How to Minimize Quoting Time and Increase Accuracy in EMS Production

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New product introductions (NPIs) and customization have been increasing rapidly over the past few years—with the results that the already-small profit margins in electronics assembly are shrinking even further. Fifteen years ago, the PCB was the product. Today, most products are a system, with multiple PCBs, cables, and enclosures. Many manufacturers want to provide turn-key products that have multiple BOMs, making the assembly process even more complicated.

Accurate quoting is more critical than ever, but, as any electronics manufacturer knows, that’s no easy task. PCB assembly bill-of-materials (BOM) file types, formats (text, XML, database), and accuracy vary greatly, and OEMs are forced to invest significant resources in cleaning the data and validating the content before creating a quote. Even after they are extracted, there is no way to validate the manufacturer part numbers, no assurance that it is available for purchase, and no way to check whether there is an accessible alternative option that is less expensive. These challenges lead to inaccurate quotes and problems during sourcing and production.

Traditionally, electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies rely on manual activities and Excel macros to quote PCB projects. But, as process engineering solutions continue to advance, a more efficient way is needed to verify the design, source components, and accurately cost out the project.

Given the small profit margins in electronics assembly, accurate quoting is critical. However, because design companies generally send out several requests for quote (RFQs) for each project, manufacturers end up providing quotes for many more projects than make it into production. Just like for OEMs, EMS companies deal with the differing BOM file types, formats, and content for each customer, which can lead to inaccurate quotes and problems during production runs. Because of the sheer volume, the ability to create accurate quotes quickly, without tying up process engineers, is vital.

EMS Quoting Not Just about Pricing
Errors in the source data cause delays in quoting or expensive production costs. Global events are also affecting component supply, adding eight to 30 months to the delivery time. Identifying obsolete parts or those near end-of-life is key to effective purchasing. Getting reliable pricing and lead time information is a cumbersome, manual process if done “the old way.” Quoting is performed by a costing/purchasing department, not part of manufacturing. OEMs deal with many of these issues as well, even if under more “controlled” circumstances.

The Valor BOM Connector tool was created to address these challenges and reduce the time needed to create accurate quotations for PCB assemblies. The tool imports and creates templates for BOM files to output a BOM that connects directly to the manufacturer’s ERP system. When used with Valor Process Preparation, consistency is ensured with the CAD file so that it can be used to confirm that all parts are appropriate for the board.

The software provides online connectivity to component suppliers, making it simple for manufacturers to check pricing and availability in real time. They can see which parts match existing inventory in the ERP system, which need to be sourced from component suppliers and, when available, minimum order discount levels. The system can connect with credentialed suppliers to conduct automated online searches and queries based on part descriptions and ensure that preferential pricing and deliveries are available (Figure 1).

The tool also enables keeping a history for each customer. Once a design is received and components are listed, the data can be saved for future projects. Storing the data so it is ready to use for the customer’s next order saves time and ensures accuracy for future orders.

Continue reading this article in the March 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.

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