The Advantages of Sourcing PCBs from China in 2019: Why Tariffs Alone Shouldn’t Affect Where You Manufacture Your PCBs

The momentum that China has in all aspects of manufacturing is hard to ignore. Over the last few decades, manufacturing in China has grown exponentially and now contributes $2 trillion accounting for 27% of its national output [1]. This puts China ahead of the United States, Japan, and Germany making them the manufacturing capital of the world and the PCB industry is no exception. With 67% of the world's circuit boards manufactured in China (when including Hong Kong) [2], China also leads the rest of the world in this regard.


With the current trade war going between the United States and China, it is reasonable to wonder what impacts it has on PCB manufacturing in China. The reality is, all the advantages of doing business in China still stand even with the imposed tariffs. However, some companies are choosing to move their manufacturing outside of China in an effort to keep their costs identical to the costs before the trade war began. The reality is, PCB manufacturers outside of China don’t have the capacity to take all of China’s business away. So, once manufacturers in those countries reach maximum capacity, the laws of supply and demand will raise prices outside of China, making any cost savings virtually nothing.


In their attempt to keep manufacturing costs identical, companies moving outside of China are losing access to the advantages that made it the industry leader. Chances are your product will still be in production long after the trade war is over. Moving production back to China will then come at a cost, and that cost will likely be more expensive than the savings of moving production outside of China during the trade war.


Now, let's look at the advantages that made China the world's leader in PCB manufacturing.


1. The Obvious: Cost

It is no secret that PCB manufacturing in China has been and continues to be an excellent value compared to other regions of the world. It has been able to maintain a dominant position over the years, yielding cheaper prices for customers. Lower prices make the decision of going into prototyping and pre-production stages easier and less risky which, in the end, will yield better and more proven hardware for your products as you can add an extra tape-out without putting your budget at risk.


2. The Chinese Manufacturing Culture

Being the world leader of PCB manufacturing can only be achieved by providing quality boards at low prices that facilitate repeat business opportunities. Chinese factories manufacture more PCBs than anywhere else in the world and therefore have gained the expertise that comes with such volume. There is an enormous infrastructure in place and an even bigger workforce with 700,000 direct jobs in the PCB industry [3].


3. High-Quality is the Standard

PCBs are born from guidelines and specifications where designers, in addition to the actual circuits, determine the acceptable constraints (trace width, trace space, hole size, layer count, etc.). Since most of the PCB manufacturing processes are automated, once these constraints have been achieved by a manufacturer, they can be easily repeated. Therefore, high-quality PCBs manufactured in China has become the standard.


4. Quick Turnaround Time

Another aspect that is part of the Chinese manufacturing culture is the quick turnaround time. A factory is equivalent to a pipeline and having a high volume means that projects go in and out of the factory rapidly. As for shipping, express air services can get your PCBs to your doorstep anywhere in the world in just a couple of days. In addition, if you are having the following steps of the assembly process done in China, you are taking the fast lane and reducing shipping time to a minimum by working inside the same country.


5. So Much Around

China being the manufacturing capital of the world, when you have a PCB made in China, you have access to a myriad of partners in close physical proximity: components sourcing, final product assembly, EMC testing, etc. This ecosystem makes consumer electronics product manufacturing easier and faster.


6. See the World

Chances are you (or your employees) will never have to see the inside of a factory in your life, and with the current state of globalization, remote collaboration has never been easier. However, it can be interesting for employees to have the chance to travel to China as part of their work. Employers offering such possibilities have a better chance to hire the talent they need and are therefore more competitive.


About Circuitronix

Circuitronix is a leading supplier of rigid, flexible and rigid-flexible printed circuit boards in small, medium and high volumes. We are capable of both quick turn and regular lead-times. We assure complete adherence to customer specifications and consistency in quality control through effective process control. Circuitronix has a proven track record in serving its reputed clientele across multiple industries including automotive electronics, instrumentation and controls, railways, telecommunications, medical, health, and fitness aerospace, defense, consumer electronics and many more.


In conclusion, there are many advantages to have PCBs done in China. If your company has not made the jump yet, it is most likely that now is the right time!

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