The Compromise for Cheap: Is It Really Worth It?

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The manufacturing of printed circuit boards is being taken overseas to cut costs—but does the price of “cheap” come with consequences?


More product for a lesser price.
More efficient timelines.

As we all know, these are only a few of the assumptions of the “good” that may come with outsourcing the manufacturing of printed circuit boards (PCB) overseas. Has it crossed your mind that all of the “good” is actually too good to be true? On the surface, it sounds spectacular, but have you stopped to question if the phrase “you get what you pay for,” rings true?

PCB manufacturing in the United States has an expansive and now-dwindling history. As outsourcing manufacturing continues to expand, countries overseas have become some of the largest producers and exporters in the PCB industry. It’s predicted in the next year alone, the PCB manufacturing industry in the U.S. will decrease by 1.7%.[1] 

It’s pushing it to say that the U.S. attributes 5% of PCB manufacturing. According to IBISWorld, the US makes up $3.9 billion of the printed circuit board manufacturing industry.[1]  

Why the shift? Manpower certainly is not the reason. It’s not a question on work smarter or better either—the expansion and demand of digital technology can tell you that. Truthfully, it all boils down to cost. Price is the driving force behind outsourcing manufacturing. Making a product overseas can be up to 40% cheaper.  As the U.S. printed circuit board industry shrinks to merely a shell of itself, we have to wonder the price we pay for the compromise of “cheap.”  So—what are we missing out on here in the U.S. when we choose to outsource the manufacturing of PCB overseas?

We’re Only Hurting Ourselves

For some companies across various industries, outsourcing overseas is their secret sauce. Overseas outsourcing has expanded businesses and cuts costs to maximize profit. Some may argue that outsourcing grants access to larger talent pools.

However, for industries such as PCB manufacturing, outsourcing also has its downsides. The continual growth of PCB manufacturing overseas is not the problem; it’s the displacement of U.S. jobs and resources that bring grave concern.

Some may say that outsourcing has raised unemployment in the U.S, decreasing the number of jobs available on our own soil. More outsourcing leads to fewer opportunities for qualified candidates within the U.S. manufacturing industry. Take another step back. Outsourcing manufacturing overseas can ultimately lead to damage of our nation’s economy and livelihood.

It’s Time to Bring Manufacturing Home

It’s time we start looking at the price of “cheap.” The U.S. has steadily declined in PCB manufacturing. Restoring U.S. manufacturing brings to light the potential to add wealth to our economy. It’s a way the nation can invest back in the people it supports. How can we build sound engineers, tech leaders, and beyond without the proper resources and leverage that manufacturing brings?

Choosing to outsource for the sake of cost minimizes our ability to design. We give up the American invention for efficiency. We must ask, does the cost of cheap—though it may appear beneficial in the moment—impede America’s future expansion? Let’s bring manufacturing home. I say let’s re-invest in manufacturing and choose the opportunity to control our destiny. 

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