Interlocking gear illustration depicts the best high mix low volume supply chain strategy

Navigating the PCB High-Mix, Low-Volume Supply Chain

Gladiator, an epic movie set in ancient Rome, depicts the new Emperor, Commodus, as he faces the admired gladiator, Maximus. During the fight in the Colosseum, Maximus relieves the Emperor of his sword. A frantic Commodus then orders for a bodyguard to supply him with a replacement sword. No one complies, and the Emperor is killed: obviously, a case of bad management.

While the development of PCBAs and electronics systems may not involve the same risks one would face in the Colosseum, effective management is just as critical for success. And ensuring that you have an available supply of products can be difficult when you have instituted a lean operational strategy that seeks to minimize costs and waste. To balance these competing demands, you’ll need to effectively manage a high-mix, low-volume supply chain.

Managing High Mix, Low Volume Production

The term high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) is used frequently today. The phrase often describes a production facility’s ability to manufacture a wide range of products in small quantities. This type of manufacturing is akin to low-volume PCBA production, rather than high-volume production that often follows prototyping for many commercial electronics. Several issues can affect this type of supply chain and present unique challenges.

Challenges for a High-Mix, Low-Volume Supply Chain

  • Product unpredictability

One of the most challenging aspects of managing HMLV operations is knowing what products will be needed and when.

  • Inability to rapidly institute changes

Maintaining a highly functional HMLV supply chain requires adaptability and the ability to accommodate component or design changes.

  • Lack of good communication

Successful HMLV supply chain management depends on your ability to communicate with your CM or CMs, which can be challenging if you do not work with a local or onshore manufacturer.

Since these and other challenges can negatively impact HMLV operations, you should follow guidelines designed to mitigate these issues.

All About Tempo

Watch Now

How to Satisfy Your High-Mix, Low-Volume Supply Chain Requirements

Balancing time against supply and costs is a constant consideration for HMLV operations. Adroitly managing the supply chain can positively impact each of these concerns. For example, when supply aligns with customer demand, companies can mitigate excessive costs while increasing ROI. Therefore, a solid strategy for managing your HMLV supply chain is necessary to ensure optimal results.

Guidelines for Optimizing Your HMLV Supply Chain 

  • Make communication a priority.

Open communications with your CM can help optimize HMLV operations. Open communication promotes collaboration and makes potential issues, like change orders, easy to address.

  • Work with your CM to establish a white box manufacturing strategy.

Along with open communication, transparency is necessary. Your CM should clearly understand design intent and be familiar with your product development timeline and projected material needs to optimize procurement. Likewise, you should be able to monitor your board status throughout the build process. This is also a fundamental aspect of digital thread manufacturing.

  • Ensure that your CM follows an agile manufacturing process.

Transparency and collaboration are only useful if manufacturers can institute changes quickly. Therefore, your HMLV supply chain necessitates that your CM employs agile manufacturing.

  • Work with a single CM, if possible.

To establish consistency and reliability for your operations, it is a good idea to work with a single CM. Doing so can help ensure your CM understands your expectations and is familiar with your operations, processes and team.

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 leads the industry in building high-quality PCBAs for prototyping and low-volume production the fastest. Additionally, we employ a software-based manufacturing process founded on transparency that allows for rapid modifications when necessary.

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 would like more information on how a high mix low volume supply chain benefits your PCBA development process, contact us.


The latest PCB news delivered to your inbox.

Search Sign In