Finding Value in “Value Added Services”

Finding Value in “Value Added Services”

October 31, 2016 in Industry News

Finding value in value added services

Value added services are a defining feature for circuit manufacturers. This series will explore how to ensure your partner delivers value in circuit design, fabrication and assembly.

Circuit design, fabrication and assembly are offered as value added services by many circuit and contract manufacturers. These services aim to deliver a cost-effective and less-stressful experience for the customer, because all activities can be managed through one supplier.

But for many customers, finding true value isn’t just about services. It’s about a supplier’s expertise and the skills they add to a project.

In part one of this series on value added services, we’re going to talk about circuit design and how to ensure a manufacturer delivers value to your company.

The changing landscape of circuit design expertise

Circuit design is a complicated vocation. For decades there weren’t any classes available. The best way to learn was to visit circuit manufacturers and learn the fabrication rules from them. Circuit designers had to design the entire circuit board on paper and then lay tape to Mylar to create a 4:1 scale of each layer of the PCB manually. This hands-on experience brought deep expertise and knowledge of designing for an application.

Today, the landscape has changed. It’s possible to earn a certification for circuit design and design a circuit relying entirely on libraries in Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems. An inexperienced designer can simply call out the specified component in the schematic software and it automatically arrives in the circuit layout with all necessary specifications. You may not even have to specify the solder mask openings or drill sizes, unless your company has specifications that differ from those in the IPC guidelines.

For simple circuit designs, this approach may work fine. But as applications grow more complex, professional circuit board designers add value by drawing on product development experience across many industries and asking questions to understand how a circuit will be used in application. Customers see these designers as project partners invested in designing a board for application, not only manufacturing.

How to determine if your manufacturer adds value in circuit design

When measuring if design services from your circuit manufacturer add value to your project, it is important to decide if the circuit layout requires knowledge of schematic design and if your supplier has the expertise you need.

It is wise to interview the designer to be sure you can comfortably trust the layout to him/her, and the design will meet the company’s specifications for manufacture and/or assembly.

For instance, will the assembly have to be U.L. or CE certified? Is it an RF design that requires knowledge of analog circuits? Will it be exposed to FCC scrutiny? These are all things that can vastly change a circuit’s design. If your design must meet one of these requirements, you’ll want to make sure your supplier has experience navigating these regulations.

If your circuit manufacturer or assembler offers design services, meet with them to determine the level of value and convenience this service provides your company. An experienced partner can be a valuable addition to your supply chain.

Value added services are a defining feature for circuit manufacturers. This series will explore how to ensure your partner delivers value in circuit design, fabrication and assembly.

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