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58 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2020 that can quickly add up to offshore manu- facturing actually being more expensive than domestic. An overseas manufacturer in a time zone 10–14 hours different from yours builds your board while you sleep. Unfortunately, if you need to speak directly with someone on the offshore team, one of you will be getting up in the middle of the night to do so. Disruptions to routines like this can lead to miscommu- nications, misunderstandings, and expensive mistakes (Figure 1). Your IP Won't Protect Itself While It's Away The threats to your IP are complex, vary from country to country, and require a substantial financial commitment to combat. Laws sur- rounding domestic patents, trade secrets, and mask work are antiquated and provide mini- mal protection. Little or no motivation exists in places like China to protect U.S. corporate IP. Their laws, aimed at protecting foreign IP, are mostly toothless and carry limited enforce- ment effort with them. Your Production Volume May Not Justify the Journey Volume is one critical factor in determining whether to use a domestic or offshore manu- facturer. Offshoring favors simple or estab- lished PCB designs that require high-volume runs with long lead times. The larger, potential aggregate savings better insulate your bottom line against less apparent offshore manufac- turing costs. The return on offshore manufacturing investment diminishes quickly when dealing with a lower volume or prototyping produc- tion. This QA risk alone should give pause to lower volume producers. A domestic resource offers more transparency to the manufacturing process, and collaboration happens faster and with less effort. Issues resolve quickly, which minimizes risk to yield and PCB quality. Excellence Is Not Relative During the transition from design to manu- facturing, you need effective communication and coordinated effort to succeed. Transition plans, phase-ins and phase-outs, and revision control demand immediate attention that is sometimes unavailable because of time zone differences. Respected PCB fabricators in the U.S. build their businesses by excelling in these areas, while offshore vendors simply aren't structured to provide the responsive support often required in such situations. For an overseas provider, it is hard for your small-run project to be a priority. Even if you have an established PCB design to manufac- turing flow, larger production runs will take precedence over smaller ones. Unless you are prepared to overstock to accommodate your offshore vendor, this widely accepted practice impacts scheduling and can ripple through your supply chain—adding up to significant delays in getting the finished product out the door. Domestic manufacturers are structured for better flexibility, can provide real-time support, and are more likely to better meet the needs of low-volume production. They are also more likely to adopt green manufacturing practices and provide a safe working environment for their employees—qualities increasingly impor- tant to members of our industry. And if you operate on a JIT basis, fabricators located in your hemisphere pose less of a scheduling risk. Figure 1: Differences in time zones can lead to difficulties.

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