In the early days of the establishment of America, reaching the western territories from the east was a perilous undertaking. There were challenges associated with the journey itself, such as the weather and finding food and water. However, an even more dangerous risk was the possibility of running into unscrupulous individuals. Although this was a threat to pioneers, it was even more so for those carrying valuable cargo, such as payrolls for workers or money between banks. Maintaining a secure supply chain was a major concern then, and in many ways, it still is today.
Today, there are many more commodities and financial instruments whose supply chains need to be secure. This includes the components that enable your PCBs to operate. Regardless of your component procurement method, there are many threats to this supply chain. Some are internal to the board development process, while others are external. Below, we discuss supply chain security for circuit board components, including common threats and strategies to mitigate them.
Security Threats for Circuit Board Components Explained
It can be argued that the component selection is the most important aspect of circuit board design. After all, virtually all aspects of your PCB layout, which determines the manufacturability of your board and its performance, are directly or indirectly related to your component choices. For these and other reasons, you should strive to ensure the integrity of your component supply chain. The most common threats to your development are the following:
Most Common Component Supply Chain Security Threats
Broadly, counterfeit components are any components that wind up on your board but are not the intended ones from a legitimate supplier. Interjecting counterfeit components into legitimate electronic devices is a large and thriving business. Unfortunately, the diligence to fight against this encroachment varies, inadvertently supporting this external threat.
The supply chain for your components extends beyond the initial production run. However, there exists the possibility that a component may be discontinued or upgraded after your device or product has been deployed. These occurrences fall under component obsolescence. In contrast to counterfeiting, this is not a malicious threat. Nevertheless, it can have serious negative implications for your production.
Another threat to your component supply chain is a shortage, such as the one that is currently impacting the availability of multi-layer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs). Shortages are very difficult to predict; however, the effects can be quite significant, including contributing to price spikes.
Although supply chain threats can be costly, there are steps you can take to mitigate them.
How to Mitigate Component Supply Chain Threats
The three component supply chain threats listed above are the most common. Of these, the one that garners the most attention is counterfeit electronic components, as these are typically intentional attempts that undermine the quality and reliability of electronic products and the systems of which they comprise. For critical systems such as medical devices and aerospace where quality and reliability cannot be compromised, there are specific strict regulatory requirements in place to avoid counterfeit and inferior components. Even if you are not developing critical system boards, there are steps that you can take to mitigate threats to your circuit board component supply chain, such as those listed below:
- Select components from reputable suppliers
Probably, the most important step you can take to secure your supply chain is to source components from reputable vendors or distributors. For example, distributors that will not or cannot furnish you with appropriate component data and documentation, such as datasheets, should be shunned.
- Plan for the future
When selecting components, you should consider the component lifecycle. Components that are planned for phaseout should be avoided. Being aware of component availability may require some additional work up front; however, it can save you a lot of time and loss profit once your device is in production.
- Source alternatives
It is almost impossible to predict or plan for when a shortage may hit the market. The next best action is to source alternatives for your components. This will allow you to make substitutions to your board’s manufacturing with minimal loss of time. However, substitutions should not only perform similarly to your primary or first choice components but also utilize the same packaging. Otherwise, design changes to your layout will be required.
One of the greatest threats to the quality and reliability of electronic circuit boards and products is securing the component supply chain. However, by taking some dedicated steps, these threats can be reduced, if not eliminated. At Tempo Automation, the industry premier turnkey PCB manufacturer for prototyping and low-volume production, we include actions that guard against supply chain threats. For instance, although component selection is a design-related responsibility, we make every attempt to only source from well-known reliable suppliers.
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We also work with you to produce the highest-quality boards for your design. And to help you get started on that 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 supply chain security for your circuit board components, contact us.