It’s adding unnecessary costs to your supply chain.
Want a more robust and cost-effective supply chain? Shrink it. Remove the expensive middleman. You don’t need to pay a PCB broker a 20 to 40% markup to, basically, relay information from you to overseas vendors.
The truth is the PCB broker business model – where companies buy printed circuit boards from an overseas manufacturer and then resell them to a customer – is outdated. And it’s adding unnecessary costs to your supply chain.
Years ago, brokers were small operations, with perhaps three to five people. And at one time, they did provide a valuable service to their customers, offering lower prices on boards made overseas, while handling all the details of procurement from foreign vendors in what was often a challenging PCB buying cycle.
The tariff situation has given rise to questionable add-on costs.
It’s time for an industry program to train board buyers.
A printed circuit board is unique to every different application or customer, has over one hundred separate required manufacturing processes, and may come from down the street or halfway around the world. In other words, PCB purchasing is a complicated business. The traditional way of board buying can lead to costly mistakes and may expose companies to financial liability.
I am on a mission to fix that.
PCB buying has changed a lot since I started as a salesman in this industry more than 25 years ago. Back then, purchasing departments were larger. Buying was broken down into specific commodities, with buyers assigned to manage only one or, at most, a few of them. Buyers had the time and available resources to be well-versed in their assigned commodities. Many buying teams resided in the very facilities that designed the boards’ products and used the parts.
Twenty years has passed since the US was a world leader in printed circuit board fabrication production. And not just in revenues, which tended to run neck-and-neck with Japan. The US also had the capability and capacity to build the largest-format boards in volume.
That was 2000.
I remember talking with Jack Fisher, then the technical director of the tech consortium ITRI, about the coming year. We were reviewing the latest bullish industry forecasts, in which some of the major fabricators were quoting lead-times of six to 12 months(!).
That unbridled optimism prompted Jack to observe that any hope of the US investing in HDI technology would be pushed out at least another year. Since order books were full for large boards, fabs saw no need to invest in next-generation technology.
Or so they thought. Because, as we all know, then the dot-com crash occurred.
It’s hard to believe that was 20 years ago. But we might be edging toward history repeating.
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