More manufacturers these days are realizing the benefits of using external PCB assembly services versus a DIY approach. Allowing an electronics contractor to lend its expertise has resulted in happier, more efficient OEMs.
What’s the secret to a great partnership? There are a lot, actually. A savvy PCB partner can examine your situation and offer these eight advantages:
8 Reasons to Outsource PCB Assembly Services
When it comes to PCB assembly, there's a lot to talk about. Here's a break down of the most important points to consider when thinking about assembly services.
- A lower investment
- Savings on facilities
- All around cost efficiency
- Priceless expertise
- Being able to focus on more important aspects of PCB design
- Shorter lead times
- Higher capacity
- Option for aftermarket services and obsolescence management
Let's get into it.
1. Lower Investment
Surface mount machines and quality inspection machines are a massive up-front investment. So are the costs in getting certified to manufacture PCBs (printed circuit boards) for aerospace and medical projects. And don’t forget that the new hires you’ll surely need will cost you in:
- Permanent, year-round salaries
- Health insurance
- Retirement packages
With outsourced PCB assembly, you worry about none of that. Keep your operation small, and only worry about your current employees.
2. Facility Savings
Renting or leasing warehouse space can really drain your funds, not to mention if you have to pay property taxes. That's why your electronics vendor can hold your parts in-house. You don’t have to find space for all that inventory. Your PCB manufacturer will take on the financial burden until the parts are shipped out.
This cost reduction lets you invest somewhere else in your facility -- R&D, marketing, you name it.
3. Cost Efficiency
Your electronic manufacturing services provider should already have in place an established infrastructure and well-rehearsed operation. Why spend years attempting your own?
A PCB fabrication expert will already understand the inventory management factors that affect cost efficiency, such as:
- Short part life cycles
- Price fluctuations
- Design changes
Especially if you’re a startup with little capital, it’s easier to enlist experienced and well-run circuit board assembly services instead of trying to consolidate the process yourself.
4. Rare Expertise
The specialists will always do it better.
PCB assembly services are what the contractor focuses on day in, day out. They know the industry best and are already a step ahead of you in thinking about issues you didn't even know about:
Imagine your relief when you take a project to a PCB contractor and they spot a design problem before it goes to market. Now imagine that partner offering to help you redesign or refit a board to more efficiently manufacture that product. This actually happens all the time with PCB assembly outsourcing!
5. Put Your Focus Where It Should Be
A contracted company can take a big burden off your hands.
With an OEM’s collective hands and minds free, it can instead focus on engineering or another part of the business. Maybe your resources are better suited for marketing your product or trying to break into a new market.
6. Shorter Lead Times
Your PCB contractor will almost certainly have long-standing relationships with multiple component makers. The vendor will have an established supply chain with part brokers and other folks that may benefit your lead times.
You and your facility, on the other hand, already have enough strain. It can take a large team and a lot of space to assemble circuit boards. If you have neither, you’re not going to get orders to customers very quickly.
An electronics manufacturer with a sole focus on PCBs can knock out an order far faster than your company can.
7. Higher Capacity
Outsourced PCB assembly benefits capacity much in the same way it reduces lead times: a bigger team and more space to work with.
Furthermore, a contractor will better recognize economy of scale. Once you get into the 10,000s with order volumes, you may need to redesign the board to make it more manufacturable on a larger scale. A trusted assembly service can assist with that.
And, because it always seems to come back to cost in the end, remember: If you want to assembly high-volume orders on your own, you’ll need super-expensive mounting and inspection equipment to meet capacity needs.
8. Opportunity for Aftermarket & Other Services
A PCB manufacturer can become a business partner who has a vested interest in your success. The right vendor can become your partner in everything from PCB design layout to the distribution process -- and beyond.
Such a vendor will have an on-staff engineering team to help with redesigns. If you’re trying to focus on a new product but also need someone to manufacture a legacy product, you’ve hit the motherload.
After your product hits the market, the partnership can continue. The full-service PCB vendor can perform a failure analysis to figure out how quickly products are failing out in the real world. That’s important data going right to your doorstep or inbox.
When you make it an all-in-one manufacturing experience, using contract PCB fabrication is the long-term answer.
Peace of Mind
Unless you’ve got a huge team with nothing else to do and a truckload of cash to throw at new machines (which we doubt), you’re better off outsourcing PCB services.
If you want to enjoy extra benefits like obsolescence management and design assistance, make sure that partner is an all-in-one contract manufacturer. The peace of mind will be worth it, no question.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published June, 2018, but has recently been updated.