De-Risking Your Board Build in Times of PCB Component Procurement Uncertainty

June 9, 2020 , in Blog

In computer science and other disciplines, there is a well-known non-technical phrase to describe the expected output from a process based upon its source or input. That is, “garbage in, garbage out.” Although the translation of this phrase is unnecessary, a formal definition could be that the quality of results that can be reasonably expected from any process or operation is directly dependent on the quality of the input to the process. And it follows that no input leads to no output.

Component loading and placing

Pick and place machine loading components

Even though component acquisition is not as celebrated as circuit board design, fabrication, or assembly, no useful PCBA output is possible without component input. You may even say that just as component placement is the most important design decision, PCB component procurement is the most important stage of board manufacturing. Unfortunately, a number of threats to this stage exist; however, there are actions that can be taken to avoid them. We discuss both of these considerations below.

Threats to PCB Component Procurement

Prior to discussing the major threats to successfully attaining the components that are essential to complete the PCB assembly or PCBA stage of manufacturing, let’s clearly define PCB component procurement.

PCB component procurement is one of the three major stages of a turnkey PCBA manufacturing process, along with board fabrication and assembly. Typically, your contract manufacturer (CM) acquires necessary components from one of their partnering suppliers or vendors, through a direct connection that promotes supply chain security. Procuring exotic or hard to find components, however, is usually the responsibility of the developer.

Turnkey PCBA manufacturing is increasingly preferred by circuit board developers, whereby the PCBA manufacturer sources all of the components, including the bare board. In the alternate case, the developer would need to source and acquire all of the components and transfer them to the PCBA manufacturer under consignment. This approach is much riskier, increasing the possibility of falling prey to one of the major threats or risks listed below.

PCB Component Procurement Risks

  • Low-quality components may cause erratic behavior, a number of failure modes, or lead to complete board failure in the field. Most often the culprit is a vendor or distributor that does not vet suppliers or buying from an unreliable or unknown source.
  • Counterfeit electronic components are a major problem in the US. This is especially true for critical systems; such as aerospace, medical devices, and automotive systems. Offshore purchasing from unfamiliar suppliers is the most common reason for ending up with these oftentimes inferior components.
  • Long turnaround times are the culprits behind constantly changing delivery schedules and increasing client disappointment that lead to contract cancellations and loss of revenue. When component shortages are the cause, the only alternative to waiting is substitution, which probably means redesign and additional cost along with lost time.
  • Production stoppage/increased demand are two of the most significant risks and there are usually few if any options to mitigate the resulting lack of components that will not result in significant cost increase. Root causes for stoppages may include factory shutdowns due to equipment failures or safety breaches, environmental disasters, pandemics, or political instability due to conflict. On the other hand, new product development or unexpected escalation of sales for systems that utilize the component are reasons for increased demand.
  • Obsolescence is by far the worst risk, as it indicates the component in question has reached the end of its lifecycle (as shown below), and further production is highly unlikely.

The typical lifecycle for components

The component lifecycle production curve

Now that we know the major risks to component procurement, let’s examine ways to mitigate their impact or avoid them altogether.

How to Avoid PCB Component Procurement Risks

Obviously, the risks discussed in the previous section are beyond control and are often unforeseeable. Yet, your hands are far from being tied, for there are ways to avoid each of these threats to component availability, as listed in the table below.

PCB COMPONENT PROCUREMENT RISK AVOIDANCE

Risk How to Avoid
Low quality The best way to avoid getting stuck with sub-standard components is to work with reliable and trusted industry suppliers.
Counterfeit Similar to the solution for low-quality components, you can avoid counterfeits by buying from well-known and respected industry distributors.
Long turnaround times Long turnaround times can be avoided by checking component availability prior to selection for your design.
Production stoppage / increased demand These are two of the causes for components being unavailable and this risk is difficult to predict. Therefore, the best solution is to assume that it may happen at some point and buy components in bulk.
Obsolescence To avoid obsolescence, you should monitor the production of the component(s). This can be time-consuming and is best done by employing PCBA design software that includes real-time component data capability.

By applying the solutions listed above for PCB component procurement, you can avoid getting caught with no components for your production needs.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • On-demand PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

As implementing most of these does require an investment of time or perhaps new software, the best solution is to utilize a turnkey PCBA manufacturing services CM, such as Tempo Automation. At our smart factory in Silicon Valley. We produce boards faster than anyone else in the industry. Additionally, our Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing allows us to meet your prototyping and low-volume production requirements for all of the major risks that may threaten your ability to deliver for your clients.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on PCB component procurement and how to avoid major risks that may affect component availability, contact us.

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