Yesterday, Thomas Smiley posted an article on EBN Online – The Unspoken Truth about the Source of PCB Quality Problems. In it he’s implying that your PCB assembly shop can help you sort out any issues your design may have before the prototypes are even built, but in order to do that we need cooperation. Cooperation is an attitude, one in which you assume that your supplier knows what they’re doing and have probably built more designs than you can imagine. Cooperation implies sharing information, so if you don’t take the time to update or maintain your documentation or make necessary corrections, you will find that mistakes that you thought you fixed will re-occur in spite of your belief that you sorted them out on your end, because you were only thinking about.your end, not about cooperation.
One effective point of control to overcome this tendency is to make certain that your PCB supplier scrubs your documentation and alerts you to any inconsistencies or illogical requirements.
You need to give explicit directions to your supplier when you want them to do something unusual, but you might not know what’s usual and what isn’t. We can tell you what’s usual and if we don’t mention it, then it’s unusual. We find that our clients tend to give us as little information as possible, often too little, or hide special instructions in unexpected places, resulting in mistakes or unexpected results. This can cause even bigger problems if it turns out we don’t even have the capability to do what you didn’t tell us about, though if we had known about it in advance, at the quoting stage, we would have had the time to prepare, bring in new equipment, tools, supplies and train. These problems can all be reduced with an attitude of cooperation.
He’s assuming throughout his article that all assembly shops are in China. They aren’t. You should take advantage of a local shop to build your prototypes and even your early stage production to work out these sorts of issues quickly, rather than going back and forth to another continent, in another time zone, with a few days shipping delay between you. We can get you finished prototypes in as little as a week after ordering and sort out issues the same day, even do rework for you the same day for clients in Greater Vancouver.
Local suppliers aren’t just for prototypes or small volume either. Many of our clients have volume of thousands of boards but they like the flexibility of JIT (just-in-time delivery) and the ability to make changes on the fly without having to rework a lot of stock, not to mention the low likelihood of your product being counterfeited. Few designs will be unchanged through their lifetime, not just to get out of prototype stage, so if you order a large volume out of China just because it’s cheap you will find yourself not only paying carrying costs sitting on a large stock of boards, many of them may require costly rework before they are sold because of unexpected revisions due to problems in the field. We can even help you reduce problems with failures in the field with our understanding of design for reliability. After a couple of years, even a reliable working product can use some updates. Not wanting to change anything, especially out of fear, is the totally the wrong attitude for a company in the technology industry if it wants to last.
If you’re getting any feedback on your prototypes from China, it’s probably a bit of luck and bureaucracy from lack of detail of your documentation than actually caring about whether your design works or not. We’re interested in the technology industry in Vancouver and building working relationships with those companies. If your prototype succeeds, your product can succeed, your company can grow, and the community can benefit.
About the Author
Tige Gibson is an electronics engineer with over 20 years experience in design and manufacturing.