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The history of order pooling?

Eurocircuits News and PR from Eurocircuits - Published 08 April 2015 Order pooling is now a well-established technique used to cut costs for prototypes and small batch PCBs. But what is it and what is its history?
Order pooling means combining several different customers’ orders on the same standard manufacturing panel. “Order pooling” or “pooling” is probably the most common name but the process is also called “order combination”, “panel sharing”, “multi-panels” …

Pooling orders on standard panels cuts costs in 3 ways:

1 set of tooling and machine/process set-ups is shared between all the pooled orders
Material utilisation is greatly improved
Standardised panels make production much more efficient.
Together these can cut production costs by as much as 90%.

Order pooling is not the same as “panel filling” where a customer buys a whole panel of the same PCBs, and gets as many circuits as will fit on the panel. This offers good material utilisation, but only if you need that many circuits; if you only need 1 or 2 small boards it can work out quite expensive. In practice it reflects how conventional fabricators will actually produce the PCBs on standard panels. At Eurocircuits we use it only for the occasional unusual combination of production parameters for which we don’t get enough orders to pool.

Of course, to make pooling work successfully the fabricator needs enough orders with the same technology to achieve a good “fill” on the standard panels. Too few orders mean that material utilisation will be reduced, driving up costs. Or not all board types can be pooled every day, extending deliveries. Cutting corners by combining boards with different technologies on the same panel (for example, by combining 2- and 4-layer boards) risks serious reductions in quality. At Eurocircuits we handle more than 70,000 orders a year This allows us to offer the widest range of pooling options without impacting price, delivery or quality.

Online pricing and ordering
Today, order pooling for prototype and small batch PCBs is usually combined with online price calculation and ordering. This exploits an added advantage of order pooling: ease of costing. As the fabricator knows the set-up and production costs of the standard panels for each technology, pricing depends broadly on the area of panel each circuit uses. There is no need to count holes or drill changes or measure the length of the profile. Or to charge separately for tooling, or to impose a minimum charge. All this makes online pricing and ordering much faster and more convenient for the customers, who no longer have to wait hours or days for a sales office to “get back” to them. It also cuts the price of their boards: online pricing and ordering needs fewer administration staff.

If you follow internet discussions of online pricing and ordering, for example in LinkedIn PCB groups, two objections are raised:

It only works for simple technologies
If you use a sales office they will usually (or at least they should) check your data.
Eurocircuits have developed solutions for both of these issues.
To read more about Order pooling http://www.eurocircuits.com/blog/173-The-history-of-order-pooling

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