How to Cut Costs by Improving Quality During Contract Assembly

With so many manufacturers faced with the prospect of cutting quality in order to cut costs – we’ve learned that a more quality-oriented alternative isn’t just possible, but more viable and effective in the long-term. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the contract assembly process a critical opportunity to add value and lower costs.

In addition to being low-cost, a company’s PCBA must function well—which means that the assembly process must take into account the tolerances of both the board and its included components. A properly designed PCBA helps to improve quality, reduce manufacturing time and lower product cost.

Quality assembly takes every factor into consideration to help eliminate errors and prevent costly delays. Following, you will find the hallmarks of our approach to maximizing quality and savings throughout the contract surface mount assembly process.

  • Identify build standards and assembly documentation early: IPC-A-610 is accepted worldwide as a standard for high-quality, high-reliability PCBA assemblies. Some assemblies may require different workmanship standards as laid down by IPC-A-610.
  • Maximize automation: The more hand assembly you rely on, the greater your costs will be. It’s that simple. There are plenty of automated contract manufacturing companies in the U.S. and abroad that can help you keep costs low.
  • Minimize damage with careful placement: Components should be placed 6.35 mm from the PCB edge. With regard to potential damage during depanelization, parallel to the edge is better.
  • Plan for delicate components: Delicate components, such as ceramic capacitors, are at risk of cracking when they are placed too close to the edge. Manufacturing equipment clamping mechanisms require un-obstructed room to grab the PCB effectively.
  • Component spacing is critical: This is particularly true around ball grid assemblies (BGAs)—.150″ spacing is recommended. This spacing allows enough room for hot air rework tools if upgrades or replacement is required.

Bonus Tip: Good Assembly Documentation is Vital

In addition to all of the above steps. High-quality assembly at an efficient price can never come if expectations and specifications aren’t clear. This is where assembly documentation comes in.

  • Specify the Solder Type: In order to prevent unwanted delays or expenses, assembly documentation should always specify the solder type. Whether it’s  tin-lead material or RoHS and Flux, this is the type of essential information that should be readily available.
  • Include labeling and traceability requirements:  Identifying product labeling and traceability requirements on assembly documentation is an extra step that can severely reduce headaches further down the line. The label location should be identified with a box in the silkscreen layer.

Better contract assembly is something Distron takes seriously. Contact us today to learn how. For insight into how we approach efficient and effective contract manufacturing for a wide variety of specifications, visit our case studies page.

 


How to Raise the Bottom Line on the Bill of Materials

Lately, we’ve used our blog to discuss an important topic for manufacturers everywhere: cutting costs without going offshore. Previously, we covered how to manufacture a lower cost circuit board assembly through smart design and smart communication. 

Today, we’re talking about how to achieve a low-cost BOM.

It Starts with Supply Chain Expertise
(But there’s more…)

Supply chain expertise is required for a low-cost BOM—but it’s not the only element that requires care and attention. In order to smooth the actual process of assembly, PCBA designers must work closely with contract manufacturers as well as component suppliers.

For a lower-cost bill of materials, try to follow these guidelines.

  • The contract manufacturer and the client company need to be on the exact same page regarding the BOM. Therefore, each component needs to have comprehensive documentation: manufacturer and manufacturers’ part number, a quantity per assembly, a reference designator, and a part description. This last must include general information like commodity type, package size, and a component footprint.
  • Designers should select components for availability first, then unit cost, and then package size (again, with an eye toward minimizing the size of the PCB).
  • Provide multiple sources, or allow for equivalent parts, particularly for passive components such as resistors, capacitors, and diodes.
  • Standard component packages from standard manufacturers will tend to have the highest availability—use these whenever possible. Components that are in production and available through a source such as Digi-key will fit these criteria, with a reasonable lead time.
  • SMT components tend to be smaller and less expensive, and can be mounted to both sides of a board, increasing flexibility in design. For all the most rugged applications, SMT components should be considered before through-hole components. For more guidance as to which components to select for various use-cases, work with a Field Application Engineer from a major distributor.

Have a question about contract manufacturing or assembly? Trust the expertise of New England’s first electronic contract manufacturing company. 


Designing a Lower-Cost Circuit Board Assembly

There’s an old adage in manufacturing:  “Cost, quality, and delivery: pick two.”

Like many old sayings, this is an oversimplification. Manufacturers can create a lower-cost, high-quality product with diminished lead time – even for complex products such as printed circuit boards. The key lies in careful planning and clever design, focusing on ease of manufacture.

