All companies judge themselves on simple things like revenue, expenses, and income. Most manufacturing companies measure even more metrics like capacity utilization, yield, inventory turns, and on-time delivery. All of which are very important to ensure that business is profitable.
Today, there are well over 3,000 companies that manufacturer printed circuit boards (PCB) in Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Thailand) with the supply capacity continuing to grow well ahead of the global demand.
The old saying “to the victor go the spoils” is now starting to apply in the battery pack industry. Recently Panasonic announced that it will no longer be supporting any new battery pack development projects that are not in the electric vehicle (EV) or solar storage space.
In 1999 there were over 1,200 active printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Today, there are fewer than 130. What has been taking place at a lot of these manufacturing companies are small service businesses that act as a liaison between a manufacturer and their customers. In many instances this is a valuable relationship, the products are low in technology and the risk is very minimal, the arrangement works. However, why is it that we require ISO certification for our manufacturing locations but not for service providers?
Two years ago I wrote about why printed circuit board (PCB) shops in North America were continuing to close. In the last two weeks we have seen two more shops (Dynamic & Proto and ITO Industries) cease their manufacturing operations. As the former owner and operator of three domestic PCB facilities, I can sympathize with the management and the loyal employees that tried to make the company successful. However, much of the damage is self-inflicted as I previously discussed so rather than rehash past information I wanted to discuss some of the attributes that every customer should look for in a PCB supplier.
Shipping lithium batteries is very important that requires significant investment in training and equipment. In April of 2016, new regulations were passed that forbid lithium batteries from passenger aircraft and limited the SOC (state of charge) for any battery shipped via air cargo to 30%.
In 2016 there were ten printed circuit board (PCB) factories that closed in the United States including some highly sophisticated shops that were part of the TTM/Viasystems merger. Having been involved of the closing and transfer of part numbers for fifteen PCB facilities in the past twelve years, we have some advice as to how you can minimize the risk as you change suppliers.
Advancements in user interface assembly construction methods are often overlooked in the HMI applications as it is usually an afterthought and too many people assume that the older graphics, adhesive, rubber, and backlighting technologies are still the same. This is not the case, especially in medical applications.
As many of you know, Epec Engineered Technologies was one of the founding members of the Institute of Printed Circuits (IPC) and is one of the oldest printed circuit board companies in the U.S. and have been making them since 1952. While visiting a customer I was asked, “Has the introduction of the new products custom battery packs and energy efficient EC fans taken your focus and attention off of PCBs?” While I assured the customer that we are fully dedicated to printed circuit boards and outlined all of the reasons why. It occurred to me that as a company, we haven’t done the best job of demonstrating that to our customers.
Continued improvements to the human-machine interface (HMI) manufacturing process across entire electronic industries that were once seen as too expensive for a lot of applications, are now within reach of design budgets.