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Strategic solutions to the current material shortage in the PCB industry
In the past few month’s PCB laminates and base material costs have seen a dramatic rise. The natural consequences of this inflation besides the higher production costs are the unavailability of certain materials paired with longer delivery lead times. A problem like this will destabilize any supply chain, or that’s what you may think.
Over the years our sourcing and purchase department have invested a considerable amount of resources in researching alternative material combinations and have been able to make significant steps forward. Two of our most experienced engineers, Mr. Martin Schneider, Director of Engineering and Tobias Jerzembek, Engineering Manager at CML have given us some of their time to share their insights on the current situation and how we can overcome this unfavourable situation with strategic solutions that will at the same time open new doors for the future. 1. What solutions are there to manage the aforementioned challenges? At CML, our main goal and mission is to exceed our customer’s expectations, no matter what the current circumstances are. We have been heavily investing in new solutions and materials throughout the years, in order to find alternatives that will help us navigate through any possible challenges i.e. basic material shortages, price increases and longer lead times. Our aim is very clear: as a global PCB manufacturer and supplier, it is our responsibility to be ready and face any market challenges. No matter how tricky a situation may become, we will ensure that our customers won’t bear any consequences. CML has worked closely with relevant base material suppliers over the past few years, building great partnerships while already having established delivery agreements. Specifically, for FR4 base material we have been able to form strategic partnerships with certain manufacturers and have already officially qualified these base materials with our customers. 2. Do you have examples of successful implementation of these solutions in the past? In the past some of our customers have faced the common issue of white solder mask peeling off when it encountered Immersion Tin in the production process. To combat this issue, we looked for an in-house solution through our joint venture CML Chemistry. Through CML Chemistry we were able to come up with a solution by fine tuning the solder mask application and adjusting the pre-treatment of Immersion Tin. CML Chemistry was initiated a few years ago in order to make ourselves more independent of global surface chemical players. While qualifying new suppliers, we stumbled across a working partnership which gave birth to CML Chemistry. Now that all the physical properties have undergone thorough compatibility checks comparable alternatives can be found in almost all areas. An outlook that provides clear cost saving potential. Increasing cost of Immersion Gold Finishing is a common production difficulty faced. A customer from the white goods industry came to us with a project for a boiler application that they were open to incorporate alternative materials in. Their wish was to reduce the production cost of the boards while not compromising on quality or efficiency. Our engineering teams at CML and Starteam consulted on the panel design, with a final result of a switch from Immersion Gold to Immersion Tin, a shift which saved them 25% in production costs. CML and Starteam have a number of technical engineers stationed around our various locations which are always available for a consultation upon request. Panel design, cost saving opportunities or any other matter- our engineering team will be there to assist you. 3. With all these things considered what is your prognosis for the future? There will always be unforeseen challenges that we will tackle in our respective markets. The key is to stay flexible and open throughout. We always strive to find innovative solutions that provide value, to not just our customers, but entire communities. Besides wanting to offer our customers better prices, shorter lead times and a more reliable supply chain, we put a lot of value on sustainability. Continued investing into new and sustainable materials & solutions will ensure that we will break further ground in the search of advanced solutions. In a time of uncertainty CML and Starteam are in a very good position to support our partners. Do you have any specific PCB challenges? Reach out to Martin and his team at CML: Mr. Martin Schneider Director of Engineering Mr.Tobias Jerzembek Engineering Manager