The Manufacture of a PCBA Consists of Four Cost Elements

  1. ·     The PCB fabrication including copper, gold,  epoxy and laminates.
  2. ·     The electronic components on the bill of material.
  3. ·     The cost of assembling the components to the board.
  4. ·     Testing the finished printed circuit board assembly.

Manufacturing a PCBA? Follow Our Cost Saving Tips

Working with an experienced contract manufacturer allows companies to minimize the cost of fabrication, raw materials, assembly and testing. Input from a good CM will result in a lower-cost PCBA that doesn’t sacrifice quality or functionality

When it comes to PCBA manufacturing, cost and quality don’t have to be at odds. Have a question about the process? Our expertise provides the answer. 

Reducing PCB Fabricating Cost through Smart Design

The PCB is the centerpiece of a design. To minimize cost during fabrication, it is imperative to focus on a few key design principles. Including the following: 

  • Aim for the smallest board dimension and the fewest number of layers. Minimize the amount of gold and copper. Adhere closely standard materials and equivalents laid down in IPC-4101.
  • Specify standard green solder mask and a standard RoHS surface finish such as HASL for low complexity PCBs. For medium to high complexity boards, HASL is not preferred since it does not provide a flat surface. In this case, Immersion Gold is the preferred finish.
  • When designing PCBs to endure a high thermal load, note that the glass transition temperature (Tg) isn’t a measure of the maximum operating temperature—rather, the board will be able to operate at this temperature only for a short period of time.
  • Placing fiducials on the top copper layer of a board allows pick-and-place vision systems to detect boards more accurately.
  • Where possible, allow X-outs (defective boards on a panel) as this will ensure higher yields for the manufacturer and lower product cost for the customer
  • V-scoring, as opposed to routing, is recommended as the best, most cost-effective way to break out boards from a multi-up array. Routing will usually leave excess material on the edge of a board after separation.

Reducing PCB Design Through Smart Communication

Communication is an important factor in just about any relationship. But when it comes to manufacturing for electronic products – open lines of communication and collaboration with fabricators are absolutely essential.

  • Use clarity in design documents, and again communicate clearly with fabricators.
  • Not every fabricator will be able to replicate a particular laminate stack-up. Up front, define the minimum trace width, the minimum distance between traces, and the smallest hole diameter.
  • Allow the board fabricator to design the multi-up pallet for smaller boards.
  • Ensure that the fabricator knows the material specifications of the PCB laminate by indicating this in the fabrication drawing. For ROHS assemblies, the laminate must have a Tg greater than or equal to 175 degrees C.
  • Upon PCB design completion provide the contract manufacturer with Gerber files and dimensional drill drawings. Make sure to include fabrication notes on the drill drawing with specifications.

Smart Design and smart communication – that’s all it takes. Have a question about contract circuit board assembly? Distron has the answer.

 


Reducing Costs and Carbon Footprint

Opportunities at home and a closing cost gap with overseas sourcing are making domestic manufacturing an increasingly attractive option

U.S. OEMs that go overseas to reduce production costs often don’t realize they can still save money by using a local contract manufacturer. Consider some of the realities facing OEMs, domestic contract manufacturers, and their overseas competitors.

The Cost Gap is Closing: a 2015 study by the Boston Consulting Group has estimated that the cost gap between U.S. Manufacturing and Offshore

Manufacturing (particularly Chinese manufacturing) will continue to shrink.

In fact, the BCG reports “Within 5 years, the total cost of production for many products will be only about 10 to 15 percent less in Chinese coastal cities than in some parts of the U.S.1”

Once OEMs factor in critical aspects like shipping, inventory, and other incidentals – it becomes quickly apparent that the cost gap between U.S. manufacturing VS. sourcing in China is growing ever-smaller.

But Why?

This closing cost gap is due to a number of factors ranging from rapidly rising wages in China, lower energy costs, better quality control in the U.S., and lower transportation costs.

Overseas Travel is Expensive: The hidden costs associated with overseas travel can quickly eat up much of the savings OEMS might otherwise realize. By relying on overseas manufacturers, OEMS must also contend with the big bill of overseas travel. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, meals, and a wide variety of incidentals that can add up fast. It’s far more affordable to compensate employees who drive to a nearby contract manufacturer or even fly domestically.

Domestic Delivery Can Offer Major Cost Savings: When completed components and finished products are shipped to OEMs – and if needed, their customers – domestic shipping can be a boon to your bottom line. Additionally, materials that aren’t shipped across international borders don’t require extensive packaging. A local contract manufacturer can protect materials with reusable packaging and plastic totes, eliminating the need to use new cardboard and bubble wrap and cutting the cost of disposal for the customer. Money is saved and the carbon footprint of delivery is greatly reduced.


