Prototype assembly is an essential piece in the process of bringing an electronic to market. It is during the prototype assembly phase that problems with the product are identified, changes that are essential to the success of the product are made, and improvements in the production process that reduce costs and make assembly more efficient are made.
If you are a small to medium-sized company, performing your own in-house prototype assembly might be out of the question. You would need a manufacturer who is able to provide low volume PCB assembly to do this for you. And of course, finding the best prototype assembly provider is a critical and difficult decision. To help you out, we’ve put together a guide of things to look for:
Four Qualities to Look for in a Prototype Assembly Provider
- Look for a one-stop-shop.
Your product probably involves several moving pieces, but the more manufacturers you involve in the process, the more room for error there is. If a single piece in the supply chain messes up, it throws your entire prototype assembly into havoc.
Instead of using one provider for your parts, and another for your assembly, and a third for your logistics, look for a single (reliable) prototype assembly provider who will take over management of the entire process from beginning to end.
- Testing should be priority numero uno.
If your product fails after it has gone to market, your customers aren’t going to look at the product with your name all over and assume that it’s just a problem you have with manufacturing. Any mistakes made in the prototype assembly phase are a devastating reflection of your business. This is why the inspection and testing piece of the assembly process isn’t just important; it should be the greatest priority of your manufacturing company.
Just like having a problem with the manufacturing process will cost you an arm and a leg (and your reputation) after your product has gone to market, if you make sure that extra time and resources are dedicated to inspection and testing in the front end, you’ll create a strong reputation in your industry, which strengthens your brand. This all boils down to finding a prototype assembly provider who is dedicated to testing.
- Think local.
Many business owners believe that the least expensive route to go with product assembly is through an overseas manufacturing service. While the cost of labor might be lower than hiring an American provider, there are extra costs that you wouldn’t expect when you import your manufacturing assembly from another country. Some of these expenses include longer turn around times, unreliable shipping and quality issues, and greater logistical costs. If you carefully weigh out the entire cost of doing business with an international manufacturer rather than a local provider, you may find that keeping your supply-chain stateside is the most economical choice.
- Look for years in the biz.
We know technology stays hot for about 30 seconds before becoming obsolete, but the overall process of prototype assembly has remained fairly constant for the last 35+ years. Products that required circuit boards have been built since approximately the 1980’s, and the way that they are assembled hasn’t changed much over that time. What this means to you is that, even though your exact product needs are unique, the longer the assembly services have been in business, the more likely they’ve handled similar projects, and will have some “lessons learned” under their belts to help you achieve the most efficient assembly process at the lowest cost.
Another reason that longevity matters is that you have to put a certain level of blind trust in your product assembly provider. You have to trust that they will not use counterfeit or low-quality parts in the assembly process. You have to trust that they will vigorously test and inspect your product, so only good-quality is associated with your brand. While you can’t utilize a crystal ball to tell you what your future will look like if you trust the manufacturer, if they have been around for a while and maintained a good reputation with other businesses, it’s a great sign that you can trust them too.
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