What The Heck Is Wrong With PCB Shops Making Money?


In a recent column I talked about board shops making money and how upset our customers were at the very thought of their board shop vendors making money. Many times over the years I have heard our customers complaining bitterly about how much money we make. They seem to think that all the shops in America are making money hand over fist and that seems to bother them. I have to wonder why that is. When we hear that Apple and Microsoft make a lot of money we’re thrilled for them. We not only think that’s fantastic but we often line up all night to buy more of their products all the while knowing that their products are so well priced (for them) that they will make a fortune at the end of the year. 

We just love the idea of the hundred thousand dollar car and wish we could buy one. We love to over spend on jewelry and cruises and clothing and watches and yes, college educations. Don’t get me started on private colleges. The more our kid’s college costs the more we like it! The more we spend for college the more we brag about it, and we’re all killing ourselves to get our kids into these colleges so we can pay even more. We cheer when Harvard raises their tuition to astronomical amounts and we’re mad if our kid’s college isn’t the most expensive in the country.

Great chefs go out of their way to spend top dollar for the best produce and meats that money can buy. Have you priced a pound of truffles lately?

Cabinet makers search the world for the best and most expensive materials and woods that money can buy.

Artists spend small fortunes on the best paints and brushes they can get their hands on.

Designers and architects look for the very best materials to build their products.

Carpenters, true artisans go out and buy the very best equipment and tools they can wrap their hands around.

The same with doctors with their medicines and medical equipment.

But what’s the deal when it comes to printed circuit boards? Why do our customers think that we’re supposed to be non-profit organizations?

One of my clients ran a promotion recently trying to bring in new business. His plan was to offer ten percent off on an order from a new customer. He felt that the trade-off for getting a new customer would be worth it. Sure enough he got a call from one of his customers saying, “I always suspected that you were making too much money and now you’ve proven it, I want that ten percent discount too.”

Really, you can’t make this up. It goes right back to the fact that our industry commands absolutely no respect and our products command no respect either.

First of all why do our customers think we are making so much money? Do we look rich to them? Do we look like a thriving industry? There are only a couple of hundred board shops left in this country. Is it going to take all of them going out of business before someone gets the idea that it might be a good thing if his board shop vendors made a buck once in a while?

And what is this suspicion anyway? Why do they think we are making so much money? One time a company I worked with had a vendor offer to come into their shop and show them how to not only price boards more competitively but show them how to build them more cheaply as well. This was a contract manufacturer…of course. Why did this guy think that he could do it better? Why did he think he could come into my client’s shop and show them how to build boards more economically? Talk about not knowing what you don’t know; talk about a lack of respect!

Could it be that these customers who think they are paying too much for boards don’t think that boards are important enough, not critical enough for their end-products. Or maybe they just don’t think that their end products are important enough to warrant the best that money can buy? Hmm, maybe they’re right; after all they are only building, missiles, and anti-missile systems and aerospace products and security devices and life supporting medical devices. Yes that must be it, they feel that the products their producing are not important enough to use the best that money can buy. Do you really think so?

It’s only common sense

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