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Piecing It Together

By APICS partners | January/February 2014 | 24 | 1

Prototype assembly firm finds value in an agile partner

A worker develops a prototype printed circuit board at Advanced Assembly’s Aurora, Colorado, facility.
A worker develops a prototype printed circuit board at Advanced Assembly’s Aurora, Colorado, facility.

Challenge: Sourcing the right components at the right time for prototype assembly

Solution: Digi-Key

Company: Advanced Assembly

Facilities: Aurora, Colorado

Operation: Assembler of printed circuit boards

The challenge

Advanced Assembly constructs printed circuit boards (PCBs). Based in Aurora, Colorado, the company specializes in quick-turn, surface-mount assembly, working closely with design engineers from global customers that require small numbers of prototypes at a time—anywhere between one and 35 boards.

“Our business model is built on low-volume and prototype projects, which sets us apart from other PCB assemblers that focus on large, bulk orders,” says Lawrence Davis, CEO of Advanced Assembly. He adds that his company understands customer challenges, and he enjoys working to make the assembly process as smooth as possible.

Prototype PCBs—along their journey from design to rough specification, computer modeling, and finally assembly and production—are prone to miscalculations in circuit design, errant assembly data and documentation, and other issues. The sooner errors are detected, the sooner engineers can return to the drawing board to rework and retest. As agility is key to Advanced Assembly’s competitive advantage, the business requires an equally agile supply chain and distribution partner in order to source small quantities of electronics components for customers that need prototypes quickly.

The solution

Digi-Key is one of the world’s largest electronic component distributors, carrying more than 600,000 products in stock. The company specializes in prototype-to-production components and ships nearly 100 percent of orders same-day. Advanced Assembly chose to work closely with Digi-Key to fulfill its customers’ needs for wide product selection and rapid turaround.

Advanced Assembly joined Digi-Key’s user-to-user forum, TechXchange, as a way to collaborate with other Digi-Key customers. “It’s a great way for us to share our expertise and help those who are designing and building innovative electronic products and circuit boards,” Davis says.

The forum enables users to share insights and tips on everything from technology and products to design techniques. Digi-Key’s TechXchange helps participants solve tough product development challenges while creating a sense of community.

The results

By collaborating with Digi-Key, Advanced Assembly has carved a niche in the PCB prototype market. The company’s proprietary assembly process and partnership approach to service make it possible to assemble about 80 percent faster than competitors. In fact, Advanced Assembly gains an average of 40 new customers each month from a wide range of industries, including medical equipment, defense, oil and gas, and utilities, while retaining its existing customer base. The steady stream of orders helped increased revenues by 67 percent in the past year.

“Digi-Key’s service allows us to provide customers with full turnkey quotes in less than 24 hours, and we can assemble most orders that quickly, as well,” Davis says. “In addition, Digi-Key allows us to purchase the exact quantity our customers need, whether it is strip tape, reels of components, or just a handful of bulk parts. This flexibility is a big deal for our customers.”

In the unpredictable world of electronic prototyping, design engineers need every advantage they can get. Davis credits Advaced Assembly’s close customer ties—and Digi-Key, its accommodating supply partner—for driving those advantages and sustaining success.

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