How to Avoid COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruption in PCBA Assembly

January 5, 2021 , in Blog

 Indication of disruption in the supply chain

Idle delivery trucks due to COVID-19

One of the worst views a development or production enterprise executive can have is a full row of company delivery trucks sitting idle. Unfortunately, this has been a familiar sight over the last year as countries worldwide have struggled to curtail the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a novel virus, and until recently no medication or vaccination was available to treat the infected, resulting in many lost lives. Governments responded with strict restrictions on movement, forcing many businesses to close or limit operations.

These shutdowns have significantly impacted the development and production of PCBAs and electronic devices utilized in virtually every industry. Throughout the ordeal of trying to limit the impact of COVID-19, achieving a balance between economic concerns and ensuring safety has been difficult. Reasons for such strains are many, but the lack of consistent policies and actions within and across borders has led to disruptions in the availability and transfer of electronic components and other essential products.

Let’s take a look at COVID-19 supply chain disruption, its effect on circuit board development and production and what you can do to mitigate your PCB assembly’s impact.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Electronics Design and Development

Populations worldwide are hard hit, and governments are struggling to establish and institute measures to slow the growth of COVID-19, which has claimed more than one and a half million lives thus far. In the US, the effects have been exceedingly high, with approximately 14 million cases of infection and 274,000 deaths as of December 3, 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that roughly 50 million people were out of work due to the pandemic in May 2020.

From an economic perspective, the pandemic has caused enormous instability. For example, the US economy showed a record of 33.1% annualized growth in Q3. However, this followed a record decline of 31.4% in the previous quarter, according to IPC’s November 2020 Economic Outlook report. In the PCB industry, imports are finally back up after steep initial declines—in Y/Y %—not seen since the recession of 2008-09. During that same period, PCB bookings across North America showed growth from the previous year. As many electronics OEMs and manufacturers rely on component imports, these types of interruptions can wreak havoc on end-use products’ delivery.

Securing Your PCB Assembly Against COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions

COVID-19 supply chain disruptions are often due to one of the following causes:

Causes of Supply Chain Disruption

  • Limited/depleted vendor inventory

Lack of inventory is the primary cause of disruption in the PCB supply chain. Whether due to reduced production by component manufacturers or the inability to access warehoused components, the lack of a secure well-stocked supplier can hinder the ability of your CM to meet your development schedule needs during the pandemic.

  • Shipping restrictions

The reliance on imports can grind your PCBA development or production to a halt when sourcing countries are prevented from shipping to you due to one or both countries' restrictions.

  • Factory closings

When component manufacturers shut down due to safety concerns, it results in an eventual lack of component availability.

All of the above causes for supply chain disruption are beyond your control. However, that does not mean that you are powerless against the associated negative consequences. Several wise choices, such as those listed below, may render you virtually impervious to COVID-19 supply chain disruption.

How to Ensure Supply Chain Continuity

  • Design for right-first-time manufacturing

The first important step is to ensure that the board design process incorporates actions that support right-first-time (RFT) manufacturing. Doing so will not only minimize prototype iterations but also reduce the number of components required and costs.

  • Opt for integrated turnkey PCBA manufacturing

Selecting turnkey manufacturing releases you from the tedious task of procuring components, which can be difficult when availability is limited, but it’s not enough to choose a turnkey manufacturer. Ideally, your CM will employ an integrated turnkey PCBA manufacturing process that optimizes all stages, including component procurement.

  • Establish a white box manufacturing relationship with your CM

The relationship with your CM is especially essential during situations like a pandemic when issues such as lack of component availability or other changes require expedient responses. A white box manufacturing approach is the best means to ensure you meet objectives.

  • Make sure your CM employs PCBA manufacturing on-demand principles

Whether it’s normal operations or a pandemic, you need your boards on schedule. Therefore, your CM’s process must be capable of delivering PCBA manufacturing on demand.

  • Make sure your CM prioritizes de-risked PCB component procurement

COVID-19 is not the only threat to the component supply chain, so it’s essential that your CM’s QA routinely incorporates techniques and works with reliable and locally accessible distributors to de-risk PCBA component procurement.

By implementing the above list’s actions, including choosing a CM that can deliver on these best practices, you can significantly reduce any risk to your PCBA due to COVID-19 supply chain disruption.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual 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.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • 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.

Tempo Automation is the leading provider of fast turnaround, precise and high-quality PCBAs in the industry. We employ a digital thread manufacturing process that optimizes supply chain continuity. Proprietary software mines the databases of our network of trusted North American electronic components distributors, providing real-time availability, prices, and the earliest delivery date.

To help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks, enabling 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 different 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 avoiding the effects of a COVID-19 supply chain disruption, contact us.

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