The State of PCBA Manufacturing 2020 — What Works Now

August 25, 2020 , in Blog

Early in 2020, Tempo Automation commissioned Electronic Design magazine, the largest publisher of news and information for the electronics design industry, to gather and analyze responses to a survey to ascertain the state of PCBA manufacturing from decision-makers that utilize these services. Over 500 U.S.-based companies participated and the results were presented by Tempo and Electronic Design on July 28, 2020, by webcast: The State of PCBA Manufacturing 2020 - What Works Now.

Online survey of the state of the PCBA market

These results are organized into the following three categories and summarized in this article: (1) the contract manufacturer (CM) relationship, (2) the PCBA manufacturing process, and (3) satisfaction with the current state of your PCBA manufacturing.

1. The CM Relationship

The survey results indicate the relationship with the CM is important. As shown in Fig. 1 below, for 83% of companies across industries and with varying annual revenues, more than one decision-maker is involved in selecting who will build their boards. This, coupled with the majority of respondents’ assertion that quality is the most important consideration when choosing a CM, speaks to the importance accorded to this decision.

Online survey of the state of the PCBA market

Fig. 1 CM selection factors

It is also noteworthy that a number of write-in comments to the question of “... other important considerations when selecting a CM for PCBA” mentioned the ability of the CM to handle changes. This indicates that agile manufacturing, which is a major contributor to the advances taking place in circuit board building, is also raising the bar of expectations among developers.

Another takeaway is that companies showed a preference for turnkey PCBA manufacturing where they only need work with a single CM according to over half of the respondents.

2. The PCBA Manufacturing Process

As shown in Fig. 1 of the previous section, quality was cited as far and away the most important consideration when selecting a PCBA CM. Common metrics used to quantify the quality of the PCBA manufacturing process include the results of board construction or structural integrity testing, yield rate, and risk management probability identifiers to gauge reliability once deployed. However, this survey sought to break down the process itself into specific aspects; such as the quote process, design data file format, the extent of revisions and turnaround time and qualify their importance for board developers.

The results show that Gerbers continues to be the most used design data file format for over 80% of developers, undergoing 2-3 revisions is the norm for most development processes, and email remains the primary form of communication. It is suspected that there are gains in trends; such as CAD files and the use of the cloud; however, these cannot be explicitly defined here. It is not surprising that the range of times reported to receive a quote was varied. As shown in the figure below, most developers (76%) were typically required to wait from one to several days for their quotes.

Times to receive quotes and complete boards

Fig. 2 PCBA manufacturing process quote and delivery times

The times to receive completed boards for complex designs extended upwards to more than four weeks for over 20% of the participants. Moreover, less than 10% of developers said they normally received completed PCBAs within a week.

While the amount of time required to receive quotes and completed boards is surprising, even more so is the claim made by the vast majority of respondents that their CM’s process met their expectations. As Fig. 3 below illustrates, approximately 70% indicated that their expectations were met for fabrication, assembly, quoting, and DFM. However, these process results are not necessarily indicative of the respondents’ satisfaction with their CMs, as the number of companies whose expectations were exceeded is noticeably low. At 10%, their satisfaction level is, in fact, lower by average across the four process stages than the overall satisfaction levels of those who said their CMs fell short of expectations (13.5%). Fabrication and assembly were the only two stages where 10% or more of the companies (13% and 12% respectively) lauded their CMs for exceeding expectations. We will address this in more depth in the next section.

Expectations for the PCBA manufacturing process

Fig. 3 PCBA manufacturing process expectations

3. Satisfaction with Your Current State of PCBA Manufacturing

Respondents satisfaction with their CM

Fig. 4 CM satisfaction levels per respondent

In Fig. 4 above, the level of satisfaction of participants with their CM is shown. Roughly half of the respondents are satisfied with their current CM, while the other half feel the PCBA manufacturing services they receive could be improved to some degree. The other graph above clearly indicates that companies would prefer to continuously work with a single CM.

However, changing a CM is not out of the question for most developers, as indicated in Fig. 5 below.

Potential causes of CM termination

Fig. 5 Reasons for terminating a CM

It is not a shock that a company would consider ending the relationship with a CM. However, it is interesting that the quality of the CM-developer relationship, which is exemplified by open and transparent communication, is a high priority for most respondents. This is evident by the fact that lack of transparency is sufficient cause for termination consideration by 87% of the participants, and miscommunication would cause 68% to consider ending the relationship.

The results of this survey are informative for anyone involved in the electronics design industry, but especially useful for PCBA manufacturers. There is an unmistakable level of disconnect between what most developers are receiving and what they would like to receive from their CM. Major areas of desired improvement include transparency, communication, agility, and speed.

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 PCBA industry in fast quotes and turnaround times for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing. It is a standard part of our process to run your design through a custom DFM checker prior to fabrication to ensure manufacturability and verify component availability. Additionally, we offer the option of beginning the CM-developer relationship from day one of design.

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 the current state of PCBA manufacturing, please view our presentation or contact us.

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