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20 The PCB Design Magazine • November 2014 In the PCB design services world, there is a wide range of business models with key trad- eoffs. Small, independent "freelance" layout services—typically run from a home office— have little overhead and can be more cost-effec- tive. However, "independent" can often mean a single designer with limited bandwidth and limited design software capability. A larger design company—often referred to as a design service bureau—joins together multi- ple designers who have unique design specialties and probably owns licensing for several design software tools to serve a larger customer base. Doing business with a design service bureau is much like doing business with a team. The price may be a bit higher due to the increased over- head, but the cost of getting your company's project done on time could be significantly lower, due to the company's greater PCB design resources and ex- perience that can be directed toward the project. And there are still larger options available. For quite a few years now, the PCB indus- try has seen full-service EMS companies move to providing design layout services. Some of these companies started as design service bureaus and have been so successful that they have been able to add parallel ser- vices such as engineering, component sourcing and purchasing, along with additional services like assembly, inspection and test. The price of doing design business with a design and manufacturing operation like this could seem astronomical when compared to a small design service. But if your company is looking for more than just a layout service, perhaps delivery of a handful of working pro- totypes, or even a market-ready product, a full- service EMS company can make a lot of sense. A business partner like this will have full control of the manufacturing process and can orient the design layout more specifically to the man- ufacturing processes which they control. The design, engineering and manufacturing groups in these companies work closely together to ensure success and own the quality of the final product. help Define the Outsourcing Process You are a successful PCB designer within your company. You've probably done so well that the EEs you work with are spoiled to the point of tossing you a schematic on a paper napkin after the morning meeting and expect- ing a finished layout by lunch, right? Depending on which design service model suits your company's needs, your engineering group will need to understand what will be re- quired to do business with an outside PCB de- sign service. If this is a first-time outsourcing experience, some people in your department are going to have to learn a new busi- ness paradigm: formalized com- munication! If you haven't already, you can help by document- ing your own process. Who does what? When? Where? How? What netlist format? What is your layout meth- odology? What are your naming conventions, design layer conventions, and out- put requirements? Most de- sign service bureaus are more than happy to start with a de- sign template that you prepare for them. They appreciate the need for seamless consistency as design data moves from the customer, through the design service process and back to the customer. With your own company design process documented, you have a basis for expecting a certain amount of conformance from a PCB service company. You have defined which PCB layout tools you use and have established your PCB documentation and archival requirements. It will make more sense to management as they move forward in the selection process to choose a design service company which is compatible with your established process. Hopefully, a good part of the decision will be based on your ability to adapt, change, copy and evolve the outsourced design revisions in the future when you have more time. feature ADDING VALuE TO YOuR DESIGN OuTSOuRCING ExPERIENCE continues With your own company design process documented, you have a basis for expecting a certain amount of conformance from a PCB service company. " "

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