• June 8, 2023
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Why are PCB buying departments often hesitant to move business from one vendor to another, even when it is clearly warranted?

Perhaps it’s the overly cumbersome process required by many EMS and OEM companies before PCB orders can be moved.

I understand we are all busy these days. And I understand that adding a new vendor to the approved vendor list (AVL) can be time-consuming.

But it’s important to keep vendors on their toes. A good PCB buyer should regularly be reviewing vendor pricing and should have the power to move business quickly if necessary.

Companies should not make it difficult for buyers to do this. They are just hurting themselves.

And the truth is, adding qualified suppliers is not as hard as you may think.

Here’s a quick summary of how to evaluate a potential vendor:

  • Get a Trial Quote: On the buying side, it’s all about the price. There’s no need to get the quality or production departments involved if the only reason to move a board is for better pricing. Start with a trial quote, after you have an NDA in place with a potential vendor.
  • Check References: If the trial quote looks good enough to justify moving an order, proceed to the reference checks. Ask for at least three references, preferably in the same industry. And then make sure you actually call those references.
  • Money Matters: If the references are good, it’s time to check the vendor’s financial stability. Run a D&B report. Call the vendor’s bank and suppliers. Make sure they pay their bills. Getting financials from an offshore vendor can be difficult, so in that case, double-up on references instead, and hit harder on questions concerning timely communication and customer service.
  • Quality Concerns: If pricing, financials, and references look right, it’s time to get quality involved. Make sure your prospective vendor has all the required credentials, such as UL, ISO, and anything specific to your customer’s needs. Send out a vendor survey (you have one of those, right?) and create a vendor file.
  • Talk to Production: Production departments are usually averse to change, and understandably so. Don’t cut your new vendor into the production schedule without involving your production people in the approval process. To help put production at ease, you can issue a contingency purchase order to the vendor (with Tooling and Test charges waived), with little risk to your company.

So your potential board builder has sailed through all these qualifying steps and you now have a new vendor. Congrats. You’ve expanded your manufacturing base and helped your company maintain its competitive edge.

Need someone to walk you through every step of the vendor selection process? DirectPCB has a detailed procedure for evaluating suppliers that will help you confidently move business without dragging out the process.

Need help buying circuit boards? Reach out to me at greg@directpcb.com.

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