Paying the Price

Interesting discussion going on at LinkedIn, where a handful of folks are debating the going rates for PCB design in China.

It started when someone asked what the “least per hour charges” to attract a client for PCB layout outside China (emphasis mine). (The question was asked by a LinkedIn member in Pakistan.) Quickly others chimed in with the usual “you get what you pay for” refrain (when it comes to PCB design, I tend to agree).

Someone from Israel noted that they charge by the pad. Those who commented on hourly charges relayed reports (unconfirmed, by the way) of $5 (China) to $10 (Pakistan).

PCD&F conducts an annual salary survey, and certainly a $10/hour contract rate would undermine even the lowest paid designer responding to that questionnaire. But keep in mind, these are not confirmed quotes. And as the folks at PCB West last week showed in spades, there’s no comparison between a button pusher and a PCB design engineer.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

2 thoughts on “Paying the Price

  1. When quoting design work …..
    I find a little education (of my client) goes a long way toward creating a happy and productive relationship.

    Some customers insist on a simple answer.
    (hourly rate, set price, price/pin).

    I have to explain.. any set pricing structure will have it’s limitations.. in quality, delivery or net cost.

    Old purchasing axiom:
    You can pick only two of the three.

    If you have to set the final ( most competitive) price before the design is done.. you are becoming a bit of a “fortune teller”.
    Pay me for my psychic abilities….
    Insist I quote myself out of business…
    Assume a certain amount of padding in my quote…
    None of these choices are optimal.

    The most informed/understanding customers will often opt for a more complex pricing structure…
    Example: except a quote with an estimated amount of effort (hours @ hourly rate) based on detailed review with their engineering staff… with a maximum cap on hours.

    If you provide the service in the time frame and within expected hours expected level of quality …everyone happy.

    If there is un-expected issues that increase the man hours required.. you are covered.

    If you are very bad at making estimates.. the customer is covered.

    Limited liability for both parties….
    A method of sharing risks for optimum performance has been established..
    You are freed to quote “with a sharp pencil”.

    With time .. a relationship (trust) is developed.
    and the perceived value of a hourly rate or $/pin for a given designer is recognized.

    I find organizations that simply “throw the design over the wall” rarely create optimum products or processes…
    The incentives for individuals involved to do their best.. often follow a similar path.

    Quality… is very hard to put a price on.

  2. Well said Mike. I hope people realize that quality and experience are much more valuable than someone who can play a good dot-to-dot game.

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