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

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

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

Controlling Costs moving PCB Design to Assembly

Design and layout are generally the most labor intensive elements of any new PC Board.  Once complete and moving into the realization stage, material component costs are typically 80% of the overall assembly costs. 
Message:
·         put safe guard measures in to all aspects of design and layout
·         pay special attention to materials for realization
Utilize the software checks for design and layout.  Follow design guidelines and have the files double checked prior to board fabrication.
Use a professional material procurement source for the kitting of the components prior to the assembly process.   A professional procurement source will:
·         double check the BOM for part descriptions to match the assigned manufacturer’s part number
·         provide lead-times and search for in-stock alternates to suggest for engineering approval
·         provide alert for any components Mfg has designated for “End of Life”
·         provide cost and can suggest cost saving alternates for engineering approval
·         Scrub BOM – filling passive call-outs with Mfg and Mfg P/N for procurement
2nd and 3rd spins can eat a project budget quickly.  Spend time and money wisely with professional services to reap the benefits of a project well done. 
California Integration Coordinators, Inc. has been providing professional procurement sourcing and kitting for 27 years with a full staff of experienced project coordinators.   Contact me with any questions or to discuss your upcoming project – Cherie Myers

More information at www.cic-inc.com

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.  Cherie@cic-inc.com

More about the organization at www.cic-inc.com