When it Comes to American Vs. Overseas Manufacturing: Standards and Regulations Make a BIG Difference

Choosing American Production Guards You in More Ways Than One

The news has been littered with stories over the years about overseas manufacturers stealing the intellectual property of U.S. companies. It’s gotten so serious that some U.S. companies have abandoned overseas manufacturing and returned home altogether.

Due to a combination of lax government enforcement of trade and patent laws and the highly variable nature of actually enforcing intellectual property rights internationally, protecting your intellectual property can sometimes become another hidden cost of manufacturing off-shore.  is a virtual non-issue with the combination of an American manufacturer and a simple confidentiality agreement.

In America, an NDA, confidentiality agreement, and well-established laws make this a virtual non-issue.

This has proven especially true when it comes to small and medium sized businesses, who – unlike large, corporations – possess few tangible resources outside their intellectual property itself. In the U.S. IP protection is comparably simple. In turn, U.S. contract manufacturers believe honesty is the best policy and carefully safeguard every customer’s intellectual property.

Benefit from the Best Available Safety and Environmental Standards

In the U.S. OEMs aren’t just protected in terms of intellectual property. Domestic contract manufacturers must also follow strict environmental standards. Hazardous chemicals must be properly disposed and the Environmental Protection Agency requires companies to fully comply.

Additionally, it’s incredibly difficult for manufacturers in the U.S. to cut corners when it comes to material quality. For every manufacturing relationship, keeping costs low and quality high is the name of the game. However, through a combination of distance and a higher degree of government oversight, quality can tend to fade over time when manufacturing happens thousands of miles away. Not only does this carry the risk of both reduced product quality, but also a reduction in reputation. Some worst-case scenarios have even seen products in various industries marred by unacceptable and even illegal levels of dangerous materials – all in an effort to cut costs lower and keep business overseas.

Ultimately, when it comes to overseas manufacturing – there’s often no telling what environmental and safety standards manufacturers follow.


How Automation, Communication, and Closer Relationships Close the Gap Between In-Sourcing VS Offshore Manufacturing:

 

When it comes to making the (hard) decision to choose onshore vs offshore manufacturing, there’s often a misconception that the cost-savings with offshore electronic manufacturing simply can’t be beat.

The reality is that the political climate and changing working conditions overseas up-end this trend.

Better communication, more rigorous best practices, and robust automated assembly capabilities have proven to close the gap when it comes to offering greater value for OEMs

Competitive Automated Assembly Costs Make a Difference

There’s no denying that U.S. companies can’t drop to the low wages that foreign companies pay their manufacturing workers. Minimum wage laws, for one, ensure that U.S. laborers won’t be paid as little as many overseas workers are.

On top of this, U.S. workers assume pride, loyalty, and professionalism when they’re paid a fair wage. That won’t happen if they’re making the same money as a Chinese assembler. U.S. contract manufacturers can be competitive with the rest of the world, however, in automated assembly. Citing the Boston Consulting Group’s study, USA today reports2 that “roughly 1.2 million additional advanced robots are expected to be deployed in the U.S. by 2025” with the computer and electronics industry one of the few leading the charge – all due to the major cost savings delivered by the process, regardless of location.

This enables American companies to reap the benefit of low-cost manufacturing, while simultaneously gaining access to the communication, quality, and “just-in-time” capabilities provided by domestic contract manufacturers.

Add on tariffs, custom-delays, long cycle times, freight costs, and all of the hidden costs inherent with offshoring, and it becomes clear that U.S. built product is capable of delivering the same cost savings. Better yet, they can do it almost dollar for dollar compared with contract manufacturers in other countries.

Quality Communication Translates into Quality Products, Delivered On-Time

From the prevention of communication breakdowns to closer working relationships, onshore manufacturing has proven to reduce wasted product and costly delays.

If an OEM needs to contact an overseas contract manufacturer, it’s not always easy. First, time zones and business hours need to align. If a connection is made, the representative on the other end might not speak English. It’s one thing to exchange simple pleasantries when there’s a language gap but intricate business details are a whole other matter. Contract manufacturers in the U.S. handle customer service in English; its employees fluently speak the language of the customers. This means that orders are processed clearly and without confusion.

“What happens when communication doesn’t work?

Basically, anything can happen—and whatever happens is likely to do so in an uncontrolled manner, where the key players no longer know what is going on and therefore cannot steer things in the right direction.

Releasing a new product?

Efficient and fast communication is particularly important for OEMs releasing a new product. Having manufacturing close by, and working with a contract manufacturer that understands what’s needed and can articulate its instructions, ensures that new product introduction will proceed smoothly.

