• January 11, 2024
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By GREG PAPANDREW, cofounder of DirectPCB

Some of today’s dedicated PCB brokers are $100 million operations. They have become a business within a business, adding significantly to the cost of buying printed circuit boards.

Is the value they provide any better?

Years ago, brokers were small operations that offered a cost-effective service to their customers. Brokers started as sellers of domestically made product and then followed board manufacturing as it transitioned overseas.

In that role, they offered lower board prices while handling all the details of dealing with offshore manufacturers.

Brokers capitalized on inefficiencies in the PCB manufacturing supply chain and also eased labor force challenges that continue to this day. It was a symbiotic relationship that has served the PCB industry well.

But the current wave of mergers and acquisitions among PCB brokers leaves us with much larger firms that are not as efficient as they once were on pricing, delivery or customer service, in my opinion.

What used to be an obvious value-add has become bloated with ever increasing costs and often a maze of corporate red tape the board buyer must deal with.

At the same time, while using a large broker has its benefits, it has become much easier to deal directly with offshore PCB manufacturers.

I’m not saying these big-box brokers don’t provide a valuable service in some circumstances. But in this highly competitive market, PCB buyers shouldn’t confuse a heavier supply chain with one that is more efficient.

What do you think?

Need help with your PCB supply chain? Reach out to me at greg@directpcb.com.

Click here to get a free copy of my book, PCB Basics for Buyers.