In this series, I am addressing six ways in which a company can significantly benefit from outsourcing their front-end CAM work:
- On-demand capacity
- Improving automation
- Fast turn-around
- Reducing costs
- Improving quality
- Building redundancy in critical areas
This column will focus on the sixth benefit: building redundancy in critical areas.
Building Redundancy in Critical Areas
While having on-demand capacity, improved automation, fast turn-around, and cost reductions, improved quality is critical to any front-end engineering operation. Achieving those goals while building redundancy in key areas is imperative. Redundancy should be built in every critical area that involves the front end.
I can only begin to tell you stories of companies that used a single person either within their organization or an individual contractor to build automation where it didn’t end well. When you give the keys to your automation and maintenance of that automation to one individual, bad things can and usually do happen. They can leave or hold you beholden to their whims.
Countless times, companies have come to us where they can’t get their automation person to fix or do anything. Having a systematic, redundant approach is critical in routinely updating and maintaining automation. CAM software changes, as well as your processes, operating systems change, and technology. There are innumerable variables that change and need to be accounted for in your automation. Redundancy is critical here. As an outsourcing provider, we have teams of people that work on automation projects providing a tremendous amount of redundancy, so no one person has the keys to the castle.
Most PCB shops can’t afford to have extra CAM operators on staff. It’s hard enough to find and keep the ones they have. This is where outsourcing has an inherent built-in advantage. We have dozens of CAM engineers, so if the person(s) assigned to your work leaves, gets sick, or goes on vacation, we have lots of others as backups. We always assign more than one person to an account to ensure redundancy.
Having backup servers and a robust backup policy is critical. You don’t want to risk the potential loss of years of engineering data. Many have on-site backups, but few consider backing up off-site in case of fires or other disasters that can wipe out your live systems and on-site backups.
In our operation, we have backups for every possible link in the delivery chain:
- Power backup: Our power generators kick in the instant power is lost to ensure continued service levels
- Internet backup: We use wired and wireless systems
- Backup servers and desktops
- On-site and off-site data backups
In our many years of servicing the front end for many customers in North America and Europe, we have a zero downtime track record.
Here are some of what I consider the top benefits you will achieve by outsourcing:
- Add highly skilled engineers at a lower cost
- Implement advanced automation to achieve much higher throughput, better repeatability and quality, and avoid reliance on “tribal knowledge” that can walk out your door
- Free critical engineering resources to help generate more sales and interact with customers on technical sales
- Keep up with surges, off shifts, and overtime work with no need to add permanent headcount to manage surges
- Implement repeatable and consistent processes while building redundancy throughout your front-end process
- Reduce shop floor rejects by improved front-end quality, resulting in lower costs and higher margins
- Grow your business and beat the competition by having a highly capable and scalable front-end engineering team
Many believe that outsourcing is wrong because it takes away from local jobs. That may be the case if this industry can find the talent level at a cost that they can afford, but this is not the case in North America or Europe. My view is that outsourcing the front end provides a new lifeline to this industry. Several of our customers have told me, “We wouldn’t be in business without your service.” They simply can’t find affordable engineers even at higher salaries. Unfortunately, our industry isn’t “sexy.” At first glance, it doesn’t always appeal to young people; they aspire to work for Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the like. As the talent pool diminishes by attrition, working with partners that still have a large pool of young, talented workers that are very interested in technology jobs is good for the industry.
Mehul J. Davé is CEO of Entelechy Global Inc.