Strategic PCB Design: Unveiling the Power of Design for Manufacture (DFM)

When designing the layout of your product’s electronic circuit board, proper component placement is of paramount importance. Whether your company invests in DFM software or collaborates with a Contract Manufacturer (CM) that provides this service, adhering to best practices in board layout during the design phase is essential. In this write-up, we’ll explore how DFM and optimal component placement play a crucial role in mitigating PCB issues, reducing manufacturing costs, and enhancing the long-term success of your product.

Mitigating PCB Issues:

Less than ideal component placement can lead to a host of PCB and assembly issues, such as overheating, electrical shorts, signal interference and assembly defects. These unexpected problems during manufacturing can result in production delays and increased expenses. However, by conducting DFM analysis in the pre-production phase, you can uncover and address these design issues proactively, protecting the quality and reliability of your finished product. Investing in DFM analysis may incur an initial cost, but the benefits of avoiding production issues far outweigh the expense of the review.

Reducing Manufacturing Costs:

Suboptimal component placement can create unnecessary assembly manufacturing challenges, leading to increased labor costs and production delays. By considering DFM principles and ensuring proper component placement, you can streamline the manufacturing process and minimize labor-intensive tasks. This, in turn, translates into cost savings and a more efficient production cycle, benefiting your company’s bottom line.

Impact on Repair and Maintenance:

Your design choices can significantly impact the repair and maintenance processes of the product. If components are poorly placed and inaccessible during routine maintenance or repairs, it can result in longer downtime for your customers and increased costs for your company. To avoid these issues, engaging in open communication with your Contract Manufacturer is crucial. Discussing considerations like component accessibility during the design phase ensures that your product is not only well-designed but also easy to service, enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing long-term maintenance costs.

Strategic Decision for Long-Term Success:

Investing time and effort into proper component placement and DFM analysis during the design phase is a strategic decision that yields significant benefits in the long run. By proactively addressing potential issues, you can avoid production delays, reduce manufacturing costs, and enhance the overall reliability of your product. Partnering with a reliable Contract Manufacturer and engaging in thorough DFM analysis provides valuable insights that lead to a high-quality electronic circuit board, meeting performance expectations and surpassing customer satisfaction.

In conclusion, optimizing component placement through DFM analysis is vital for the success of your product. By uncovering and addressing design issues early on, you can avoid PCB problems, reduce manufacturing costs, and ensure customer satisfaction. Collaborating with a Contract Manufacturer that emphasizes DFM principles allows you to leverage their expertise and streamline the production process. A well-designed PCB not only ensures seamless production but also contributes to the long-term success of your product in the marketplace, solidifying your position as a reliable and innovative industry player.


Understanding both sides of the Buy/Sell Process

It would be nice if you could google an accurate PCB Assembly price. However, board specifications and manufacturing requirements differ, not to mention the volatile market conditions of COTS. Many self-service quote modules currently used on websites do a decent job on pricing the bare boards, however they fall short when pricing Turnkey assemblies.

Eventually, the gaps between what was quoted online and the actual PCBA manufacturing cost surface. This ultimately happens after the review of your Gerber files and Bill of Material. At this point you have invested a lot of time with less than a favorable result. What’s worse is that you may have already plugged these estimates into your product development plan requiring you to back track.

We believe the fit between two companies is the basis of a success relationship. Needs and processes are not always in alignment between customers and suppliers. Unfortunately, these are not always uncovered until after a project gets underway. This is not the best time to figure this out.

Making sure the OEM and the Contract Manufacturer are on the same page before embarking in the quote process is the start of a transparent relationship and ultimately saves time. Understanding the process from both the buyer and seller perspective up front, will make for a successful relationship that’s a win-win with long term success.

Highlighted below are the items Altek discusses when working with a prospective customer. Not only are these important conversations for Altek to have with its customers, but important points to consider when evaluation any Contract Manufacturer. Getting this information on the table helps determine the customer/supplier fit before proceeding with the quote process.


Valuable information to share:

• Product Life (new development, prototype only, full production, EOL)

• Overall volume, shipment/delivery needs, is Kanban part of the long-term requirement?

•Are you looking for full turnkey, consignment, or a partial consignment partner?

• Is lowest price always the deciding factor?

• What quality acceptance metrics are you receiving today? Where do you want to be?

• What are the on-time delivery metrics from your current supplier? Does this meet your needs?

• What type of Engineering support are you currently receiving, and do you need more?

