Sourcing PCBs: benefits of local support

Left to right: Matthew Norris (engineering), Tom Bruce (account manager), Adam Tree (sales manager), Andre Dalby (quality manager) and Alex West (key account manager)

In this article, NCAB asks the question, does buying PCBs with local support, from a local team make a difference?


Close personal contact with customers and service tailored to the customer’s requirements are key factors in the NCAB Group’s business model. To meet this approach, the business is organised in a decentralised manner. Each national subsidiary is responsible for its own regional customers and serves them in the local language from local offices.


One of NCAB Group’s recent acquisitions was Kestrel International Circuits, with staff integrating within the NCAB Group and ensuring their local knowledge continues to support customer demands. What added value does this ‘local presence’ approach offer customers and why is it a strength? Read on to discover more.


Local language, does it matter? At its Lancing, UK office, dedicated teams with PCB industry experience act as a link between customers and partner factories. While customers can discuss their project with specialists in a relaxed manner in their respective national language, NCAB employees arrange the consultation with the colleagues in factories in Asia or Europe. Thus, the challenge of language barriers and misunderstandings are effectively circumvented and mistakes are avoided.


Personal support at customers’ locations, why? In addition to the regional language, which in practice makes exchanges much easier, regional teams also let NCAB have a more personal exchange with customers. This ensures personal meetings and visits that cannot take place in the digital space, can be flexibly arranged and carried out on-site at the customer’s location.


Guaranteed effective handling of customer projects. Due to a regional division of customer projects, faster and more effective project handling can be guaranteed. This advantage becomes especially apparent when further projects are placed. Even for follow-up orders, customers have their specific contact person for each project. This results in better routines and allows the NCAB team to continuously adapt  the special needs of projects. All teams work according to the same processes, which means that staff changes or work absences are easily compensated for by other NCAB teams. This creates quality at the highest level.


Who is part of the regional team? Regional teams usually comprise a specialist in outside sales (key account manager), inside sales (account manager), engineering technician and a quality employee. Depending on the customer’s respective requirements and purchasing volume, these teams can be supplemented by an additional inside sales member.


So, what does customer service look like from the initial contact to the delivery of the goods?  What added value does NCAB’s process offer the customer? The following answers these questions based on the work of the Lancing, UK, office.


Managing director, David Grant, said: “I would describe the staff here as a great bunch of people to work with, hardworking, but with an equal sense of fun making them good people to be around. They have a great deal of experience and knowledge in their roles and most have been in the PCB industry for many years gaining knowledge and knowhow that money simply cannot buy, it has been a great pleasure working with them.”


Contacting and discussing customer requirements. Key account manager, Alex West, is the initial customer contact. During the preliminary meeting, Alex notes the customer’s needs and requirements.


If the customer and NCAB fit together, Alex handles the further steps of the cooperation. He then introduces the customer to his regional NCAB team and informs his team colleagues about the results of the customer meeting, as well as passing on all the data to the regional team. This includes for example: technical specifications, delivery requirements, plus other relevant information to support the enquiry.


Looking through data, choosing the factory and quoting. The sales team, headed up by sales manager, Adam Tree, takes responsibility from the start and reviews the data and discusses any possible technical issues with engineer, Matthew Norris, prior to quoting. Matthew has over 30-year’s industry experience and started on the shop floor manufacturing flexi PCBs.


When requests for quotations are received, internal sales specialist, Tom Bruce, reviews the Gerber data and other requirements to select the most suitable factory and then prepares a tailored quotation. Tom chooses the appropriate factory to fit the project in terms of quality, price and, if necessary, series production.

Technical clarification and NCAB PCB specification. On receipt of a customer’s order, technical preparation of the PCB begins immediately. Matthew prepares the Gerber data for production and the procurement documentation is transferred into an article-specific NCAB PCB specification. This specification contains all the PCB’s details and special features required for production and, last but not least, ensures compliance with customer-specific requirements.


Supply chain continuity, how is it achieved? Kestrel’s existing China-based staff were immediately introduced to their new NCAB Group colleagues and began the on-boarding process. Previous Kestrel suppliers new to NCAB Group were scheduled for quality and sustainability audits to ensure supplier relationships and understandings are consistent across all suppliers.


To minimise customer workload during this process step, quality manager, Andre Dalby and his team coordinate directly with factories to ensure the most transparent process possible.


Production and delivery. As soon as all technical issues are resolved and the customer has given its final approval, the factory starts production. During this phase, the inside sales expert clarifies the delivery date of the goods with the factories and communicates it to the customer. The inside sales expert also monitors progress to ensure NCAB achieves best delivery.