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In my first article in this series, A Case for Outsourcing CAM Engineering, I laid the groundwork for why outsourcing is crucial. As volume production in PCBs has shifted significantly to Asia, manufacturers in Europe and North America have been focusing on high technology, quick-turn, prototype, and lower volume production. Thus, most are producing a much larger number of parts placing a very high burden on their front-end processes. The need for more capacity in technical sales, responding to higher volume of request for quotes, and CAM operators to cope with large part numbers is very real. Many companies struggle to hire and keep the talent required to keep up with demand. This is exactly where outsourcing of CAM and related front-end work can help a struggling manufacturer not only stay in business but also help them thrive.
In that first article, I discussed six critical ways in which a company can significantly benefit from outsourcing:
- On-demand capacity
- Improved automation
- Fast turn-around
- Reduced costs
- Improved quality
- Building redundancy in critical areas
My last column addressed the need and benefit of improved automation. In this column, I will focus on fast turn-around.
Time-to-market has been the mantra for every successful technology company. The best among them have strong and integrated supply chains that march to the drum of the OEMs and EMS providers that bring that technology to market. A big part of that success, especially in North America and Europe, is the ability for PCB manufacturers to turn around complex PCBs very quickly. The hallmark of PCB production in these higher tech and higher cost regions is flexibility and responsiveness.
I’ve heard of numerous examples where jobs sit in front-end engineering for days before getting to production. This is a recipe for getting yourself off the preferred supplier list. Outsourcing can be extremely helpful in sharing the burden of the front-end engineering workload to ensure jobs get to production as quickly as possible. Many times, fabricators have a day or maybe just a few days to ship the parts—no one can afford to have the job linger in engineering for more than a few hours.
This is where the time difference can be a huge benefit. Think about sending jobs at the end of your primary shift to your outsourcing partner, and the jobs are completed, waiting to be sent to production, by the time your early morning shift comes to work. This scenario will successfully play out repeatedly when you get smart about outsourcing time-critical processes. It’s hard enough to find talented engineers for day shift; it’s nearly impossible in the graveyard shift. Your partner can be assigning highly qualified engineers working on your jobs while you sleep at night!
In summary, using an outsourcing partner can help solve your fast turn-around challenges:
- Add talented off-shift engineering capacity to deal with quick turn-around jobs
- Avoid the frustration and hassle of finding and managing second- and third-shift engineers
- Add critical front-end capacity to keep up with quick-turn jobs through the front-end
- Capture more quick-turn market share from your competitors with your unique competitive advantage of being able to handle more jobs quickly through your front-end
- Free up critical engineering resources to help generate more sales and interact with customers on technical sales
- Grow your business and have scalable front-end engineering resources to fulfill your changing requirements
Mehul J. Davé is CEO of Entelechy Global Inc.