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Building UK PCB manufacturing partnerships

Electronic Sourcing caught up with Daleba Printed Circuits’ business development manager, Tony Hawkins, to discuss the current UK PCB supply chain

Building UK PCB manufacturing partnership

To set the scene, how has the PCB supply chain evolved since your arrival in the industry in the late ‘80s?

I have always been involved with bare board production and when I started there were over 700 UK companies making PCBs for their living. You could find a PCB shop or two in every town. Today, there are around 22 remaining, with just a few manufacturing reasonable volume.

That is a huge reduction, why are there so few UK PCB producers left?

Many PCB businesses merged, yet many also failed. Successful manufacturers invested consistently and integrated Far East sourcing. In the UK, merely producing two or fourlayer boards isn't sustainable. Investing in capabilities, people and quality is vital. This ensures quick, efficient production for UK clients' latest designs. You need to be able to make whatever your customer needs.

What is meant by integrated Far East sourcing?

UK PCB buyers will always have projects they do not want to send overseas. They may also need PCBs quickly or require access to PCB manufacturing technology not readily available offshore. Equally, as projects grow it makes commercial sense to investigate the lower price points of offshore manufacturing. To succeed, a PCB supplier must invest in offshore capabilities. Merely sending data to a manufacturer isn't enough. Having fully audited production partners and local teams in Asia managing engineering and logistics is crucial for a seamless supply chain.

What else has changed in the supply chain over the years?

A key term is ‘consignment’. A reliable PCB supplier can offer consignment stock, 86 - 2021 leveraging economies of scale to reduce costs. Customers might agree to a six-month supply schedule. The supplier then produces in bulk for cost efficiency, delivering over the agreement's duration. This setup, with PCBs sometimes stored at the customer's facility and billed on use, ensures boards are always available, while enhancing cash flow.

Daleba has been trading over 60 years, what makes it successful?

Daleba's success stems from being a part of the TCL Group, which includes GSPK Circuits. Together, we offer comprehensive UK production PCB solutions, backed by our teams in Hong Kong and mainland China for offshore supply. We supply approximately 50 million PCBs annually and, excluding stock at our customer’s production facilities, we hold six million in our Hertford warehouse, exemplifying our position as a leading UK PCB supplier.

How do you see the UK supply chain developing?

Exemplary technical ability and service levels are a given. This needs to be matched with a continual development in enhanced manufacturing solutions to help customers develop new products. For instance, our Group is a leader in heavy copper PCBs for power electronics applications. We now talk to some engineers in millimetres of copper rather than ounces! Suppliers and customers need to work together as partners, sharing benefits from both sides. Embracing a shared vision and leveraging cutting-edge technology will be the cornerstone for PCB suppliers aiming to excel in today's competitive landscape.

Date : 15-02-2024

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