One of the greatest joys and responsibilities in life is parenthood. The responsibility aspect is immediately apparent from your child’s first late-night alert that it is time to eat. Eventually, these moments of blissfulness are replaced by other demands that are more difficult to satisfy. Yet, they must be satisfied and in a timely manner. Some needs cannot be delayed.
Similarly, there are projects that are time-sensitive and require that you receive your boards when you need them from your contract manufacturer (CM). In these cases, what may seem like normal quote delays and turnaround times of weeks or even months are not acceptable. In fact, it is not unreasonable for designers, developers, and enterprises to have an expectation of receiving their boards when needed in all cases. To meet this objective, CMs must have in place a system that can deliver PCB manufacturing on demand. Let’s see what that means in terms of functionality, capability, and the relationship between developer and CM.
Getting Your Boards When You Need Them
Failing to plan is planning to fail. However, it is not possible to plan for all possible contingencies. And despite the greatest efforts, there will be times when an unexpected urgency will arise. This could be due to customer demand, change in an industry-standard, unforeseen component shortage(s), or an environmental change. Regardless of the source, when confronted with one of these types of contingencies that can threaten your ability to meet scheduled delivery, you need a CM that is capable of meeting the challenge.
The ability to adjust quickly to changes, which requires that your CM have an agile manufacturing process, is essential to meet your urgent demand for high-quality boards. However, there are other requirements; such as the ability to produce various PCBA manufacturing levels as needed, and fast turnaround time. In order to provide the agility, flexibility, and speed necessary to deliver high-quality boards when you need them, your CM must be capable of PCBA manufacturing on demand.
Attributes of PCBA Manufacturing on Demand
Whether a startup, established small business, or enterprise, many OEMs employ a just-in-time (JIT) philosophy of product delivery to their customers. The advantages of this approach are reduced costs for line-items; such as storage capacity, utilities, and other overhead. Additionally, lean manufacturing techniques can be utilized for internal production operations to improve efficiency. In the electronics industry, this option is typically not available as virtually all PCBAs are produced by outsourcing to CMs.
This reliance on CMs for a prime product such as electronic circuit boards means that the efficiency of your operations, as well as the timeliness of your ability to deliver to your customers, depends upon your CM’s capabilities and your relationship with them. In order to incorporate a JIT approach, your CM must be able to produce PCBAs when you need them. This type of PCBA manufacturing on demand requires the following:
PCBA Manufacturing On Demand Attributes
- Symbiotic Developer-CM Relationship
To facilitate an optimal board building process, your CM must have and be clear about the design intent and your design must accurately incorporate your CM’s DFM rules and guidelines. The simultaneous achievement of these goals is essentially the bringing of the factory to the designer, where open, transparent access to the manufacturing process status of the board is available.
- Universal Data Access
Not only does the developer need unfettered access to data about the manufacturing process, but the process must provide universal data access (UDI); including the availability of pertinent data and information to all entities and equipment that assist in the process.
- Optimal Data Supply Chain Management
UDI is not possible without superior data supply chain management. That is the control and monitoring of all inputs, outputs, and processing that occurs during and to support the PCBA manufacturing process.
- Agile Manufacturing Process
The ability to institute changes without new equipment or resource acquisition and without any appreciable change in turnaround time or sacrificing board quality is essential for on-demand board manufacturing.
- Fast Turnaround Time
Obviously, speed is at a premium. This is even more important for prototype iterations that are required to achieve the best design quality.
As the list above illustrates, data exchange, access, and management are critical elements of PCBA manufacturing demand. And the coordination of this data is best embodied in digital thread manufacturing, which is an advanced software-based approach to building boards that utilizes smart equipment and the cloud to raise PCBA manufacturing to an advanced level as compared to the contemporary process, as shown in the table below.
Contemporary Versus On-Demand PCBA Manufacturing
CONTEMPORARY PCBA MANUFACTURING
PCBA MANUFACTURING ON DEMAND
|Days to weeks||Time for quote||Within one day|
|Phone and email||Communication||Cloud-based, transparent, 24/7|
|May be extensive||Delivery response to design changes||No appreciable increase|
|Varies, but may be extensive||Board Storage||Minimal|
|Black box||Developer-CM relationship||White box|
|Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
Even with the best planning, circumstances can still arise that threaten your ability to meet delivery obligations. However, if you work with a CM that is capable of delivering the number of boards you need when you need them, you can avoid the consequences of failing to satisfy delivery requirements.
At Tempo Automation, the leading manufacturer of high-quality PCBAs, quickly in the industry, we employ a software-based digital thread approach to board building meant to help you meet your design and schedule needs.
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.