How to Audit a PCB Supplier

Before choosing a PCB supplier, companies should make time to audit their options. This information-gathering process will help you stay on top of the competition and offer a quality end product. Discover how to evaluate potential suppliers for your PCBs and other electronics in this guide.

What Is an Electronics Supplier Evaluation?

An audit of electronics or PCB suppliers involves qualitative and quantitative assessment to determine if the supplier meets the customer’s standards. Most audits happen before doing business with the supplier, but some companies conduct regular audits even after making an agreement. Every business has its own approach to assessing potential and current suppliers, but they all have the end goal of ensuring they will get a quality product. These evaluations happen throughout all links of the supply chain. For example, at MCL, we evaluate the PCB manufacturers we work with before adding them to our portfolio.

Why Audit Your PCB Supplier?

PCB supplier audits let you verify a potential supplier’s quality and reliability. When you make your materials or products, you evaluate them with a quality assurance process before considering them complete. The same principle applies to your PCB supplier. Customers complete audits to determine:

  • Supplier performance
  • Any potential risk of working with the supplier
  • Hidden cost drivers
  • The supplier’s business practices and values
  • Possible competitive advantage gained

With the rapid growth of global sourcing, these audits have become more important than ever. Instead of choosing only from options throughout the United States, you can choose from business partners all over the world. In fact, audits are so important in global sourcing that many companies opt to find global sourcing partners that understand which suppliers in their country stand out from the rest.

PCB Supplier Audit Checklist

Throughout this guide, we’ve mentioned quality quite a bit. However, no company has the same definition of that word. After all, every business has its own set of priorities and values. Therefore, when you create the process for your supplier audit, you must ask the following questions about your company:

  • What feature, product or service do we want customers to benefit from the most?
  • How will PCBs be used in our production process?
  • What specifications do we need our PCBs to have?
  • Do we emphasize specific practices such as corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
  • What performance metrics do we value the most in a supplier?

If you don’t already have a firm knowledge of the answers to these questions, the information gathered in this step can help you create the criteria to base your audit on. Of course, most audits should account for general factors such as:

  • Company size
  • Physical location
  • Industry reputation

The Information-Gathering Process

Once you establish the metrics you will use to evaluate a supplier, you need to find objective evidence to support whether or not they meet your standards. If possible, getting information from sources outside of the company will give you some of the highest-quality evidence. An important part of an audit is ensuring what the company says about themselves matches the actual facts. This principle especially applies to online information — in many cases, the data you collect online could have a bias in favor of the company. Some businesses have discovered that what they thought was a full-service supplier was actually a subcontractor. Databases and other sources that come from trusted industry organizations can give some of the most reliable information on supplier quality. Unbiased testimonies from customers and business partners could also act as evidence.

Benefits of Auditing Your Suppliers

Companies who thoroughly assess their suppliers can experience as much as a 20% improvement in performance metrics such as cost and quality because of benefits like:

  • Increased performance visibility: An initial audit, as well as routine assessments, lets you regularly measure your supplier’s performance. Accurate knowledge of the supplier’s performance allows you to manage it effectively.
  • Improved supplier performance: In many cases, regular audits alone can enhance a supplier’s performance due to the knowledge of being measured. Additional activities such as follow-up trainings and performance incentives will further encourage quality supplies.
  • Aligned values and practices: If your company stresses certain ethical values or work practices, an audit will give you a direct look at the processes used by your supplier, so you can rest assured that their methods align with your company’s priorities.

Looking for a PCB Supplier?

Now, it’s time to practice what you’ve learned. Research PCB suppliers like MCL today, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about our methods and services.