PCB007 Magazine

PCB-July2015

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38 The PCB Magazine • July 2015 by Mark Goodwin VeNTec Designing a supply chain for the provision of laminates and pre-pregs to the PCB fabrica- tor shouldn't be that complicated, should it? The laminate is simply manufactured and then shipped…what could possibly go wrong? It turns out it is more complicated, partly because the supply chain is not fully owned by one supplier, and hence cannot be fully cus- tomized to the needs of each customer. There are a number of things that make that supply chain complex beyond the fact that there are multiple parties involved, from the laminator to the distributor or sales agent to the logistics provider. Forecasting, as we all know, is not an exact science, especially in Western Europe and North America, where lower volumes, high mix and quick-turn are the demand drivers. The PCB industry is so unpredictable in its demand that most fabricators won't offer their laminate sup- plier a forecast at all. This may not be a problem for the regularly used, standard materials that are most likely available locally and at short no- tice, or are perhaps even part of a consignment stock agreement. But what about those unusual requests, which seem to always be accompanied by a request for fast turnaround? These might not be available in your geography, and that de- lay in receiving material can be the difference between winning or losing an order, or even re- taining or losing a customer. Increasingly, the supply chain seems to want to shift any commercial risk involved in stock- ing goods onto the customer who isn't refusing to forecast because they don't want to, but sim- ply because they can't. So demand is unpredictable, but there's more to it than that. What about customization of materials, such as unbalanced copper or an unusual build structure? This is out of the ques- tion for typical laminate supply chains with third-party distribution, where the local vendor has to share your needs with his supplier or sup- pliers and find a solution that then has to be produced and shipped. All of that takes time— too much time. On top of these challenges one must con- sider compliance and traceability. A fragmented supply chain will probably lack the traceability and security you want, and even the traceability you need for the various bodies you are audited by. You are responsible for your supply chain, so any lack of traceability or even visibility leaves A Well- Designed Laminate Supply Chain has to Own It! Feature

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