I’m always on the lookout for ways to cut time to market. Over the years this has become my personal passion. No matter what I am looking at I am always second guessing the way things are being done. How could they be done faster? How can a step be eliminated (without hurting the integrity of the end product)? How can lull time be cut shorter? I even study bake and curing times to see if they can be shortened.
I assume I do this because time to market and new product introduction have been part of my life for so many years now. The interesting thing is that just when I am sure, just when I am convinced that ever single minute has been taken out of the process, I find something else that can go faster.
This reminds me of a couple of documentaries on mountain climbing I watched recently. In the first one, “The Dawn Wall,” a pair of sheer rock climbers become the first in history to scale the mighty El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park. This stunningly amazing feat took over 13 days and all kinds of ropes and safety equipment. It was a feat that the world acknowledged and cheered as something that would never be equaled. I have to say I held my breath through the entire movie and was cheering when the climbers made it to the top.
After establishing a taste for climbing movies I searched Roku for another one and came across one that was filmed less than six years after Dawn Wall. This one was called “Free Solo.” This film documented the feats of a young man who liked to climb solo without any equipment—all all, just his shoes, his fingers and a small bag of rosin. Think about climbing sheer rock walls with no safety equipment! If he slipped, he died, as simple as that. Even more, he decided he needed to climb dreaded El Capitan as well—which he did, with no equipment or harnesses; nothing but his feet, his fingers and his sheer courage. Guess what? He did it! Not only that, he did it in six and a half hours (yes, you read that right). No real resting time, just straight up the wall taking 13 days less than anyone had ever done it before.
Now that got my brain going all over again. There had to be a way to apply this kind of time shrinking to my business as well. With that in mind, I decided to investigate. I knew that I had not studied the time to market challenges enough. I needed to get back to the drawing board and dig in deeper.
As I thought about it, I came to the realization that there was something else I could look at after all. Perhaps I had done all I could when it came to the speed of the design, fabrication and assembly—not to mention the concurrent systems that we had put in place to make sure that we were taking simultaneous steps, thus cutting every possible corner.
But finally, it occurred to me that there was something more that could be done. There was an area in the entire process that I had never really looked at; something that I believed no one had ever looked at. Then the light bulb went off. It was the quotation process.
I started asking myself and then others, “Why did everything take so long to quote?” I have seen PCB fabricators take days, not hours, to quote their PCBs. This might be fine when we are talking about large multi-year military programs, but when you are trying to price new product introduction quick turn orders, it should not take days to quote a board that you delivered in days. You can’t take 24 hours to quote a board that you are going to need in 48 hours. There had to be a way to get these quotes back in hours, if not an even shorter amount of time.
When I looked into the time it took to get the price for assemblies, what is called the Bill of Materials or BOM, that seemed like a completely bloated time-consuming process that sometimes took as much as a week or longer to quote a program.
I knew there had to be a better way. Not only that, but somebody before me should have realized this by now. Someone had to be working on this issue. It was completely unrealistic to me that it should take more time to quote products than it would take to build them. That made no sense.
I determined to find the right solution, and I would seek far and wide until I found someone or some company that was either working on this or had perhaps even solved this problem. With a determination that I had seldom felt before and with a certainty that there had to be a solution, I conducted my research by talking to several people in the in both PCB fabrication and assembly. I’m excited to report that I found a company that has been working on these issues for over two years. They have found a solution. They have come up with software that can competently quote PCBs in less than 15 minutes, which isn’t even the best part. Even more, the customer can do the pricing and the order placing completely autonomously by using this company’s website. The bonus is they will be able to track their product in real time all the way through the fabricators’ process. Pretty cool.
But wait; that’s not all. I also found that this same company was already wrapping up a software system that would allow companies to not only quote an entire BOM but do it efficiently and economically in 15 minutes or less, including ordering the parts.
These systems are about to rock our world. They are going to revolutionize the way we do business. Unfortunately, these products have not been introduced yet, but the developers have promised me that they will be ready to be introduced sometime in February. So, be patient a little longer, stay tuned and be ready for your world to change for the better in the next 30 days.
Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.