Standard of Excellence: Seven Things Your PCB Vendor Can Teach You

anaya-headshot.jpgOne of the great things about having a good PCB vendor is that they can teach you and keep you informed about when it comes to their technologies, products, and business. Just as you and your company are experts in your technology, they are experts in theirs. And if they are true partners, they will be happy to keep you well-informed about everything related to PCBs.

There is a motto in the PCB industry that goes something like this: “More informed customers are the best customers.” Of course, this is true for all technologies. So, why not use your PCB vendors to keep you informed about their products? The more they do this, the more valuable they will be, and the better a customer you will be.

However, you must trust your PCB supplier. Some suppliers will not give you the best answers about their technology but rather the answers they want you to hear because they know it will lead to a sale in the end. You have to be discerning enough to know when you are getting straight industry-based answers, and when you are getting skewed company-based answers intended to drive you to buy boards from them.

Here are seven things that your trusted PCB vendor and partner should always keep you informed about:

  1. The latest in laminates: There are so many new products issued every year that a good PCB vendor will take the time to keep you informed about what they are and what they do as well as which ones are good and which ones can be interchanged. This is especially important for your designers to know.
  2. New equipment: It’s vital that your vendor tells you about any new equipment available to them, what they have bought, why they are buying it, and how it will improve their capabilities to produce your products better.
  3. Changing trends in their supply chain: Is the price of gold or copper going up? Are they having a hard time getting laminates? Anything that can affect their supply chain will affect their ability to provide you boards, so they need to keep you knowledgeable about any changes in the supplies they buy to build your boards.
  4. New trends in technology: Your vendor should inform you of new technologies and how they apply to your products such as HDI, heavy copper, microvias, etc. This is especially vital if the changes and improvements will directly affect your PCBs.
  5. General market trends: Are all the shops busy or empty? Is this a good time to place annual buys so that you will not have to worry about shortages later in the year? Or maybe you need a reminder about how Chinese New Year could affect your offshore PCB buys. Your vendor should tell you about anything that is going on in the market that you need to know about to keep your PCB supply chain running smoothly and successfully.
  6. New laws and regulations: For example, think about how lead-free laws affected your PCB supplier and yourself since the industry was forced to remove the lead from end products very suddenly. You need to know about these kinds of rules well in advance.
  7. How to pretreat your PCBs: We all know that you’re supposed to pretreat your PCBs before assembling them, and a good supplier will make you aware of this. They will tell you about the shelf life of her boards whether your company is located in arid Arizona or the humid Everglades of Florida. This makes big difference how long your boards can be on the shelf, what you need to do to them when you take them off that shelf, and how to prepare to use them.

Overall, there are going to be times when what your PCB supplier has to tell you will hurt them, and they should tell you the truth for your own good no matter what. For example, a new laminate might come out that will make it easier for them to process your boards or a new technique that could save you a lot of money on the unit price of the board. It is important that you are comfortable enough with your suppliers to count on them being forthright when it comes to telling you about new, cost-saving innovations even if it means they will make less money. This is when you know who you can trust and who you cannot. If your supplier is open, honest, and willing to put your interests ahead of their own, I would urge you to keep them around. That is the type of PCB supplier you want to have for life!

Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits.

Visit I-007eBooks to download your copies of American Standard Circuits' books today: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex.

 

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2019

Standard of Excellence: Seven Things Your PCB Vendor Can Teach You

02-19-2019

One of the great things about having a good PCB vendor is that they can teach you and keep you informed about when it comes to their technologies, products, and business. Just as you and your company are experts in your technology, they are experts in theirs.

View Story

Standard of Excellence: Keep Your PCB Supplier Sharp

01-15-2019

The best way to create a solid and productive partnership with your PCB supplier—and all of your suppliers for that matter—is to keep an open line of communication with them. No matter what kind of relationship you currently have with your suppliers, you can never communicate enough. Let them know at all times what you need from them.

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2018

Standard of Excellence: Preparing Your Vendors for the Future

12-03-2018

Now, it’s time to talk about the future with your PCB vendors. Referring to our previous columns, if you’ve done everything right so far, you will now have a strong working relationship with your PCB supplier. They understand all they need to know to fabricate perfect boards for you at this time. With trust and respect between you, you’ve truly formed a strong partnership going into the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Forging Partnerships Through Adversity and Problem Solving

10-29-2018

For the past few months, this column has discussed how to find and work with a great PCB vendor, and most importantly, how to form a strong, productive partnership. This month, Anaya Vardya will address how adversity can forge a great partnership between you and your PCB vendor that will last for life.

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Standard of Excellence: Working for the Future—Partnering with PCB Vendors on Innovative Technology

10-01-2018

The true test of the vendor-customer relationship comes when you need innovative PCBs—boards that are not easily found in the common marketplace and are so technologically advanced that they require your designers and suppliers to work together to go where neither has before.

