A good Saturday morning can be used for sleeping in or it can be used for reflecting on the past week. Maybe both. I'll sort of take both. I did sleep in a bit and I'm going to spend some time reflecting on the past. We send out a survey form with each order we assemble. I'm paging through the stack, like I do periodically, to see how we're doing.
The most valuable comments we get are those that come in when something doesn't go as well as we would like. Those are the ones that help us improve our service.
Following are a number of comments taken off of these surveys and some of my related thoughts.
- "Excellent job over several orders."
- "Excellent customer service. Thanks Chris."
- "We are very impressed with you quick turn around and quality work. We'll be using you again in the future."
That's always nice to hear. We get a lot like this, but I'm skipping all of the positive comments except the three above. The rest are about things that we could do to improve the experience or about quality improvements we have needed to make.
- "More status updates on web would be nice feature."
That would be nice. Right now, we update the web order status (on your MY ACCOUNTS page) when the order is placed and confirmed, when we receive the kit and when the order ships. We've got a system improvement that we are currently working on that will give a lot more detail about where your job is in our shop. I'm not sure when it will be implemented, but probably within the next two months.
- "The boards weren't very clean, had solder flux on them. The hand soldered parts weren't very straight or even with the board's edge lines."
We use no-clean flux so usually, this isn't a problem. Sometimes, though there is more residue that we or our customers would like to see. We send notes like this back to our floor. They'll take a look and see if there is additional training or process improvements that we can implement. Sometimes though, given that we are working on prototypes, we don't pay as much attention to cosmetics as an individual might. We make sure the function and reliability are there and that the solder joints and things meet up to IPC-A-610.
- "My only issue was trying to pay with a Purchase Order. It was not clear (on the website) how to do this. I spoke with someone on the phone who explained it in just a few minutes. Its was easy!"
You're right. It isn't very clear on the website. We do tell you about our policy on credit terms, but it's hidden in our FAQ page. That's a bit of trickery. I could just say what our policy on POs and getting Terms is, but I'd rather give you the opportunity to see it in our FAQ and then browse around a bit.
- "It can be confusing when parts are re-sealed in packaging without updating quantity."
Good point. I'm not sure we've thought of this issue before. Again, this is one I'll pass back to the shop floor. When we get more parts than we need, we do reseal them back into the original bags - especially if they are moisture sensitive parts.
- "Add a way to reorder from the past 'order summary' page."
Another very good suggestion. This is something we are talking through. We do have the capability to do this when we place an order for you over the telephone. We keep the solder stencil for 30 days, so if you reorder within that time, you can even get a discount for the stencil charge. The caution, of course, is that if anything has changed, it's not the same order and we have to treat it as a new one, including ordering a new stencil.
- "Some pins on the through-hole connectors were not soldered. Flux was left on the board. Kudos for completing our boards ahead of schedule!"
Gyarrr! I hate it when that happens. There really isn't an excuse for not soldering pins and ahead of schedule is worthless if it isn't right. Again, this note went back to the floor. This comment came in back in February and I don't think we've had this happen since. See my earlier note on the flux.
It is very important to us that we build your boards the way you want them and when you want them. That's why we're here and why we strive to be the best at this. If things don't go as well as you would like, tell us. If it's an immediate problem, call us (866)784-5887 or email us. Otherwise, just fill out the survey form and fax it back to us.
Screaming Circuits assembles prototypes and some small volume production pc boards. We put electronic components on printed circuits boards and [Danger Will Robinson: ego alert] we think we are one of the best in the Industry. If you combine our technology with our engineer friendly approach, we think we may even be the best. This post isn't about a possibly over inflated ego though, it's about what is behind our little prototype pcb assembly world.
We have a parent company, Milwaukee Electronics, which has been building mid-volume production for 60 years. They do everything from simple pcb assembly on up to complete box-build.
One of our sister divisions within the Milwaukee Electronics family is our Design Engineering Group. The Design Engineering Group takes on concept-to-production jobs, schematic design jobs, project management jobs and pc board layout. They have a pretty wide range of expertise, but if I had to tag a specialty, it would probably be in industrial control and motion control.
Getting a quote is not in the remotest sense an automated process like assembly is with Screaming Circuits, but if you need help with design or layout, give us a call or shoot us an email and we will connect you up with them. You can also check out our Design Engineering Group directly on their website.
He's not heavy, he's a division of my parent company
Warning! This may be a pretty much blatantly commercial post. Well, there is something free you can get without obligation, and I suppose that ultimately, no matter what we put up here, there is somewhat of a commercial purpose. I guess then maybe it doesn't matter, so just read and get your poster, okay?
