Today, more than ever, companies have to get to market fast, especially with new product introduction (NPI). The competition is stiff, not only domestically, but globally as well. New products are being developed all the time. Once, most of them came out of the United States, but now they are coming from all over the world.
Companies used to mainly have to worry about local/domestic competitors stealing our intellectual property, but now we have to worry about the competitor on the other side of the world stealing our IP, as well. Further, companies used to have weeks to get a new product to maturity; today, they have only days!
Before, companies could afford to wait for the design to be done before we started in the PCB fabrication, but now they need to work concurrently. The fabrication team needs to prepare to build the product and order materials even before the design is finished. Once the components are selected, the assembly team can order the parts. There is no longer time to prove everything out.
Where people used to have many vendors for design, fabrication, and assembly, they are now looking for companies that can do it all. Companies are seeking only one transaction with the goal of going from concept to reality in a number of days! Also, due to security reasons and IP protection, some companies prefer having one trusted supplier handle everything where they used to be willing and free to use a number of suppliers.
This means that besides working with a supplier who can do the work, companies are seeking a supplier they can trust. The last thing they need is for designs to start being exposed to competitors, which makes going offshore for NPI too scary to be careless. Companies need to know where projects are being built and that they can trust the people building it.
Further, companies used to have their own experts who would develop and design the project but now rely on vendors who know more than they do about their project. The vendors have to be experts when it comes to designing, fabricating, and assembling products. There is no time for long interactions because there is not enough time for proof of design. Instead, customers need to get that product developed and out to market at warp speed. Companies are looking for vendors who know more than they do about their specific technologies.
Customers used to have enough time to go just about anywhere to get their concept to reality projects completed. They could go to the East Coast for design, the Midwest to get their boards fabricated, and the West Coast for assembly. Nowadays, companies want to have a supplier that controls it all and is nearby so that they can meet with their vendors daily or more frequently to ensure that everything is going according to plan. This is especially critical when it comes to projects that are truly in development and will need a number of revisions.
Also, customers used to have more time, but they don’t anymore. Customers don’t even want to talk about lead times; they simply want their products completed as soon as possible with little or no downtime from design to fabrication and assembly. Customers want those steps to occur concurrently rather than consecutively.
Finally, the new market demands that customers develop cutting-edge products. At this time, for example, with the onset of 5G, there is no time to lose. Nearly all of our customers, especially those in communications, are developing new 5G products at a frantic pace. The world and its customers are chomping at the bit for 5G products, and it is up to our customers to produce them as quickly as possible.
Working on NPI projects today is more challenging than ever. It is challenging for our customers and us, too. But there is some good news. We are in a world of premium pricing. The importance of time to market is so critical, and the rewards for getting there first are so profitable that customers will pay premium prices to get their products to market first. That’s a good thing for all of us.
Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB.