How to Buy PC Boards From a Board Shop

June 4, 2019 Judy Warner

Today we talk with Greg Papandrew who’s just started a new company called Better Board Buying. With more than 27 year’s experience in PCB sales, he knows all the inside tricks to help you get the most out of your vendor partnerships and to save money and time.

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Show Highlights:

  • Greg started in the industry as an inside sales and customer service guy. Believing he could provide a better service to his customers, he started The Bare Board Group in 2002, did that until 2013, and then ventured into consulting and helping customers acquire the best boards. His recent experience of the disconnect of buyers within the industry regarding their training led him to start his company to educate his customers in buying and to understand what they’re buying.
  • What does Better Board Buying offer? Help buyers and engineers to buy boards better and what to look for. Improve the service that buyers are getting and help them realize that they can get better products and service - raise their expectations, most importantly bring back the personal touch. Better Board Buying offers a personal discussion about vendors, getting more buying power, taking care of all the hidden costs such as freight. Also, negotiating consignment stock and managing expectations. 
  • What has been lost since your start in the industry and today? I’ve been told my methods are ‘antiquated’ but they are, in fact, time tested. It does come down to relationships. The client’s confidence in the vendor to help them with any new job or problems, no matter the time of day, has been lost. Focus on the bottom line has negated the question, ‘what service are you getting for your dollar’?  
  • We have lost sight of the fact that the board is not just an item on a BOM that is bought on price only.
  • Engineering and purchasing should collaborate more. Collaboration, inclusion, and buy-in from everyone is key.
  • How should an engineer or designer think about a prototype and what does it mean to you to begin with the end in mind? First, determine the number of pieces, consider the purpose of the board, ask how it will be manufactured – a collaboration between design and manufacture is essential here – again relationships… Do you have corporate specs for PCBs to cut down on questions at the beginning?
  • Why have we lost the cohesion and personal touch? The interest in manufacturing may not be what it used to. Perhaps procurement experience is not necessarily in PCB manufacturing and we lack that expertise.
  • What are you personally doing to turn this thing around? LinkedIn articles, speaking at different conferences, word of mouth.
  • What can people in procurement do to educate themselves? There’s plenty on the OnTrack Podcast, Circuits Assembly, PCB007, going to trade shows and talking to people there. It’s a skill you can acquire.
  • What things in a board design can contribute to sticker shock once a board does go to production?  There are many, but a few of importance: clarity on the finish, don’t over-design, cop away board thickness, how much routing or score is there (to save time), solder mask thickness, controlled impedance. Also, talk with your vendor, many board houses also have design engineers.  

Links and Resources:

Greg LinkedIn 
Greg’s article: Where have all the young PCB bloods gone?

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About the Author

Judy Warner


Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry since 1984. She has a deep background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing with a focus on Mil/Aero applications in technical sales and marketing.

She has been a writer, contributor and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, The PCB Magazine, The PCB Design Magazine, PDCF&A and IEEE Microwave Magazine and is an active member of multiple IPC Designers Council chapters.

In March 2017, Warner became the Director of Community Engagement for Altium and immediately launched Altium’s OnTrack Newsletter.
She led the launch of AltiumLive: Annual PCB Design Summit, a new and annual Altium User Conference.

Judy's passion is to provide resources, support and to advocate for PCB Designers around the world.

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