Before you ship your PCBA, it’s essential to test its functionality. But are you better off building that test system in-house or hiring an outside vendor? As a test integration partner for more than 50 years, we’ve worked with a wide variety of customers with different requirements and with varying levels of internal resources. Those who have had success determining the best course of action for their unique needs have evaluated the following considerations before deciding:
Do you have the right team in-house for the project?
Assessing your team members and their background is a great place to start. You need to ensure you have enough team members available to handle the project. Additionally, you need a team with experience in this specific area. Without it, you won’t be able to confidently test your PCBA for its functionality. Additionally, do you have the right organizational structure and resources to be successful? Can your build shop scale to the volume of test systems that need to be assembled?
What are your employee costs?
Next, calculate your internal costs versus the costs of outsourcing. Determine if the bill rates for your partner’s test team are lower than your internal costs including all burden. You may have the right group in place to complete the job, but if their fully burdened hourly rate dwarfs that of a test partner’s team, your engineers may be overqualified. If there is little or no difference in their experience, cost may drive your ultimate decision. Also be sure to comprehend all the “other” costs for in-house implementations. For instance, the cost of the person to build the Bill of Materials (BOM), purchase the materials, receive and inspect the materials, pay invoices, etc. There are a lot of ancillary costs that are sometimes overlooked in the make vs. buy assessment.
What is your lead time for this project?
Timing will play a large role in your final decision. Define the lead time and reevaluate your available resources. Can this team complete the work in the time allotted? In the past, we’ve successfully partnered with companies that could capably build a given functional test system under perfect conditions. But as anyone in the test environment knows, those ideal circumstances are rarely enjoyed. If your team is going to be stretched beyond its capacity or an additional project will create internal stress, outsourcing the work can be less disruptive for your business and allow greater focus on the other aspects of the manufacturing line.
Have you completed a project similar to this one before?
Having the necessary internal experience to build a proper test system will extend beyond simply employing engineers with the right work experience. If your company has not completed a similar project, it’s not a bad idea to consider how well your team will be able to operate in a new technical space.
Do you have the proper space available to produce the test system(s)?
This is a simple yet often overlooked part of the process. Do you have an area of adequate size and with available space to accommodate the size and number of test systems to be assembled? In order to commission this project internally, you need to define the size of the system(s) and ensure the addition won’t cause disruption on the floor.
Once you meet with your management team and evaluate the considerations above, if you have additional questions or need information about outsourcing your functional test system, it’s time to contact a test partner. Please let us know if we can help.
Ball Systems designs, develops, and delivers custom test systems and produces comprehensive build-to-print systems for companies creating or manufacturing critical electronic or electro-mechanical components for automotive, aerospace and defense and consumer appliance applications.