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When you have good, long-standing relationships with your PCB suppliers, you know you can trust them. You have known them for years, visited their shops, shared your PCB needs with them, and most of all, learned through experience that you can rely on them to do what they say they are going to do. They have your back.
But let’s go back to the beginning this month and talk about when you have to get a new supplier. What happens when you have all of the suppliers you need, but a larger firm acquires one of them all of a sudden, and there is only one qualified supplier left when there used to be two. As a smart PCB user, you always want to keep your options open in case you are going to have to qualify another supplier to buy your PCBs from.
With all of the mergers and acquisitions going on today, this is happening more frequently than it used to. And of course, if you are using global sources, when a new tariff shows and you have to pay 25% more for the same products than you did a week ago, you are forced to change not only companies but countries as well. Considering these factors, it is always a prudent idea to make sure that you are always prepared to find, qualify, and start using a new PCB supplier.
Here are four tips to consider when finding a new PCB supplier to replace the one you can no longer use.
1. Refer Back to Your Original Process for Acquiring New Suppliers
Search a database, such as I-Connect007’s excellent “The PCB List,” which includes leading companies in the country and what they do so that you can conduct a search based on your specific needs. Then, call them, send them a survey, ask for references, and send in your quality team to survey and qualify them. This is standard operating procedure (SOP).
2. Learn From the Partnerships You Have Developed With Your Current Suppliers
Develop a template of what you are looking for in a great PCB vendor/partner. Base this template on what you like about your current suppliers. Refer to some of the things that have already been discussed in this column series. Put all of that information in your template, which will make it that much easier to select the right new PCB vendor.
3. Look for Intangibles
Seek out company culture characteristics in your future vendor that matter most in a good and trusting relationship—what some marketers call "psychographics." These are factors that extend beyond the hard, cold facts like if they are capable of building the boards you need. Do they have all of the qualifications, registrations, and approvals that you require from your vendor? You must go beyond these capabilities that make a qualified vendor and additionally focus on what makes a great partner. Are they credible and honest? Do you feel that will do the right thing when there is a problem? Will they go the extra mile for you when you need them to because you are partners? Do they care about your company and business as much as a partner should? These are all characteristics that you should be looking for when choosing a supplier partner for the long haul.
4. Take Your Time
Remember that it is always better to take your time and carefully look for the best PCB supplier you can possibly find—one that fits your needs in terms of not only technical and quality capability requirements but also being a great partner you want to rely on for years to come.
In the end, as we all know that stuff happens. And with mergers, acquisitions, tariffs, and companies undergoing management changes or going out of business, it is obvious that as a good company, you should always be prepared to find and sign the best possible PCB vendor and partner at a moment's notice.
Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits. Vardya is also a co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download these and other free, educational titles.