How to Choose a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Assembly Manufacturer: A Seven-Point Checklist

When choosing a contract manufacturer to outsource your printed circuit board (PCB) assembly jobs, there are seven things to carefully consider:

  1. Location: Choosing a PCB manufacturer that is close enough to drive to gives you more flexibility and agility to adapt to changing circumstances, especially when a deadline is coming up. A PCB assembly company in your area is also easier to work with when site surveys need to be done or when there aren’t enough materials and parts.
  2. Production Equipment Efficiency: A PCB contract manufacturer needs efficient manufacturing equipment to meet contract requirements. New or old equipment? Are the pick-and-place, reflow, and wave soldering machines working? Maintenance logs show the organisation cares about quality. This builds commercial trust.
  3. Certifications of Assembly Staff: To make sure that the PCB contract assembler can finish your production run on time, they need to have well-maintained equipment and a certified staff of assembly technicians. So, look at the staff’s records of training and certification. Make sure they have the technical credentials they need to do the jobs they have been given. Check on the staff members who aren’t yet certified to see how far along they are in the process.
  4. Quality Systems: Does the company that puts things together have a quality system like ISO 9001:2008 in place? This should be the least amount of certification the company needs to get to make sure they can make a good product. Is the company currently certified by a licenced registrar if it uses another quality system? Lastly, would the PCB assembly company be willing to spend money to get certified under the same quality system that your company uses? If a company does this, it means they want to do business with you for a long time.
  5. Shipping deadlines: You need to know if a contract manufacturer has the capacity, people, and resources to meet your business needs based on how well they can meet shipping deadlines. When you can, get information from the PCB manufacturer about how well they meet deadlines. Try as much as you can to find out who makes the PCBs and where they are made.
  6. Parts: Visit their purchase department. Are they well stocked? How are their vendor relationships? Local, regional, or international? Can you obtain discounts easily? How does their buying department manage obsolete or hard-to-find parts? Do they have procurement experts who can discover discontinued parts? Can they create a bill of materials from schematics or drawings without your help?
  7. Cost-effective pricing: Since labour rates change, you should get a detailed list of all the costs of making the product. Check to see what is included in the costs of making the product. Then you should do a cost comparison study to see if their prices are in line with the average for their industry and with the prices of their competitors. Make sure you have a clear picture of all the costs and the final price.

By applying the 7-point checklist above, you can accurately decide if a PCB assembly house is a good fit for your business and PCB assembly needs.