Current Industry Challenges
In an industry that utilizes cutting-edge technology, it is surprising to find that the design and purchasing workflow has hardly changed in recent years. After months of hard work, an engineer still spends days, or even weeks, working with suppliers to confirm that a design is manufacturable and that the necessary components are available. Only after all the details are confirmed can the engineer receive a quote for the design and confirm that the design and product are within budget. Frequently, several cycles of design iterations are needed to meet manufacturing, supply, or budget constraints. Furthermore, each of these cycles must be performed with each supplier separately through email and phone communications, creating additional challenges in traceability and project management.
PCB manufacturers and EMS suppliers spend days to weeks working through a design with a potential customer just to get to the point where they can confirm it is manufacturable and offer a valid quote, only to find out the customer has decided to go with a different supplier. It is a constant battle to determine how much effort to invest in potential opportunities given that the expected win rates are frustratingly low at 15-25%. That means that approximately 80% of the time, the effort spent validating and sourcing is wasted on projects that the manufacturer will not produce.
Manufacturers and designers try to address the pain
To reduce the significant overhead costs and provide a competitive value-added service to their customers, the largest manufacturers have started investing in their own online solutions. However, PCB manufacturers and EMS suppliers are not typically software development companies, so their solutions often result in less-than-ideal user experiences and workflows that potentially lead to even more frustration for their customers, who are also looking for an automated and easy way to confirm their design and budget.
Another related trend worth noting is electronics designers’ desire for a self-serve solution that answers the question “Who can handle my project requirements and how much will it cost?” quickly and easily.
A fresh approach by Siemens PCBflow and Boardera Software
The PCBflow team created an online platform for both manufacturers and designers, giving them professional, automated solutions to check PCB designs against manufacturing capabilities and confirm the market availability of components. Working with Boardera Software Inc., the PCBflow platform now offers an automated pricing tool that works for both PCBs and assemblies. Manufacturers and EMSs can configure their own pricing model with a modern and easy-to-use interface.
As a result, designers can automatically receive an estimated price on their projects in less than 30 seconds simply by uploading their design files securely to the tool/selected manufacturing partner. Once the project is uploaded, the manufacturer automatically receives all the project information, pricing details, and contact information (for the lead).
With the PCBflow toolset, both manufacturers and designers can review their design and confirm manufacturability in a matter of minutes. They can connect with multiple manufacturers and process several design cycles a day until they are confident their new project is ready for manufacturing and meets their budget. With this new process, designers can save significant time and cost on New Product Introductions and manufacturers can eliminate wasted effort on opportunities they cannot win, focusing instead on customers and projects that matter. Both sides of the transaction increase efficiency and lower costs for a true win-win scenario.