• Do you need DFM support for new product designs?

• How important is the physical distance from your Contract Manufacturer to your facility?

• Are you looking for an additional supplier or replacing a current one?

• What “voids” do you need filled?

• Is this part of reshoring your business to secure your supply chain?

Information to ask of a prospective supplier:

• What are the most valuable things your company brings to the table?

• Request references and check them.

• Ask for the suppliers 12-month rolling average for On-Time-Delivery and Quality Acceptance rates.

• Check the manufacturers financial stability.

• What is your Business Continuity – Disaster Recovery plan?

• What is your supply chain management process?

• What certifications does your company have?

• Share your companies QMS process/program.

• How long have your key customers been with you?

These items are important pieces of the Total cost of ownership evaluation process of a new supplier. This information exchange process works, and it will allow you to eliminate sub-standard suppliers before starting the bid cycle. None of us have time to waste as referenced by Benjamin Franklin quote…“Remember time is money”!

You can read more about Total Cost of Acquisition at the link below:

Terry Weiner, Senior Consultant, California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) states that – “Traditional costing methods such as Purchase Price Variance (PPV) typically miss between 20 to 40 percent of the actual costs of acquisition.”

Learn more about Altek:

The Challenge of 2022

During our recent customer survey, we asked our customers about their biggest challenges in 2022.  With a resounding “parts obsolescence and growing lead times”, components availability is on center stage.   We know this time has not been easy for OEM’s or PCB Assembly houses, and we wanted to see how our customers think we’re responding to the challenge.

Here’s what they say:

  • • Altek proactively looks for lead-time and obsolescence issues and brings them to light avoiding multiple issues. Its appreciated.
    • No problems. We work good together to get the parts needed for the work.
    • Altek team is very supportive and an excellent partner/supplier.
    • Altek works very hard to meet our dates. Sometimes it is beyond our control, its the same for everyone.

We understand this is a global effect; however, we hold our selves accountable to find parts and work with our customer/partners to keep product flowing.  We owe a lot of this positive feedback to our buyers and other team members who have been doing a fantastic job!

Read more of our customer comments…

Customer Testimonials

Who we are in about a minute!

These days no one has the time to dig through a company’s website looking to see if they “provide the service I need”. Altek thought it would be fun to say as much as possible in a very short period of time. Who we are, what we do, equipment we have, and our customers! Do you have just a minute?
Check our our video

Made in America Episode featuring Altek Electronics

Click here to watch the full interview.

Sabrina Beck, VP of Altek Electronics is featured in this months episode of Made in America hosted by Ari Santiago. She shares the history of the business, how she became involved and where Altek is headed. This interview is packed with information that gives you an understanding of Altek as a company, our commitment to quality and vision into the future.

Altek Electronics Partners with Hartford HealthCare’s Business to Business Vaccination Outreach Program

May 18, 2021 – Altek Electronics in Torrington recently partnered with Hartford HealthCare’s Business-to-Business Vaccination Outreach Program to hold a company clinic to provide convenient onsite vaccinations to their employees and family members.

A team from Charlotte Hungerford Hospital — including nurses, a physician, registrar and paramedic — were on hand on Thursday, May 13, to provide 22 vaccinations, increasing the company’s vaccination rate to 70 percent. Some employees also brought their spouses and young adult children. All were given a choice of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We were looking for an opportunity to offer the vaccine and the HHC program was the perfect fit.” said Altek Human Resources Manager Michelle Hatteyer. “It’s so wonderful to keep the momentum going with our state vaccination program and this is one of the best and easiest ways to get this accomplished.” added Dr. Stephanie Fowler.


Sabrina Beck – 65th President of the Smaller Manufacturer Association BOD


SMA Annual Meeting ~ May 10, 2021 ~ President’s Remarks


“The Future Looks Bright”

A special thank you to Ron Turmel for continuing to serve as President during the Pandemic.  With so many things changing, it was nice to have some continuity.

Thanks also to Cyndi Zoldy for continuing to work with us through the transition to a new Executive Director.

Welcome Heather—you’ve hit the ground running and we know you’ll do a terrific job as the SMA’s new Executive Director.

While last year brought many of us unique challenges, from a decline in business to new safety measures and work procedures; as a group, we manufacturers demonstrated ingenuity, perseverance, and adaptability.  From auto makers manufacturing ventilators to distilleries making hand sanitizer, and medical manufacturers producing millions of doses of vaccine, bottles, and syringes, our industry solved crucial problems in record speed.  There are so many reasons to believe…to know…our future looks bright.

