When outsourcing your printed circuit board (PCB), electronics box build, or cable assembly to an electronics contract manufacturer, you expect a fast, accurate quote up front. It’s in the best interest of both OEM and manufacturer to prioritize accuracy from the beginning.
If the quote is too high, the manufacturer runs the risk of scaring the OEM away. A low quote may win the OEM’s business, but if it contains hidden costs it could hurt the newly formed relationship.
Here are tips on what you can do on your end to ensure your PCB quote is accurate and reduce the confusing back-and-forth that delays projects all too often:
Helpful Quoting Info for Your Electronics Contract Manufacturer
To get a quicker and more accurate quote for subcontract electronics manufacturing, focus on these four areas of detail:
- Bill of materials
- Inspection requirements
- Quantities & release sizes
Bill of Materials
One of the first things your electronics contract manufacturer (ECM) will ask for is the bill of materials, or BOM. A BOM is a comprehensive list of:
- Raw materials
- Other critical information for production manufacturing
This will be used to identify an approved list of electronic contract manufacturers and do a PCB quote comparison of components and materials. Provide the BOM in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format and be sure to allow alternates for common capacitors and resistors. When you share it with your electronics manufacturing services provider, make sure it’s a non-editable format to prevent unauthorized changes.
Consider making your BOM into a template that can be reused in the future. This will provide a sense of uniformity and prevent you from forgetting key information.
Alongside your BOM, you’ll want to provide Gerber files and PCB fabrication drawings. Fab drawings should include things like:
- Board dimensions
- Layer number
- Part number
- The most recent revisions
Contract manufacturing electronic assembly can and should include a variety of PCB testing options. Indicate which test you prefer your electronic contract manufacturing company to perform on your assembly, as well as any unique requirements:
(An IPC Standards Chart)
In addition to testing, you’ll also want to share any inspection requirements your assembly has. Many electronics contract manufacturing suppliers offer X-ray, automated optical inspection (AOI), and flying probe tests. Most assemblies need to be manufactured to certain standards, whether industry-specific or IPC-regulated. Be sure to inform your ECM which standards your assemblies need to meet as early as possible.
Quantities & Release Sizes
Lastly, be sure to include details on quantities and release sizes. This should include:
- Order quantity
- Amount of product you expect to buy in the next 12 months or estimated annual usage
- First delivery date.
If you need quick-turn prototypes, be sure to indicate so.
(An example of a RFQ checklist provided by an ECM)
Unsure What Else to Include?
If you are unsure whether you need to include certain information, reach out to your electronics contract manufacturer. (Note that working with an electronics contract manufacturer in the USA typically streamlines communication and increases speed of service.)
It’s better to double-check beforehand than risk holding up the process due to missing information after you send the BOM. Some ECMs will have a checklist of materials they require to deliver an RFQ, which can be a smart thing to hold onto even after you’re finished working with them.
Remember, each ECM is different and could expect different things from you. The best practice is to prepare your documents before you make the decision to have your assembly quoted. This way, you can adjust your information based on what your ECM requests.
In the end, receiving accurate quotes from the get-go affords you the ability to compare ECM quotes more effectively, and in the end hopefully save you time, money, and stress.
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2018 and was recently updated.)