Even though the last financial crisis was over 8 years ago, most engineering departments at electronic OEMs have never fully staffed back to the levels that they were before the economic disaster. That means that there are many engineers doing two or more jobs, all while their senior management still insists on meeting tight timelines with limited budgets.
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 supplier 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 transpired 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. 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. Now, 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 their US PCB manufacturer.
Shipping of lithium batteries is a very important process that requires significant investment in training and equipment. In April of 2016, new lithium battery shipping 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 in the closing and transfer of part numbers for fifteen PCB facilities in the past twelve years, we have some first-hand advice as to how you can best minimize the risk as you change suppliers.
Advancements in user interface assembly construction methods are often overlooked in HMI applications, becoming an afterthought while too many people assume that the older graphics, adhesive, rubber, and backlighting technologies all stay the same. This is not the case, especially within medical device HMI manufacturing.
Epec Engineered Technologies is one of the oldest printed circuit board companies in the U.S., building PCBs since 1952. Epec is one of the founding members of the Institute of Printed Circuits (IPC), created in 1957 to help advance the PCB industry. While visiting a customer I was asked, “Has the introduction of your new products like 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 PCB manufacturing, it occurred to me that as a company, we need to better demonstrate that dedication consistently to our customers.