Standard of Excellence: Advancing PCBs—The Total Solution

One of the most important elements of running a business is being able to look forward. A true company leader must be able to define the future as best she or he can and then adapt their own strategies to meet the demands of that future. It’s been said that if you don’t define your future, someone else will do it for you.

This month I want to look at some of the changes, or should I say improvements, that are occurring in our own industry. Some of them are new but others have been around for years. Either way, their time has come.

Seamless Design Integration
While the traditional approach was to work consecutively—first the design, followed by the board fabrication—this led to potential communication gaps and inefficiencies. The new total solution model bridges this gap, allowing for design and fabrication to work in tandem. Seamless integration ensures that the design is optimized for manufacturability, reducing the need for costly iterations and redesigns. We will be seeing more of this cooperative effort in the future as designers and board fabricators find ways to work closer and better together.

Concurrent Engineering
The total solution approach allows concurrent engineering where multiple stages of product development work simultaneously rather than sequentially. This reduces the time-to-market and works well with this concept. Design, fabrication, and assembly teams collaborate and work in parallel. Engineers begin fabrication prototypes while the design is still being completed, thus streamlining the entire production timeline. It allows for fixing any issues and design flaws on the run. Concurrent engineering accelerates the product development cycle and ensures a smoother transition from prototype to production.

New Advanced Fabrication Technologies
New equipment means new technology processes in fabrication. New equipment uses AI to learn as it produces. Equipment also provides for high-speed automated processes, thus allowing the production of cutting-edge technology PCBs in severely reduced turn-around times. Laser drilling, direct imaging, and additive manufacturing are becoming mainstream. Where once only the wealthy and advanced companies could afford DI and LDI equipment, now with a variety of makes, models, and prices, this equipment will become a common sight in all PCB fabrication centers. This modern equipment allows the fabricator to produce more PCBS that are intensely complex. It also eliminates many manual processes, reducing human error and minimizing production bottlenecks. Additionally, the integration of AI and ML (machine learning) in fabrication processes further optimizes production, thus enhancing yield rates and reducing waste.

Streamlined Supply Chain Management
Total solution providers have established partnerships and supply chain networks to ensure a smooth flow of materials and components throughout the product development process. This streamlined supply chain management optimizes material procurement and inventory management and reduces lead times for production. Total solution providers can leverage their purchasing power to negotiate better prices and, in the case of assembly, availability of components. This helps control costs and mitigate supply chain disruptions. An efficient supply chain contributes significantly to accelerated product development and significantly reduces time to market.

Customer-centric Approach
Total solution emphasizes a customer-centric mindset by offering a complete solution of design, fab, and assembly. By working closely with the customers, the supplier will have a clear and complete understanding of the customers’ goals, requirements, and preferences. This will result in faster iterations and design adjustments to meet market demands and capitalize on emerging opportunities. By providing a complete PCB solution, we can offer comprehensive support, including post-launch services that will lead to higher customer satisfaction.

Powerful Cooperative Partnerships
By the mere virtue of providing the customers with a complete total concept-to-reality solution, all parts of the supply chain have to work together in a synergistic, productive, and cooperative partnership. This not only applies to the fabricators, designers, and assemblers, but with our vendors as well. There has been a steady increase in the cooperation between the fab houses and our suppliers. This has always been a good relationship but now it has become a true partnership as new high tech equipment featuring AI, ML, and automation becomes more common in PCB shops. In many cases, such as quality and chemistry processes, these suppliers are installing automatic control and auditing systems to make sure that quality and processes are always within tolerances.

The printed circuit board industry’s new total concept-to-reality approach is revolutionizing product development and time-to-market. By integrating design, fabrication, and assembly, the industry is achieving seamless collaboration, concurrent engineering, advanced fabrication technologies, enhanced testing, streamlined supply chain management, and a complete customer-centric focus. These factors, combined with the improved synergistic relationship with our suppliers, is achieving an experience of improvement unlike at any other time in our industry’s history.

What I am encouraged about is the way companies are working together in a spirit of generous collaboration to achieve a better solution—a complete solution for the benefit of all concerned, especially the customer.

Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits; co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. He is the author of Thermal Management: A Fabricator's Perspective and The Companion Guide to Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. Visit to download these and other free, educational titles.  



