Use an overseas or UK prototype PCB manufacturer?

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PCB manufacture returns to UKAt Hi5 we enjoy many, many collective years of experience in the design and manufacture of printed circuit boards.  We remain prototype PCB production experts, combining home-grown expertise with UK-based levels of quality and control.

Of course we keep our collective eyes closely trained on the global PCB industry and are always keen to keep abreast of new trends and developments.  Equally, we are keen to then pass this information on to our customers, and those interested in electronics and circuit board manufacture.  To that end, in the coming weeks we will be going into more detail about the varied aspects to this fascinating, ever evolving industry.

One trend that we have found particularly interesting – and of course one that is pertinent to us here at Hi5, as a UK-based manufacturer – is the move back towards domestic manufacture, and away from outsourcing, overseas.  As this is a particularly current concern, we will go into more detail about the various problems of overseas outsourcing within further articles in the coming weeks.  However, in this first instance we will look to provide a brief overview of the situation.

We are all supposed to empirically understand, from what we see and are told, that it’s always easier to look overseas to arrange the manufacture for anything… from prototype PCBs to kettles.  And China – with its booming economy, developing cities and industrial infrastructure – always seems to be the place to go.  However, look a little more closely at the situation… is that really the case?  Actually, there are a range of issues that means the pendulum is now swinging back the other way… towards the use of domestic manufacturers, such as Hi5.

Why PCB manufacture has returned to the UK

Let’s look at just a number of elements that might be immediately highlighted by a basic cost-benefit analysis.  Firstly, and within the domestic sphere, it has been proven that productivity keeps getting better and better, adding value to any manufacturing contract.  Compare that to outsourcing.  Firstly, we find the persistent evidence of rising wages overseas.  Yes, the rubric has apparently held that wages are cheaper overseas, and yet statistics evidence that wages overseas are up by about a fifth, year on year, which can – even on its own – dramatically influence the value of placing your business overseas.

In addition, the increasing complexity of contemporary PCB design means highly-skilled manufactures are now more and more highly prized.  Equally, as the nuanced complexity of the designs goes up, volumes come down, and the numbers simply no longer add up, when weighing up the need for skilled engineers, making fewer boards.

Other factors have also contributed to this industry trend.   Transportation, of course, also add to overall costs, not to mention the logistics, and time, in bringing boards half way around the world, with potential delays causing very real headaches.  The sector has witnessed only very limited improvements in the “speed to market” post-manufacture.

Interestingly, therefore the shift seems to be towards bringing the business back within domestic shores.  Not outsourcing, then, but “reshoring”.  This trend goes all the way to the top.  In America, General Electric have brought their large scale production back onshore.  Of course when companies of that size make such a move, everyone else sits up and takes notice.

So perhaps, after all, there is firm evidence to back up what we have always known.  Employing a domestic manufacturer such as Hi5 means you are much closer to the process, and can expect a better quality service, and final product.  We like nothing better than being “on trend”… so pick up the phone, give us a call (here in the People’s Republic of Rochdale), and we will be happy to discuss further…


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