It’s critical for an OEM to hit its production target windows. With only a short drive or domestic flight standing between you and your manufacturer,  the proper resources  can easily be assigned to ensure fast development and on-demand changes.

Close Working Relationships Create A Culture of Trust

It’s not only the new products that require collaboration and attention to detail. OEMs and local contract manufacturers can work closely on all products. If an electromechanical manufacturer is only a few highway exits away, an OEM can verify – in person – if its product is being built correctly using the specified components, materials, and methods. Contract manufacturers in China and other foreign countries are known to promise one type of component but then substitute a cheaper alternative. Ultimately, the quality of the working relationship comes down to

Information sharing, communication quality, and interfirm adaptation emerged as three significant contributors to the vendor’s trust in the client; goal setting and cultural blending turned out to be significant in influencing the client’s control over the vendor.

When a product is built locally, it can be delivered locally. It arrives in only a matter of days or hours, if required. Products made overseas take weeks or months to arrive by boat. Also, OEMs occasionally need to deliver a product to their customers overnight, which means the contract manufacturer has to deliver the product overnight to the OEM. A local contract manufacturer is better positioned to provide an OEM product fulfillment service, shipping directly to the end customer.


Staying Local: More than Just a Feel-Good Catchphrase when it Comes to Manufacturing

buy-manufacturing-local

From supporting local economies to more effective disaster management, manufacturing locally keeps U.S. companies in control of their economies and their products.

Buying Local Supports the Local Economy
Manufacturing locally, at its most fundamental level, supports a local economy. The circles of this local work ripple through many organizations and strengthen the U.S. economy. In addition, companies that produce in the U.S. pay taxes to the U.S. government.

Many small- to-mid-sized OEMs aren’t scaled to handle the nuances of offshore production, and prefer to have an intimate relationship with their electronic contract manufacturer.”

But there are other benefits to keeping the manufacturing chain local. For instance, many small- to-mid-sized OEMs aren’t scaled to handle the nuances of offshore production. Companies like these prefer to have an intimate relationship with their electronic contract manufacturer. For them, the close support throughout the design and production process helps realize a better end-product capable of delivering greater value in the long-run.

This relationship also proves beneficial when OEMs require last-minute product changes. An OEM, for example, might realize there is a design problem and it needs to change a circuit board layout. If it relies on an overseas manufacturer, an OEM has to relay the desired changes through emails, phone calls and video conferences if it can’t quickly jump on a plane. Working with a local contract manufacturer enables representatives to simply jump in a car (or a short flight) and go over product changes in person, alleviating confusion and saving time. A local manufacturer can react to those changes quickly and efficiently.

Close production ties also provide the flexibility to ramp-up or ramp-down production at almost a moment’s notice. Usually, ramping-up can be difficult to achieve, but a contract manufacturer that’s equipped to change production can handle an order increase without difficulty. It can also change the product requirements of an order without hesitation.

Flexibility, fast delivery, adherence to specifications – these aren’t promises that are made to be broken. Unlike an overseas manufacturer that can duck the tough questions and not answer why it didn’t uphold its end of the bargain, a U.S. manufacturer stands by its word. It’s easy to hide when you’re overseas.

offshore-manufacturing-vs-local-manufacturing-whitepaper-study


Stay Home, Manufacture Locally

Did you know?

In 2010, the consulting firm Grant Thornton found that 44% of respondents perceived no benefit from overseas manufacturing, while another 7 percent believed that offshoring had actually caused them harm.

Source: http://www.assemblymag.com/articles/88601-reshoring-bringing-it-all-back-home

offshore-vs-domestic-manufacturing

Fast forward to the present day, and the average wage of previously “cheap” offshore labor continues to rise – demonstrating that the value-gap continues to close.

So, does manufacturing “at home” mean OEMs have to suffer? No! Through geography, closer working relationships, and the expectations and regulations of the U.S. market – not only are both parties kept honest, but the manufacturer and their client give new meaning to the term “domestic partnership.”

Sure, overseas manufacturers offer reduced manual labor costs, but at what hidden cost?

You can’t recover your stolen intellectual property, be sure that environmental and safety standards were properly followed or, most importantly, walk onto the manufacturing floor to tweak the scheme of your product if you go outside the U.S.

A contract manufacturer in the U.S. aims for responsiveness, timeliness and full support. Its workers have high expectations for the products they deliver, and they believe in accountability. You can’t get that overseas. You can get it locally.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of contract manufacturing in America vs. Overseas?  Our mission is to be the authority. Click below to read the full white paper.

offshore-manufacturing-vs-local-manufacturing-whitepaper-study

 


Increase Your Bottom Line With Electronic Manufacturing Services

If you stop and take a look around, you can see that manufacturing plays a major role in our day to day lives. From the keyboard that is being used to type this article to the screen that is used to display it. In addition electronic components in your car, home and cell phone reply on some sort of electronic manufacturing service. Today these manufacturing services are highly specialized to specific product needs and requirements.

