Overseas Assembly

Overseas production PCB assembly is another story. It’s like trying to tame a beast, giving it constant attention. Otherwise, it’ll turn on you. That is the umbrella OEM criteria covering a wide array of concerns. First and foremost, the OEM should recognize that overseas CMs often use different, but similar materials which are made for their local markets and components to assemble PCBs. In this regard, when component shortages occur, the OEM must make sure the CM has sufficient clout to obtain allocated product.

Chinese and Taiwanese components have different designations and manufacturers than U.S.-made components. U.S. parts are therefore replaced with overseas devices of equal or similar value. Generally, no issues are involved as long as the OEM product is mature. However, if the need to debug arises, the OEM has new or unusual components to deal with and that poses an issue.

OEMs also have to consider lead times, which could extend upwards of 16-20 weeks before seeing a product. Local holidays have to be factored into the PCB assembly schedule. For example, don’t expect any work or communications during the 10-day Chinese New Year holiday. OEMs should carefully evaluate the CM’s test prowess, as well, and find out about non-recurring engineering (NRE) charges, which can run into multiple thousands of dollars.

What if the OEM is introducing a brand new U.S. made component on the PCB assembly job? The OEM has to nail down assurances that those new components will be shipped expeditiously and arrive at their overseas CM destination on time. They cannot be held up at customs or encounter bureaucratic red tape, plus the OEM must get a handle on duties or other forms of taxation.

Once the OEM receives assemblies from an overseas CM, and failed boards surface, how is this issue resolved? Or once in the U.S., a board may work okay for two or three weeks in the field and then fail. Does the CM arrangement include warranties for free testing and board repair in the U.S.?