The pandemic and other current events exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains, underscoring the economic and national security benefits of a strong US-based manufacturing sector.

A strong domestic manufacturing base can help drive innovation and growth, creating higher paying jobs.

The digital-industrial revolution is changing the way we conduct business, eroding the financial advantages of outsourcing to low wage countries.  As companies adopt AI, harnessing data to increase efficiencies, customers will enjoy the advantages of working with local suppliers at competitive prices.

For these reasons, our future looks bright.

How can our member companies take advantage of these new opportunities?  What are the obstacles we must overcome and how can the SMA help?

1) Let’s talk about Workforce

a.  35% of CT’s workforce is 55 and older.  When the waves of the Silver Tsunami subside, decades of experience and tribal knowledge will have been washed out to sea (on cruise ships), leaving some companies struggling to stay afloat.

b.  As manufacturing still has the negative connotation of a dark and dirty place to work, public relations campaigns are needed to attract our youth into this sector.

c.  Adults who are struggling to make ends meet on part-time service-sector wages, and those who are looking to start a second career, need training and education to fill the jobs in our factories.

The SMA will build upon the excellent work Cyndi Zoldy and past Presidents and board members have done to facilitate collaboration with local trade schools, community colleges, and post-secondary educational institutions, such as the Manufacturing Alliance Training Center, or MASC, to provide a pipeline of skilled workers to our doors.

2) Another crucial topic is Legislative Issues

a.  During last week’s legislative session in Hartford, the Apprenticeship Tax Credit didn’t make it out of the finance committee.

b.  There is momentum building to increase the Capital Gains tax rate on a State and Federal basis.

c.  Legalization of recreational use of marijuana has a 50% chance of passing.

d.  4.6 million manufacturing jobs are at risk of going unfilled nationally in the next 10 years.

For these reasons and many others, it’s imperative for manufacturers to have a strong voice in Hartford and Washington.  The SMA will maintain its membership with CT’s Manufacturing Collaborative which provides our members with a lobbyist and a coalition of other manufacturing organizations who together represent our interests with one loud voice.

3) What the SMA does best, is bring value to members

a.  Networking with SMA members provides opportunities to make new business connections, gain knowledge, and solve business problems.

b.  SMA scholarships help students of member companies achieve their educational goals.

c.  Awards and recognitions support teachers and their students.

d.  Lobbying in Hartford promotes the interests of members companies.

e.  Collaborating with other manufacturing organizations provides broader access to knowledge, ideas, best practices, and political leverage.

f.  Increasing membership will enhance the value for all members.

For these reasons and many others, I’m excited and honored to serve in the capacity of President of the SMA and will work closely with Heather and the board of directors to continue the good things that the SMA has been doing for our community since 1949.  Working together, our future will be bright!

How to Validate your Vision with Customer Satisfaction Results

Altek is committed to meeting our customers’ needs.  One way we do this is by  requesting constructive feedback to improve our processes and procedures.  We check in twice a year with a blind survey, and here are some results of the most recent survey that we would like to share:

When asked, “Do I/We view Altek as a valuable supplier?” The responses from our customers were extremely positive.  The telling part of the question was… “Please tell us why.”

We are humbled by our customers’ responses.

  • Very consistent and are sensitive to our needs. Communications are timely and transparent. Also, willing to work with us to resolve issues even if it means more work for them.
  • Product & delivery is very good. Customer service is always helpful.
  • Excellent customer service and excellent products.
  • I have access to several people, including cell phones, which makes it easy to speak with people. Altek has provided technical support for our designs.
  • Altek is always willing to go the extra mile to satisfy my requirements.
  • Altek provides great customer service.
  • I feel we succeed together as we work as partners.
  • Dependable. On time delivery.
  • Top notch Manufacturer. Always on top of things. A pleasure to work with.
  • These responses provide very important information.  They tell us that the manufacturing services Altek is providing to our customers is in line with our vision:

    “To be a thriving and profitable enterprise,
    based in Connecticut, with a highly skilled and flexible workforce, that is
    the #1 trusted partner in our market 
    for Manufacturing and Engineering Services” & Solutions

    We will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our customers—our company culture ensures it.

    Are you considering Flying Probe Test?

    When to add Flying Probe to your Electronic Assembly Bill of Material?  Important things to consider…

    When is the right time to use Flying Probe Test?

