At 07:22 PM 7/11/01 -0700, Dennis Saputelli wrote:
>I think that something is missing in this methodology of seeking board

Something is missing in everything....

>First of all it will spin a lot of people's wheels who will never get an

I'd think that would be up to them. A fabricator who does not want to 
participate in this can simply not join it. But if the data coming in is in 
a known format, then quoting it can be automated, subject to production 
variables controlled by the fabricator, who can thus shift prices according 
to market conditions, the availability and cost of supplies, work load, 
etc. If I were a fabricator, I'd want very much to participate, if the cost 
of participation was not too high.

So the key to this is the provision of data in a specified format, and that 
it has been made easy for the prospective purchaser to send the data.

Any purchaser who considers only price may well get burned, but that has 
always been true.

>Secondly a fabricator is someone with whom (ideally) you would like to
>build a long term business relationship.

Perhaps. Certainly it is good to have such a relationship with at least one 
fabricator. That does not mean that one must always give all of one's 
business to that fabricator, but it does mean that one would put this 
fabricator first in line, and that one would try to keep the relationship 
alive by feeding them at least some business.

I have a long-term relationship with a fabricator in the San Francisco 
area. Mr. Saputelli knows who he is. He has sent me business and I have 
sent him business. I do not always recommend him to clients, particularly 
where I think another fabricator is the best choice for a particular job. 
But in his own sphere of specialization, he is very good, and so he does 
get regular business from my direction.

>You get to know and trust each other, you learn the limits of both
>technology and financial issues.
>When things get tough maybe they can carry you a bit, when the push is
>on for delivery maybe they will move it along without soaking you.
>Maybe in the long term on the average you will get a better price for
>repeat business.

Maybe, maybe not. Some fabricators will cultivate a relationship until it 
seems to them that it is comfortable for their customer, and then prices 
will creep up. I've been advised lots of times to do this with design: 
quote low, you can always make it up later. I don't like to do things that 
way, but many otherwise quite nice people have no problem with it. Caveat 

OTOH, throwing out 500 RFQ's in search of the cheapest price does
>nothing to further any of the above goals.

It is up to the purchaser to determine the criteria by which a fabricator 
will be chosen. Cheap is only one factor out of many. Delivery is another 
important one. If a fabricator is promising faster delivery and is putting 
teeth in to the agreement -- such as free if not on time, as some 
fabricators do -- then one might well choose on that basis. Or one might 
choose based on geographic location or on independent ratings or on any one 
of many criteria. Having 500 quotes provides choice, and if the quotes also 
come in with a standard format, and additional fabricator comments are only 
added to that, it could be quite a manageable number. We can use computers too!

>A board is a custom fabricated item with a heavy service element, not a
>commodity part like buying a bunch of resistors at the best price.

Actually, once a board is fully specified, something that many of us don't 
like to do, it does become a commodity. Sure, quality and reliability are 
important, but they are important with all commodities.

I think there is value in loyalty (to a point) and that stable
>relationships most probably enhance overall quality and efficiency.
>This other approach seem counter to that.

Certainly as a service bureau, we would like that our clients never 
consider sending anything anywhere else. Some of them are like that. But we 
also understand that what we are doing is business and that it is 
completely appropriate for them to get other quotes and to investigate 
other avenues. We don't want to do quotes all the time without getting 
work, unless, of course, quotation became automatic, something not so easy 
to do with design. Yet. We trust that if we are providing the most 
cost-effective -- which combines "best" with "cheap" and "fast" in an 
optimized way, our clients will keep coming back.

I just lost a large client, however, because he was trying to chisel the 
price down on a board which had already been quoted and done and had been 
billed and was satisfactory to the engineer, but the manager had found an 
error in a board we had done a year before -- and which had not been caught 
by the engineer -- so he wanted us to adjust our current receivable. I 
offered to fix the old board no charge -- which was the *most* which I 
could have been considered obligated to do, but he said, "Well, you are 
expensive, so we are considering giving the redesign to someone else, we 
have to add more stuff anyway." As part of the discussion, I mentioned to 
him that most of our work is being done in Brazil by a highly competent 
engineer or under his direct supervision, and he immediately demanded to 
know what value I was adding.

"For starters I am selling his work, and you would not know about him if 
not for our relationship, further, we consult with each other." Technically 
Brazil is working for me, but it is just as reasonable to consider that he 
has hired me to sell for him. The money works out the same either way. I 
think I had mentioned this because I was explaining how it is that we can 
get jobs done quickly; basically, if Brazil is available, he does it, and 
if not, I do it, and in case we are both busy, I have other resources as 
well. And all of us understand high-speed design, etc. Sometimes people 
wonder how I can spend so much time writing. If you read this and 
understand it, you will also understand why this writing is valuable to our 

But the manager was stuck on money and his idea that I was simply marking 
up someone else's labor and that -- don't ask me how -- he was going to get 
service as good locally, eliminating the middleman, as it were. He might, 
but it is more likely that he will get what he had been getting in the past.

I was originally contracted by this company because the chief engineer had 
some boards designed elsewhere that were, shall we say, not designed with a 
good understanding of signal integrity issues. They were not working very 
well. I redesigned these boards and the engineer was thrilled. But I 
probably *was* more expensive than the moonlighter they had been using. I 
was also more reliable, more skilled, and more available. I.e., better, 
faster. But not cheaper.

So this company will go on struggling with marginal boards and the manager 
will wonder why the engineers can't seem to get it right the first time. I 
was warned from the beginning that this might happen with this particular 

Nevertheless, if there were an automated PCB design quote system, I'd sign 
up to be able to quote through it, as long as the fees were not too high. 
Leads are just too valuable to ignore a good source. And, yes, I might get 
outbid, if that is all someone is looking for. I have no problem with that, 
other people need the work too, and if they are desperate enough to provide 
good quality labor at low prices, by all means I think they should get it. 
I'd like to know about them too!

>I speak from the often painful experience of dealing with a LOT of board
>shops for many years, seeking the mythical cheap fast good board.
>You just can't get all three wishes at once.

Well, the combination can be optimized and each variable can find 
increasing satisfaction. PCBs are better, cheaper, and available with 
faster delivery than when I started designing, what, 25 years ago. I'd say 
that qualifies as getting all three at once. But at any given time the 
cheapest board and the best board and the fastest board are not the same 
board. Usually.

>There is also the possible issue of being hounded by 500 phone calls or
>emails to follow up on the quote and 'do you have anything else'.
>Yet more time expended on both sides.

Perhaps I don't have to give them my phone number, and I can give an e-mail 
address that makes it easy for me to filter, say, [EMAIL PROTECTED] I 
don't have to put any more time into it than I wish to.

>Some business transactions are one time by nature, others are repeat by
>The former is typified by jack the price and take the money and run.
>But in the board game there is a twist, have you noticed that when a new
>vendor quotes a job it is often low balled to acquire a customer?
>I have seen that a lot.

Absolutely. Which is why it is necessary for purchasers to maintain a 
knowledge of competitive prices. If the gap starts getting large, then 
perhaps some investigation may be appropriate to qualify one of the newer 
bidders. That doesn't mean that one will necessarily change; the 
investigation may discover, as it often does, that cheaper is also not as 
good or has other negative problems. Perhaps it isn't even cheaper because 
tooling was not included or some other factor, such as shipping. A quoting 
system that standardizes the data will make this easier for both sides.

Now if Protel had something that would display the best price and
>delivery of the moment on something like 100% Agave Tequila, I would be
>all over that one.

To each his own! There are, in fact, programs and services that will do 
just this for you....

Abdulrahman Lomax
P.O. Box 690
El Verano, CA 95433

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