Standard of Excellence: Advancing PCBs—The Total Solution


One of the most important elements of running a business is being able to look forward. A true company leader must be able to define the future as best she or he can and then adapt their own strategies to meet the demands of that future. It’s been said that if you don’t define your future, someone else will do it for you. This month I want to look at some of the changes, or should I say improvements, that are occurring in our own industry. Some of them are new but others have been around for years. Either way, their time has come.

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Standard of Excellence: Today’s Hottest Technology Trends


No matter what anyone says, printed circuit boards are the backbone of modern electronics. Without the PCB, what will the components attach to? Without advancements in printed circuit board technology, products of the future would be impossible. It is our responsibility to be there when our customers need us—today and in the future. That means recognizing the latest trends and making the most of them. Here's what I see is trending in microelectronics.

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Standard of Excellence: Facing an Exciting Future


Trends today will determine the future, and things will change at such a rapid pace that the next 20 years will be nothing like the last 20 years. This is especially true when it comes to manufacturing. We already see the trends, ideas, and technologies we wouldn’t have even dreamed of even 10 years ago. Personally speaking, I am constantly amazed at the high level of technology and automation we are bringing into our facility right now. Many of our new machines actually have artificial intelligence, where they learn as they work. They get smarter by doing what they should be doing.

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Standard of Excellence: Three Tools to Deliver Great Customer Service


Being good enough is no longer enough. As the market becomes more competitive, the demand for great customer service increases. We are no longer competing with rival companies in our own field; we are up against the best in the world. Our customers understand great customer service. Now they want it from all the companies they deal with. They’ve been to Disney World, ordered from L.L. Bean and Nordstrom’s, booked airline tickets and rental cars on Expedia—and they know how easy those transactions can be. Now they want it from us too. Here are three tools we use to deliver the best customer service.

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Standard of Excellence: Hey World, Our Products Matter


One of today's biggest challenges is finding, hiring, and retaining good and solid employees. Some people blame the times, while others blame the workforce, especially millennials. If that’s the way you want to go, then fine, but I must warn you that with that mindset, you will never find what you’re looking for. Instead, let's shift the paradigm and become better ambassadors for our industry.

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Standard of Excellence: The Rise of NPI


There is no doubt that innovation is on the rise. The number of new products being developed post-COVID is staggering. Our OEMs are not only upgrading their current products, making them better than ever, they are also developing new products at a very rapid rate. But what does that mean for us? Will we continue sending our products overseas? Will be willing to join forces and find solutions? Anaya Vardya gives this idea some thought.

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Standard of Excellence: Emerging Trends Spell Success for Industry’s Future


There is something happening in our industry—you can feel it. Before the COVID pandemic, there had been some subtle shifts, but now in the (hopefully) post-COVID era, we can expect to see some significant changes in our industry—and in the world as well. From where I sit, here are some of the noteworthy trends that I see shaking up the industry in the very near future. In fact, most of them have already begun making waves.

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Standard of Excellence: Progress Through Partnership


This column has spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of partnerships and how they can allow us to accomplish more than we ever could on our own. Solid vendor partnerships, partnerships with our customers, and even partnerships with our competitors all offer valuable benefits to the company looking to achieve more. But most of the discussions on this topic have been preoccupied with either reflecting on history or contemplating the present. Today I thought it might be interesting to instead discuss what partnerships might look like in the future as well as strong examples from the recent past.

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Standard of Excellence: The Future of Partnerships


During the first few months of the pandemic, we were all comforted by the words, “We are all in the together.” It became a kind of comforting mantra, suggesting that we stood together as equals as we faced this new danger. During those early, dark days, we clung to that idea, telling ourselves that, somehow, we would meet the challenges and get through—together. It was around that same time that I started thinking and writing about partnerships, something that I have continued to enjoy doing ever since.

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Standard of Excellence: The Power of Partnerships


Now more than at any other time in our history, solid partnerships hold the key to success for all companies. If the past two and a half years of challenges and issues have taught us anything, it is that by increasing the number of stronger partnerships we have, the more we can accomplish and the more secure our companies will be able to handle the future. We should all be looking for strong and cooperative partnership where we all help one another to do things that neither of us could do alone.