One would define electronic manufacturing services as a term used for companies that design, test, manufacture, repair and manage the supply chain for electronic parts and components. In today’s world, electronics are becoming faster and more sophisticated on what seems like a weekly basis. With this we have seen the complexity of operations increase rapidly and the need for electronic manufacturing services increase.

By completing the defined tasks listed above the customer is freed from many responsibilities. The customer then does not need to keep large inventories of products. In case of a rapid spike in demand for a product, the electronic manufacturing services company will be prepared to handle the new demand. They are also more readily equipped to have a faster and more productive turnaround.

This process is a cost efficient way for businesses to streamline their operations on a daily basis. The growth of these electronic manufacturers is increasing year to year as customers bottom lines improve. One of the leading reasons why companies are outsourcing manufacturing services is due to the fact that these business services have many more resources to obtain the raw materials that are needed for electronic components. The cost to obtain the parts themselves can be time consuming and expensive for businesses. When customers commit to outsourcing it is then the manufacturers’ responsibility to be the material handler from start to finish. These outfits already have established connections to obtain the necessary materials that are needed to complete your project on time.

Successful outsourcing programs will help decrease or possibly eliminate the downtimes that electronic companies may have previously experienced. We all know that meeting deadlines is critical for company reputation and profitability. Companies who are not familiar with large runs of a product could be at risk of having their supplier not send parts in time to keep assembly lines in motion. Also when considering a partnership with an outsourcer you might consider asking for the company’s delivery policy to ensure that all product delivery deadlines are met to your satisfactory.

Would you like to know more about Electronic Manufacturing Services at Distron? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


What to Look for in an Electronic Contract Manufacturer

Electronic contract manufacturing plays a vital role for businesses and industries around the world. But before getting into what separates the good from the bad, a brief definition of an electronic contract manufacturer might help.

On a very basic level, electronic contract manufacturers like Distron (otherwise known as “ECMs”) use advanced manufacturing technology and machinery to produce the intricate components many of our electronics rely on.

A number of industries take advantage of electronic contract manufacturing when they need a fast, effective, and reliable source for complex assembly. These industries often include the aerospace, defense, computer, semiconductor, energy, medical, food manufacturing, personal care, and automotive fields.

One of the most common fallacies these days is that all of the electronic contract manufacturing businesses have moved overseas in search of greater cost savings. Apart from being living proof that this isn’t true, Distron is proud to be proof that this fallacy isn’t exactly true — especially for high precision applications in the aerospace, defense, and medical industries.

But what makes a good electronic manufacturer? When looking for the right contract manufacturer for your project, you must make a few considerations. At Distron, we take all of the following into mind when optimizing our processes, services, and customer support.

Relationships:

Will another contract manufacturer push you to the bottom of the queue when a high-volume project comes along and demands next-day delivery?

At Distron, when we’re working on your project — you are number one. For any contract manufacturer, relationships are important. As a business, you have to be confident that your manufacturing will be completed in a timely fashion — not pushed back because something else came along.

What is best, is what Distron offers. A real relationship from as early as the prototype stage to full production. This gives us a full understanding of your product and the ability to identify any ways to improve it, while avoiding costly pitfalls and delays. This dedication to an actual relationship ensures that you get the patience, time, and resources necessary when it comes to developing a product that has been designed and optimized for quality and cost efficiency.

Staying Competitive:

Any good electronic contract manufacturer should be focused on helping you stay competitive. This is particularly true at Distron, where our specialty is working with small to medium sized companies. This involves a variety of processes ranging from helping you stay up to date with industry trends to helping you prepare for various regulations pertinent to your products or components.

Flexibility:

Because of the variety of different products and components that rely on effective ECM, a good provider should be able to demonstrate a high degree of flexibility in terms of its structure, processes, and equipment. Flexibility is absolutely necessary when it comes to accommodating various customers, products, and timelines. At Distron, we accomplish this flexibility by offering a wide variety of services ranging from PCB assembly, supply chain management and BGA repair to comprehensive inspection and testing services. At the same time, remaining flexible also means having strong distributor relationships for greater cost efficiency and reliability.

When all of these factors come together, businesses get a contract manufacturing resource that offers the many benefits of manufacturing in America with a level of cost efficiency comparable to off-shore manufacturing.

Would you like to know more about contract manufacturing at Distron? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.