The printed circuit buyer's resource centre – helping buyers, engineers and designers make informed decisions

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




Rasmussen, R. (2004), "The printed circuit buyer's resource centre – helping buyers, engineers and designers make informed decisions", Circuit World, Vol. 30 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The printed circuit buyer's resource centre – helping buyers, engineers and designers make informed decisions

The printed circuit buyer's resource centre – helping buyers, engineers and designers make informed decisions

Keywords: Printed circuit boards, Electronics industry

Rushing off to China to buy printed circuit boards would seem to be all the rage if you believed the trade press these days. Substantially cutting the cost of PCBs would seem to be an irresistible incentive for most companies. What many in the press fail to point out is that this market share shift was inevitable, and usually represents high volume products under heavy price pressure. Moreover, most are not just buying PCBs, but entire assembled products, which is the real driver behind the exodus. Although these products represent a good chuck of the total electronics market, they do not represent the majority of companies, which seems to have escaped the review of the writers, consultants and market gurus. One could argue that the stampede to Asia of high-volume, low margin PCBs is a good thing in that it hastens the restructuring of the PCB industry.

The market

Still driven by US, European and Japanese OEMs, the market for electronic products is huge. Excluding the major OEMs, there are still approximately 10-15,000 companies producing electronic products in the US and Europe. Most have little desire or need to travel the world looking for the lowest cost producer of the components they purchase. For them, it is not about price, but rather about familiarity with the source of their boards, which is usually based on a history of good quality and timely delivery.

For these smaller companies, the biggest problems they face are keeping abreast with the latest technologies, the market and the players. As we all know, not all OEMs fit all fabricators. Mismatched partners drive costs up and quality and delivery down. Helping OEMs stay engaged in the industry by giving them easy access to industry resources seems to make a lot of sense. It is the unknowns and assumptions that can open the door to low-cost producers. In many cases, the only tangible data a buyer or specifier has to work with is the price of a PCB, which can place a US or European PCB fabricators at a disadvantage.

So, how does the PCB industry in the US and Europe hang onto those OEMs that are left? Give OEMs the best value in PCBs on the planet, by providing the buyer the information he or she needs to gain a better understanding of the industry as a whole. Informed buyers, engineers and designers make better purchasing decisions and great business partners. Making good purchasing decisions can mean understanding the total value of the relationship between the OEM and Fabricator.

Over the last year, we have been developing a comprehensive resource for those individuals responsible for specifying, or purchasing printed circuit boards. The Printed Circuit Buyer's Resource Centre (PCBRC) has been developed as an integral component of a more efficient and effective purchasing process with the focus on buyer education and support.

We know that the seller benefits when a buyer is up-to-speed on the latest technologies and market conditions. An educated buyer purchases boards based on "value" not "price". By using PCBRC's extensive resources, these individuals gain a better understanding of the processes, materials, and business conditions which influence the quality, delivery, and price of a printed circuit board.

Ask an expert

One way to empower buyers and specifiers is through "Ask an Expert". This service connects hundreds of PCB technology experts to those designers, engineers and purchasing professionals who have questions about PCB technologies, the industry, and players. These experts have volunteered to answer these questions for free! It's a great service and has garnered a lot of support from both Buyers and Sellers.

PCB directory

Another effort to bring the industry into the buyer/ specifier's office is our directory of PCB fabricators. At present, users will find a comprehensive list of North American fabricators. We are in the process of developing a global list through our partner Fabfile Online ( with full contact information, facility profiles, and manufacturing capabilities. Users can quickly zero in on the best supplier for their products, saving a tremendous amount of time, and helping them locate a "best- fit" supplier.

In addition to our fabricator database, directories of EMS/CM, ODMs, PCB Assemblers, PCB Design, and System Design companies will be added, giving OEMs access to the entire market, not just the few found in the general business directories, which proliferate currently.

Some of the other features at the Resource Centre are, Industry Newsletters, Industry News, Glossary of Terms and Acronyms, a simple RFQ Form, links to all industry publications and associations, and much more.

Industry specific

The Internet is obviously changing the way we all do business. Although seemingly beneficial, this tremendous amount of information can sometimes overwhelm and confuse. Those who are trying to gain more knowledge in certain areas of technology, or to locate those companies with a certain capability or expertise, are faced with a plethora of information to sift through. For example, a Google search for "printed circuit board" brings up over one million results! Another web search for "PCB" brings back almost 3 million listings! The PCBRC will work to continually consolidate all industry information pertinent to a buyer or specifier, giving them access to the tools they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

Becoming one

Really, all of us should work to integrate OEMs into the PCB industry. The more they are connected, the more they will understand the value of the services offered. A purchasing professional, who buys PCBs on price alone, is doing his company and the industry a disservice. An engineer or designer, who does not take time to learn about the latest PCB technologies or fabrication processes, will not make the best choices for his company's newest products. It is all connected.

"Best-fit" partners

Helping buyers and specifiers locate the best suppliers for their products is critical to the success of the industry. Although many fabricators talk about finding the best customers, few companies actually employ a strategy to do so. Most fill their factories with whatever they get. As long as they are profitable, they are happy. We believe that companies should work diligently to fill their factory with "best-fit" customers only. "Best-fit" partners have lower costs and higher margins, both buyer and seller profit.


Along with PCBRC, BoardBuyers ( was created to support the other half of the buy/sell relationship, helping fabricators locate "best-fit" customers. This extensive database of companies that buy printed circuit boards, helps sellers quickly locate those companies most likely to buy the kinds of PCBs they sell. This is one-kind of directory which contains extensive OEM and EMS profiles allowing PCB Sales Professionals to quickly locate a prospective target account. Now, sales executives can spend their time selling rather than prospecting for new customers out of phone books or general business directories. Based on customer feedback, we estimate that BoardBuyers can reduce the cost of sales by as much as 50 per cent!

BoardBuyers offers its customers the world. No longer do fabricators need to focus strictly on regional markets or develop extensive and expensive sales rep networks to explore new markets. New markets can be explored online with best-fit partnerships.

Buyers benefit, too. With our extensive profiles, sellers do not need to call all the companies in the database to try and find a match. This dramatically reduces the number of calls to buyers from BoardBuyers' subscribers. Our users are encouraged to focus on "best-fit" potential prospects. It is a win/win scenario.

Conclusion and, are working to change the way the industry does business. These simple services help both buyer and seller radically reduce the cost of their relationships, strengthening the industry by bringing "best-fit" partners, together.

For more information about the PCB/EMS industry, please contact The Printed Circuit Buyer's Resource Centre (PCBRC). Tel: 530- 626-2551; E-mail:; Web site: You can visit BoardBuyers. E-mail:; Web site:

Ray Rasmussen

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