Order pooling can help small scale or specialised operations save money on their PCB and prototype costs by sharing fabrication panel space, tools and machine set-ups.
The reasoning behind this cost saving is quite simple and can be best illustrated with an example:
If Company A requires one 5×3.1 boards and Company B requires one 7.9×8.01 board then fitting each board on a separate standard (18×24) PCB fabrication panel would be a grossly inefficient use of manufacturing space. If, however, the manufacturer was in a position to put both boards on the same fabrication panel then they could generate economies for both clients.
In addition to the optimal use of materials, Companies A and B would be able to share tool time and machine set-ups which would again generate efficiencies in their production costs.
Similarly, if Company A needs multiple small but unique boards then they can save money on production if they are all printed on the same fabrication board and using the same production set-up.
Obviously, a manufacturer’s capacity to offer these production savings depends on its size and the number of small orders it receives. As a specialist in small scale and prototype circuits, Hi5 Electronics receives many smaller circuit designs each week. As such, we are able to offer regular clients discounts by printing multiple designs onto the same manufacturing panel.
A brief history of order pooling
Order pooling is the latest expression of humankind’s capacity to co-operate. Our collective history is littered with examples of how co-operation and sharing has allowed us to make the most out of scant resources. Right from our earliest hunter gatherer days we realised that by co-operating and specialising we could gather more food to feed the tribe.
In the PCB world co-operation and specialisation have allowed us to deliver a richer offering to clients. The development of CAD systems and more elaborate CAM software has allowed for the mass transfer of files and higher levels of standardisation across the industry. Similarly, as the majority of ‘high-volume’ manufacturing has moved to low-cost areas in Asia, European companies such as Hi5 have specialised in small scale and high-quality fabrications. Order pooling became a natural way of saving costs and producing numerous prototypes at competitive prices.