Company News, Manufacturing
FireBoard Successfully Navigating Today’s Supply Chain
Just to recap, two years ago, in the second quarter of 2020, lockdown had consumers not only upgrading computers for the home office, but also buying consumer electronics for all of the other rooms in the house. All this purchasing put a demand on the base components required to make all of these connected devices.
A year ago, FireBoard posted on the supply chain issues facing them since the lockdown, when lead times on component delivery jumped from 12 to 50 weeks.
Now in 2022, the supply chain challenges before FireBoard have not let up.”One very critical component in particular went up to a 96 week lead time…which is almost impossible to cope with.” says FireBoard’s Purchasing Manager Hannah Warren. A year ago Warren would forecast her procurements six months out, today she is projecting orders over 12 months in advance.
Despite massive lead time increases on components, FireBoard has maintained production and delivered products to market with minimal disruptions. Warren credits this to FireBoard’s “safety stock” and reordering components early to keep ahead of demand.
When a component becomes no longer available, FireBoard’s electrical engineers search for an alternative with matching footprints and specifications, for Hannah to source. When an alternate cannot be located, FireBoard kicks problem solving up a notch.
In early 2022, FireBoard received a Parts Change Notification or PCN from one of their component suppliers. Bad news: the LCD screen used in the FireBoard 2 would be changing to a different display driver chip. “This one had a totally different pinout” says Tyler an Electrical Engineer and Partner at FireBoard Labs. “Initially I was going to design a completely different board.”
Further analysis yielded some good news: by offsetting the footprint, he was able to design a PCB that could accommodate either the existing or the new display driver. Better news: there was enough lead time on the LCD chip change that the new board could be designed and tested before the chip change took effect.
When the Spark thermometer was at the prototyping phase, it was unclear which “package” (aka footprint) of a certain microcontroller FireBoard would be able to purchase due to limited availability from manufacturers. So instead of gambling on one particular version, once again Tyler designed a versatile PCB footprint that would be able to accept either footprint. This gave Hannah two different microcontrollers to shop for, increasing her likelihood for success. Further, only one PCB (not two different ones) would need to be produced and kept in stock. This prevented the release date of their new instant read thermometer from being pushed back. Once again FireBoard was able to use one board for multiple parts.
The past two years have more than proved that no one can be sure of what the future will bring. Given the dedication and creativity on tap at FireBoard Labs, they will be ready for the next batch of challenges.
Awesome way to innovate and keep your products rolling in difficult times. Kudos to the team in creatively solving the problem and minimizing delays to put the world’s most brag worthy thermometers in the hands of enthusiasts.
Kudo’s! It shows that supply chain resilience starts in engineering so you have options when needed and can run any scenario to determine the best solution to keep customer satisfaction up.
The flexibility of consumer electronics is nice for sourcing alternate components. Props to you for being able to source alternates.
I wish my aerospace, defense, and medical customers would take changes to the PCB’s and PCBA’s we build in stride.
Have you thought about adding a conformal coating the the finished board?
Thanks for the compliment Dan! In fact we do apply a conformal coating to our boards.
Great to have a American company building great products in America.
Love your products and would recommend them to everyone.
Keep up the good work.
Very interesting post!