When Do You Work with a Contract Manufacturer?
Engineers at start-up companies and even some larger companies don’t want to go to a contract manufacturer that also builds zillions of complex boards and products for big companies. Instead, these engineers want the daily hand holding associated with building prototypes. "That is what we offer," said John Buckley, vice president of business development at the NPI division of Sanmina-SCI. "Once we get prototypes to a point where they require few engineering changes we can move production to a larger facility." The company typically builds complex PCBs, rather than those used in cell phones or PDAs, for example.
"When engineers approach us with a PCB to fabricate, we take their design and produce a design-for-manufacturing report." said Buckley. "The report could note, 'These components are too close', 'The board lacks test points' and so on. We want to catch problems earlier rather than later when a customer wants us to manufacture the product. We usually run that report whether or not customers ask for it." Buckley noted the report will tell a customer if specified components have reached end-of-life status. In that case, Sanmina-SCI will recommend a replacement.
Buckley said the earlier he can start to work with engineers, the better. "Often a customer's engineers think they have the perfect design, but ultimately we find problems in the manufacturing process. The last thing we want is to get into production and find a problem. We have our own engineers who can help a customer with a product design. And we can help engineers with prototypes, pilot runs, low-volume manufacturing and then a ramp up to manufacturing anywhere in the world."