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Standard of Excellence: What Are Your Partnership Expectations?


As we delve deeper into the idea of formulating great partnerships with our customers, our suppliers, and even our competitors, we must constantly ask ourselves what we can expect from them and in turn what they can expect from us. There should be a mutual understanding of what these expectations are, and they should be, well, expected. We should be able to count on one another as partners to work with one another, combining and coordinating our expectations so they will always be mutually beneficial. Here are some of the mutual expectations I have with my partners.

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Standard of Excellence: We’re Working Together—and It Shows


Now more than ever we need to work with one another. The times have evolved to where no one can do it alone. All the challenges that were brought on by the pandemic have only accelerated the need for finding new and innovative ways to work together. When I started in this business, there was little or no interactions between PCB companies, for example. We all operated in silos, as they say. We seldom communicated or shared technology ideas and improvements. Although the pandemic accelerated that change in attitude, it was already inevitable that a time of more cooperation and partnership was well on its way.

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Standard of Excellence: The New Age of Cooperative Partnerships in North America


For the past few years, I have written frequently about being partners with our suppliers and our customers. Now I thought it might be time to talk about being partners with each other. By each other, I mean the whole North American PCB industry—PCB and PCBA shops, engineers, designers, and of course, our customers and suppliers. So, now is the time to truly start working together; that includes PCB designers, fab houses, PCBA companies, and our vendors and suppliers. If I may dare, I declare this the new age of cooperative partnership in North America.

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Standard of Excellence: Six Fundamental Techniques to Sustain Partnerships Amid Rising Prices


These are unprecedented times. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. In fact, I’ve shared my views in this column many times that we must seek out new ways of doing business, especially in doing business with one another. Let’s work together toward success. No matter what, partners must look out for each other, even to the point of making sure we’re making enough money to survive and to invest in the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Respect for the Most Preferred Partnership—Your Employees


There are many types of partnerships in business, but without a doubt the most important one is with our employees. Especially considering today’s labor shortages, it’s critical that we establish true and appealing partnerships with our employees, especially those who are just coming on board. I look at this as an opportunity and chance to improve the way we work with our employees. It’s a chance to not only create a better partnership with our team members but to find better ways to partner with them.

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Standard of Excellence: From Partnership to Greatness


"We choose to go to the moon in this decade. Not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard. And because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because the challenge is one, we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win." John F Kennedy Rice University September 12, 1962. That speech represents the onset of the greatest example of peacetime cooperative partnership this country has ever seen, before or since. A partnership that was based on a great positive achievement for not only our country but for all mankind.

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Standard of Excellence: From Adversaries to Collaborators—Let’s Do This Together


Because of the results of the pandemic, we are experiencing shortages like we have never faced in our lifetime.Therefore, it is more important than ever that we all work together—and I really do mean all of us. Those of us who fabricate PCBs must open our minds and doors to the idea of working together. Where for so many years we competed to the point of treating one another as adversaries, we now must come together to form a cohesive partnership. Anaya Vardya explains.

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Standard Of Excellence: Partnering for a Complete Synergistic Solution


Now more than ever, our customers are looking for complete solutions. They are looking for quick turn new product introduction solutions that will include the three services: PCB design, fabrication, and assembly. They want to place their business as easily, simply, and quickly as possible. This means that they want to place one purchase order with one company and that company will act as the prime on the job and will give their other two partners their purchase orders. The three companies will then work together to provide their customer a complete synergistic solution.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnership Is a Team Effort


The best way to develop and implement a true ongoing and productive partnership with your vendor/partners is to make it a full team effort. Each companies’ partnership team should have members from each of the company’s departments. For example, the vendor’s team should have someone from the shipping department coordinating with someone from your receiving department. The same with engineering, the same with quality and the same with operations. This coordination should be at all levels from the top down.