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Standard of Excellence: Preparing for the Future with the Right Supplier

08-13-2018

Is your PCB supplier ready to take you into the future? Sure, they are doing a good job today, but what about tomorrow? What will happen when new designs require boards to be made with thermal or RF materials, or have lines widths down to two mils?

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Material Selection: The Key to RF/Microwave Success

07-23-2018

This month's column is written by Anaya Vardya and John Bushie. In today’s environment, there are a number of suppliers that may have similar materials but price points and lead times may vary. If you are open to trying different options, it is a good idea to work closely with your PCB fabricator so they can educate you on these aspects. Another option is to do parallel builds with multiple materials in the early stages of honing a new design to determine the optimum material set.

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Standard of Excellence: Making Your PCB Fabricator Your PCB Partner

06-12-2018

Are your PCB needs exceeding your vendor base’s capabilities? Do you feel that your suppliers are no longer able to keep up with your PCB needs? Do your designers feel limited by your vendors’ limited capabilities? Are you finding an issue locating alternate sources for PCBs due to the consolidation of the larger shops in our industry? If so, you are not alone.

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Standard of Excellence: 5 Things a Total Global Solutions Supplier Can Provide

01-10-2018

Our world now extends far beyond the traditional brick and mortar of the domestic board suppliers of yesteryear. Now our customers demand that PCB fabricators provide them with a complete and total printed circuit board solution, from domestically built ITAR-registered defense and aerospace boards to high-volume, offshore solutions.

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2017

Standard of Excellence: Customers are Shooting for the Stars—Are We Coming?

08-17-2017

For years we have been calling them “science projects,” those PCB orders that did not quite fit into our normal process stream and therefore needed special attention, as well as special handling. Often, we have had to use trial and error to come up with just the right process to successfully complete the order.

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Standard of Excellence: The Challenges of Hiring Good People and Methods for Success

05-17-2017

Increasingly, we hear about the challenges of finding and hiring good people in our industry. We are being hit on all sides; much of our work force is aging out while young people don’t seem to be too interested in joining the printed circuit board industry. Let’s face facts: Fewer young people are going to college to become circuit board process engineers.

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Standard of Excellence: The Advantages of Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuits

05-01-2017

Since their introduction, flexible and rigid-flex circuits have been steadily moving from the fringe of electronic interconnection towards its center. Today, flex and rigid-flex circuits are found in countless products from the very simple to the highly complex. The reasons for this shift to the center are numerous; most of them are related to the advantages they offer. An examination of some of the benefits and advantages will make this clear.

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Standard of Excellence: Staying Prepared with Operations

03-08-2017

Handling the operations of a PCB company these days is a challenge, to say the least. When I started in 1979, we were building single-sided, double-sided, four-layer multilayers, and the occasional six-layer if you really had your act together. We were using FR-4 materials sprinkled in with an occasional polyimide build.

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2016

Standard of Excellence: Selling Technology—A PCB Engineer Transitions to Sales

12-21-2016

Selling technology today takes a great deal of time, patience and most of all knowledge of the product. There was a time when a salesperson was just that, a salesperson. Now, with the onset of all the new technologies, from RF and metal backed boards to flex and rigid-flex boards, to HDI and microvia boards and heavy copper boards, a salesperson must know what he’s talking about.

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Standard of Excellence: RF Microwave Technology—The Future is Now

11-29-2016

Although RF/microwave technology has been around for a considerable amount of time, many people are still not sure exactly what it is. This month, I am going to dedicate my column to explaining exactly what it is, why it is used, and in what products is it used. I’ll also discuss who needs it.

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Standard of Excellence: Let’s Get Flexible

11-18-2016

Although flex and rigid-flex technology has been around for many years, it is only in recent years that it has come into its own. The reason for the increased requirements for the flex and rigid-flex technology is simple: Devices are getting smaller.

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Communication Breeds Success

08-29-2016

We all need to talk to one another. You need to work closely with your customers. And we all need to work with the new generation of PCB designers and design engineers, many of whom have never set foot in a board shop. Fortunately, they make up for their lack of DFM knowledge with their hunger for information.

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The Future is in Fine Lines

07-11-2016

The age of much finer lines and spaces is upon us. After years of slowly moving towards this technology our customers are now demanding that all of us provide them with fine lines and spaces.

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LED and Metal-Backed Technology—Today and in the Future

05-25-2016

Probably one of the hottest, or should I say coolest, technologies today is LED. I would also venture to say it is one of the fastest growing as well...

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Tips for Finding a Great PCB R&D Partner

04-06-2016

This new column, Standard of Excellence, represents a cooperative writing effort by a team of experts at American Standard Circuits. This month, we begin with CEO Anaya Vardya, who focuses on R&D. In his piece, he provides his insights on what characteristics to look for in a good R&D PCB fabrication vendor partner, and a few things that are expected of them to do for you.

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