Is this your nightmare? Is it Monday and your software guys absolutely, positively need it on Thursday? You have no way of getting all those little densely packed parts soldered onto your pcb. Your normal assembly house can get it back to you in three weeks. They told you to use your in-house line if you need it any faster. Your in-house line is full of higher priority projects (and just how does that make you feel?) and told you to go to your normal outside assembly house.
Look up Screaming Circuits. You can quote and order right on the web site and we specialize in this sort of thing. We'll take your boards, your parts, your panic and some of your money and return assembled boards.
Here's the FREE stuff. If you would like to be constantly reminded of how stressful your job can be, with a really cool 11" x 17" "Panic Time" poster, send me an email to email@example.com with your name and address. We won't keep your address on file unless you ask us to. Our web address is on the poster so that's the "catch."
This offer is limited to around 100 or so posters so if we run out, you won't get one. Sorry. Also, unless you can convince me that it's for a really good cause, I'm limiting this to one poster per person.
Until recently, Screaming Circuits had been piggybacking on the ISO certification of parent company MEC Northwest. Now, we are certified on our own as Screaming Circuits. This is just one of a number of initiatives we have underway to improve our quality. Our goal is simply to build your boards exactly the way you want them, and get them to you when you want them.
Screaming Circuits has a sponsorship program for college, University or non-profit organizations that are pushing the limits of robotics, embedded control, communications or other leading edge technologies. One of the groups we've helped out a bit is the Cornell Formula SAE racing team.
Recently, we recived a note from one of their team leaders. It is a little self-serviing to post this, but it is reflective of the type of experience we would like all of our customers to have. We will be happy when everyone feels this way about their experience with Screaming Circuits.
I hope that you have having a happy new year. I just wanted to say a few things. I have previously had no experience with PCB assembly as this is my first year as the Electronics Team Leader for Cornell Racing. However, the customer service with Screaming Circuits has been excellent with guiding me to properly assemble my product. The level of personal detail that went toward my assembly was especially impressive. I am grateful that I was contacted immediately to resolve any potential issues so that my product would be completed exactly as I desired. Furthermore, the 24/7 customer service was especially appreciated by a college student who needed help while working at awkward hours. I am thankful that Screaming Circuits has given me a very straightforward and trouble-free experience with my PCB assembly.
You can quote me on that. I hope you have a happy new years. Thank you so much for your support.
[Note that we don't actually have 24/7 support, but we do our best to be there when you need us]
Looking globally at 2006, I'm not sure if it would be accurate to say that it was a good year or a bad year. Certainly, it was a year. For Screaming Circuits, though, it was a really good year. Based on the amount of work all of you sent our way and the comments we received, I'm guessing that it was a pretty good year for most of you as well. Looking back, here is a bit of the good and the bad from 2006 at Screaming Circuits.
Good: We put three and a third million parts on some 40,000 boards last year. Our customers range from people who shoot stuff into outer space to hobbyists trying their hand at an after-work small business. Our largest non-governmental customer has a third of a million employees and our smallest has just the one.
Here are just a few of the comments we have received from the likes of you in 2006:
- "Excellent Service. Congratulations!!!"
- "Keep up the good work! Very professional staff, courteous and accessible!"
- "Great service for quick-turn around & prototyping - no more wirewrap!"
- "I am very happy with the service. This was my fourth order and I have not had any problems."
Bad: There was that month in late summer when we couldn't seem to do anything right. We take a lot of pride in our quality and our on-time delivery rates. That one month, though... A bit more than five percent of you had problems with the boards we built for you during that period and about five percent of you had your boards come back late that month. That's horrible as far as we are concerned.
That month gave us cause to take a hard look at things here. We had grown so much so fast and we just let it get away from us. After that month, we hired some more people and put in some new systems and processes. Every month since, we've done better in both quality and on-time delivery.
The paycheck is certainly a part of why we all come to work. But here at Screaming Circuits, we want to earn that paycheck by giving all of you more value and better service than you can get anywhere else.
Wishing you a happy and low-job-stress new year.
Our customers use a lot of different pcb cad software systems to put their boards together. Some are pretty expensive and some are just the opposite. One which we like a lot is PCB123 (go to, www.pcb123.com). PCB123 is a product of our pcb fab partner, Sunstone Circuits and they give it away free.
It's a really nice system in that it doesn't cost for the software and the fab quote and ordering is integrated into the software. You design your board and the software tells you what it will cost to buy it and will take care of the order process. One of these days, maybe the Screaming Circuits assembly quote will be built in too. Now that would be cool.
Still, though, it only takes a minute to get a quote and place an order from us. Do that first and when you do order your boards from PCB123, send them an email with your Screaming Circuits order number and tell them to deliver the boards directly to us for that order.
Big board rider