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Standard of Excellence: Great Customer Service is a Two-Way Street


We all enjoy great customer service. Actually, we love great customer service. We love it so much that we are always happy to tell everyone we know when one of our vendors provides us with great customer service. We actually want to let people know that we are getting special services from our vendors. We might even want to evangelize about them. And that is the point of this column. The best way to get great customer service from your vendor partner is to be open to it. Here are seven ways to be sure you always get the best customer service possible.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnering to Produce New and Innovative Products


One of the best features, the best benefits of working closer in partnership with your vendor partners is working with them to develop new products for the industry—whether it’s a new thermal management material with one of your laminate vendors or helping them develop a new piece of equipment that will benefit your entire industry. This is when a great partnership can serve to benefit everyone involved, even those not directly involved those in your industry who will benefit greatly by the new and innovative product you worked on. Talk about partnering productively!

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Standard of Excellence: Great Things Are Accomplished With Partnerships


There are some very simple steps to developing and sustaining a good partnership with your PCB vendor/partners, all based on treating your partners as you want to be treated. It's following the Golden Rule. But before you do that you have to get rid of that other golden rule, “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

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Standard of Excellence: Co-Marketing with Your Vendor Partners


This is certainly a time for all of us to pull together in the true spirit of cooperative partnership. There are even better ways to increase the level of partnership you have with your vendor now, and with your customers as well. One on the best ways is to do some co-marketing.

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Standard of Excellence: Working Through Shortages


As result of the pandemic, severe shortages—both real and created—from our offshore vendors is making it difficult for us to build and deliver products on time. Here are five tips for getting through this together.

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Standard of Excellence: The Beauty of a Partnership


Partnerships are more important than ever. Not only with your vendors as we regularly focus on in this column, but with your competitors as well. I believe that if we can all start working together in this new post-pandemic world, life will be much better for all of us individually but also better for our industry as a whole.

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Standard of Excellence: Dare to Share


We often talk about the value of working closely with your vendors to the point of making them partners. This strategy makes sense. The closer you are to your vendors, the more you help them, the better vendors they will be, and most importantly the better partners they will be. Now let’s take that idea to the next level, all the way to the point of a true partnership.

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Standard of Excellence: Finding the Right PCB Partners


The pandemic and also recent shifts in our geopolitical view of the world have changed the way we look at offshore PCB vendor partners, especially those in China. These two factors alone—increase in new technology, and an onshoring trend for buying more PCBs domestically—have caused a significant paradigm shift in choosing your PCB/ vendor partners.

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Standard of Excellence: Be the Vendor—Walk in Their Shoes


We have been constantly reminded over the years to step into our customers’ shoes: looking at things from our customers’ perspective, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, understanding the challenges they face to make it in their own marketplace. We have been advised that this is the best way to gain insight into what it takes for us to become valuable to our customers.

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Standard of Excellence: Going Public With Your Partner


One aspect of a great partnership with your vendors is to show the world how you are working together. Demonstrating how a great partnership can serve both your companies well and is beneficial to your industry too. Anaya Vardya shares nine ways to go public with your partner.

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Standard of Excellence: Bringing Your Salespeople Together


One of the most overlooked aspects of having a great partnership with your PCB vendors is making sure that your salespeople know each other. Anaya Vardya shares six key reasons to develop a partnership between your sales team and your PCB vendor's team.

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Standard of Excellence: 4 Areas That Will Improve by Next Year


As we continue to work our way through this pandemic, it makes us wonder about—and even yearn for—what things will be like one year from now. Looking ahead to what doing business will be like, Anaya Vardya shares four things that we have been forced to do today that we will still be doing—and, hopefully, doing even better than now—in October of 2021.

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Standard of Excellence: Five Ways to Ensure You Have the Right Military PCB Supplier


With the current shortage of qualified and certified military PCB suppliers, finding one has become more challenging than ever, and the trend toward consolidation over the past few years has only added to the shortage. Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines to consider when developing a bilateral relationship with your military PCB supplier.

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Standard of Excellence: Looking at the Future Together


With so many things changing right now, as well as lots of innovation happening and new products being developed, it’s important that you share your vision of the future with your PCB suppliers. Anaya Vardya shares six general logistical processes to use when working with customers on their product innovation and development.

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Standard of Excellence: Being a Valuable Customer


We always talk about being a valuable vendor, but what about being a valuable customer? Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines for making sure that you are always your suppliers’ most valued customer.

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Standard of Excellence: A Great Partnership Is a Two-Way Street


Are you a good and true partner to your PCB vendors? Are you doing everything you can to participate in an honest partnership where both partners equally look out for one another? Anaya Vardya shares 16 questions to consider when contemplating how good a partner you are to your PCB vendors and others.