    While Flying Probe testing is not brand new it has evolved into providing PCB DFM Reviewmore than Manufacturing Defect Analysis (MDA) testing.  Its usage and range of capabilities has significantly expanded in recent years.  OEMs competing for market share based on quality and price need to understand when it makes sense to add flying probe to your PCB assembly requirement.

    Talk with your CM to make sure you understand all they offer before you choose the best quality assurance solution for your product.  Traditional test methods of fixtured ICT, Functional test, and quality checkpoints using AOI and X-ray are readily available at most leading PCB assembly CMs – not all offer Flying Probe.  OEMs always benefit from working with a Contract Manufacturer that offers flying probe as part of their quality assurance program.  Frequently, OEM’s overlook the important benefits Flying Probe test can offer, as it’s not a service their CM currently offers.  It is all about having multiple quality assurance options at your disposal.

    Using Flying Probe Test on New Products Design

    PCB Design for DFM

    Product design does determine the best test or group of tests for your assembly.  The benefit of designing for Flying probe test is that it offers high quality in-circuit test with design flexibility, especially with the increase in smaller more densely populated boards.  Cost and time saving benefits of using flying probe for prototyping should not be underestimated.  New design prototypes may require tweaks that are easily performed in Flying Probe programming vs. costly and time-consuming test fixture changes.

    When to migrate from fixtured ICT test to Flying Probe 

    Redesigns are a perfect opportunity to consider switching from fixtured ICT test to Flying Probe.  If you are adding or changing components for performance or obsolescence, migrating to flying probe test can free up board space by eliminating the need for test pads and traditional fixture spacing requirements.

    Once you migrate from fixtured ICT testing to flying probe, future design changes can be easily accommodated, eliminating the time and expense of new test fixtures.

    What can be accomplished with Flying Probe Testing

    Some of the many items tested:

          • • Resistance valueFlying Probe Test
          • • Capacitance value
          • • Inductance
          • • Passive component measurements
          • • Opens
          • • Shorts
          • • Diode and Transistor orientation
          • • Component placement and orientation
          • • LED
          • • Simultaneous double-sided board testing
          • • Can handle larger boards than ICT
          • • Test boards that use both SMT and TH components

    Production Quantities for Flying Probe Testing

    Flying Probe typically lends itself to prototyping and small to mid-range runs.  This is primarily due to the speed of testing.  Fixtured ICT is faster for larger volume; however, many OEM’s needs have shifted to smaller, more frequent shipments of their assembled product.  These delivery schedules increase the value of Flying probe test as a viable option.

     Evaluating the Cost of using Flying Probe 

    Up-front investment for fixtured ICT can range from $10,000 to $20,000. Fixtures used for flying probe run between $250 to $500 with the Test pricing calculated by evaluating the # of nets and components.

    Finding the perfect test or combination of tests

    A CM with a design engineering team adds value by advising you on the best test and quality assurance assembly design before you request quotes.  Many CMs will provide this support during quoting at no additional charge.

     What is the preferred testing method at Altek??? 

    We don’t have just one!  Altek realizes the value of having different quality assurance options available.  Therefore, we offer a full array of options. We will assess your product design, volume, and end use before recommending the right test or set of tests. Contact our engineers to discuss how flying probe can benefit your program.

    “Contact an Engineer”

    Altek Announces New Director of Operations

    Tim Suydam assumes the role of Director of Operations, Altek poised to raise the bar of excellence!

    Tim Suydam

    We’re delighted to announce that Tim Suydam was appointed as Altek’s Director of Operations on August 25th 2020.

    Tim joined Altek as the Director of Continuous Improvement in June of 2018.  In that role Tim became involved in all facets of the business, from streamlining customer service functions to increasing productivity and reducing cost in manufacturing, to improving safety in our facility.  Recently, a key customer asked us to produce critical product that will be deployed world-wide.  Tim lead the creation of a continuous flow process that produces the highest quality product on a consistent basis. These contributions demonstrate that Tim’s leadership will benefit our customers and our organization.

    Prior to joining Altek, Tim held a variety of senior management positions including the VP of Manufacturing with a multi-plant/country span of responsibility at Dyno Nobel.  Tim holds a lifetime certification in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), he holds a lifetime Purchasing Management Certification (C.P.M.), and is a long tenured member of the Shingo Prize Board of Examiners.

    Please join us in welcoming Tim to his new role at Altek.  Under Tim’s leadership, Altek is poised to raise the bar for excellence.