizing the more common range. 
Have an electronic components life-cycle check done for all board level components.  Make sure the components (especially the unique components) aren’t identified for obsolescence during your planned active product life cycle.  Software is available to aid in quick checks for alternates, life-cycle verifications, etc. 
Any additional thoughts for minimizing the time from concept to market?  Please share as we are always trying to find new ways to help our customers build to meet their time-frame.

Why our electronic component kits are so appreciated

There is numerous staff involved in the successful delivery of an electronic component kit for PCB assemblies.  The staff least visible have the most impact.  I’d like to introduce our kitting staff.
Daily, the kitting staff doubles as the receiving-inspectors and conducts the product verification.  They count the incoming items, compare the count against the purchase order, verify the part markings against the datasheet, and compare the description of the part with the bill of materials. 
The kitters work with amazing accuracy under the pressure of shipping deadlines; can pick out a one digit difference on a 15 digit part number, can find the datasheet information to confirm the package and the part marking, and are able to quickly produce the paper document package the assembly house will require (kit list, labels, excess instructions, bar coding, etc.).  The kitting staff put together the final presentation of the complete kit and the documentation for the customer; making each one beautiful in its organization of material all wrapped up in pink bubble wrap.
So often, it is the least visible contributors to a project that have the most significant impact.  So many recipient assembly line staff claim our kits are the best and trust the component accuracy for efficient line set-up.  The project coordinators on the front line graciously accept the compliments, but want you to know who is behind the kits; our kitting staff. 
Our appreciation to the kitting staff at California Integration Coordinators, Inc.  We truly appreciate the quality for which our organization has come to be known.
Want to know more about electronic component kitting?  Contact me and I’d be glad to share the details.

More about the organization at