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Standard of Excellence: You Get What You Pay For


When you work with a good PCB fabricator, you need to have a good understanding of the total value of the product. Many companies look for the bottom-dollar price of PCBs and do not take the time to make sure they are getting the very best deal they can. Anaya Vardya discusses the value of a PCB and what makes up the true costs.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnership in Challenging Times


Now, more than ever, we need to partner with one another. Traditionally, Anaya's columns have focused on developing a strong working bond with your PCB vendor partners. In this column, Anaya discusses how we must have partnerships with everyone we deal with during our daily business lives.

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Standard of Excellence: Successful R&D With Your PCB Partner


Now, more than ever, we have to rely on our PCB partners to help us with new product development. A great deal of trust and confidence in our PCB vendors is required to create and fulfill this type of partnership fruitfully. Anaya Vardya shares eight things that must be in place to have a successful R&D relationship with your PCB partner.

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Standard of Excellence: Respecting Your PCB Vendor Partner


One of the more important aspects of any partnership is mutual respect for one another. And, of course, this is extremely important when it comes to your PCB vendor partner. Many times, in the past, PCB fabricators have been treated as the third wheel in the relationship, stuck between their suppliers on one side and their vendors on the other. In most cases, both of these other entities were much larger and more powerful that the PCB shops.

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Invite Your PCB Partner to a Strategic Sales Meeting


The best way to work with your PCB vendors is to treat them as strategic partners. This means not only sharing your current needs but your future ones as well. I know that this requires a great deal of trust on your part as well as that of your PCB vendor partner. But if you have been reading this column, and doing everything we have recommended, then you should already be prepared for this. If you want your PCB vendor to be prepared to meet your future needs, you have to tell them what they are; it’s that simple.

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Standard of Excellence: Your PCB Technology Partner


There are regular PCB vendor relationships, and then there are the partnerships where you invest in future projects, such as developing processes for a new technology where you will have to share the work, responsibility, and success of the project. In short, project partnerships require a much deeper and more trusting relationship with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Great Partnerships Are Forged in Adversity


When you’re in the PCB business, the one thing you can count on is that something will go wrong; it always does. Here are six steps to not only help and support your vendor through problematic times but also use the adversity as an opportunity to develop a deeper and more productive relationship.

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Standard of Excellence: How Strong Is Your Vendor Partnership?


For the past year, I’ve talked about various aspects of developing a great vendor-customer relationship with your PCB fabricators from trust to confidentiality and sharing the future. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when testing the strength of your current partnership with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Finding a Global Solution With Your Domestic Supplier


As the world goes global, so does the PCB industry. It is no longer sufficient to have a domestic PCB vendor; it has become critical to have a portal to offshore PCB acquisitions as well. But here are six reasons why, in many cases, it is better to go through your own domestic PCB supplier when you want to take advantage of the global PCB vendor base.

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Standard of Excellence: Choosing the Right Replacement Vendor


What happens when you have all of the suppliers you need, but a larger firm acquires one of them all of a sudden, and there is only one qualified supplier left when there used to be two. As a smart PCB user, you always want to keep your options open in case you are going to have to qualify another supplier to buy your PCBs from.

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Standard of Excellence: Three Ways to Face the Future With Your PCB Suppliers


Once you have established a solid, trusting relationship with your PCB vendor, you can start working together developing new products, technologies, and in some cases, services. There are even times when your PCB supplier will bring projects to you. Here are three ways that you can work with your PCB suppliers to face the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Four Tips on Listening to Your PCB Suppliers


Once you have done your due diligence, have developed a strong working partnership with your PCB suppliers, and now feel confident that those suppliers are the right ones, the next step is to recognize that your PCB suppliers are indeed the true experts, and that you can trust them enough to listen to them. Here are four tips on listening to and learning from your suppliers to ensure that you have the best PCB value that money can buy.

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Standard of Excellence: Buy Based on Value, Not Price


There are only two ways to buy PCBs; the first is based on price, which is the wrong way because it encourages a very shallow relationship based on just one thing—the price of the boards; and the second, and right, is based on value. A great company should understand what it means to buy value.

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