• May 14, 2024
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Recent rumblings from both manufacturers and their suppliers indicate copper and gold prices are headed up, driven by the rising needs of green energy.

And that, unfortunately, means printed circuit boards will soon be affected as well.

Several key laminate suppliers have signaled double-digit price increases in the coming months, challenging many PCB manufacturers who are trying to limit how much of the extra cost they pass on to customers.

What can a PCB buyer do to stave off these increases? Here are some suggestions:

FORECAST: Ask your sales department. Take a hard look at what you plan to buy of which part number and let your PCB vendor know immediately.

This will allow them to place an “anticipated order” of material at today’s prices, helping to keep overall pricing in check. Also ask your vendor what you can do differently to cut costs.

For example, maybe change your buying habits from once a month to once a quarter with monthly deliveries.

FREIGHT: Have a heart-to-heart with your production people. Do you really need that PCB in 4 weeks’ time when your manufacturing operation is consistent in delivering production assemblies in 8-12 weeks, or even greater lead times?

Maybe your company can’t wait for sea freight, but what about air-cargo, which is 12-15 days for transit? How about consolidating multiple shipments?

With a little extra planning, that freight cost difference may just offset any materials price increases.

FUNCTION: Check with your board designers. There is nothing wrong with you as a buyer asking questions about cost adders.

Here are some examples:

1. Are we just being “safe” with the product by having all that extra surface copper or extra mil of copper in the hole to dissipate heat? Would a few carefully placed extra via holes do the trick?

2. Do we need 6 layers of copper, or could we redesign this as a 4-layer, thereby saving copper and avoiding tariffs? (25% tariff if coming from China.)

FIELDING QUOTES:  This is the best time to reach out to other potential vendors. I am not suggesting jumping immediately to another vendor on pricing but rather keeping your present vendors on their pricing toes.

Don’t be hesitant, though, to bring on a new vendor when necessary, and to let your present suppliers know of this. Your actions (or inaction) will determine how much harder your present vendor base will work for you.

Rising costs are nothing new to our industry.

But as a board buyer armed with knowledge and forethought, you can influence the impact those costs have on the delivered price.

Let me know your thoughts! Want help with PCB pricing? Reach out!