FAQThis section contains questions and answers that many of our new
clients have asked about our services. If you cannot find the answers you need here,
please contact us through e-mail, phone or FAX. We are happy to answer any question
you may have to the best of our ability.
Q: When and what should I outsource to a research and development firm like PARA?
A: The answer depends on you. If you are a large organization with many engineers,
you should only outsource above the average workload. Staff for the average workload then outsource when the
work exceeds this limit. If you’re a small company you should outsource everything you can in order to keep
your fixed costs down. Any outsource company you use should be involved in all phases [requirement, research,
conceptual, detail and verification] of projects even though they may not be performing those parts. All
companies should outsource the design verification phase of the project. A new set of eyes always adds value
to this critical phase of the project. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Any non-core part of the design detail should
be outsourced even if you’re a large company. Most companies place the mundane part of the project in the
outsourced arena in order to keep inside resources focused on their customers and the applications. Regardless
of your specific situation, you should outsource some activity in order to expand your intellectual resources
where new ideas and technologies can originate. PARA is happy to discuss this key area with you without
Q: Is an outside design firm more expensive than performing the project in house?
A: It depends. When you have employees collecting pay checks and not engaging in
productive work, then the answer is yes. No outside firm can compete with free. If your organization sees
their time as free, then an outside firm will always be more costly. However, if everyone in house is
productively working, hiring an outside firm can be a very attractive option when compared to inside
cost. First you only pay for the hours used. You are under no obligation to pay for more than you need
then your fixed costs go down. Second, unless you are a very large company with hundreds of engineers,
it is likely that PARA can complete a project in much less time than an in house person. This is because
we use associates that focus on specific areas of expertise. Many times, our experts are able to save
months of development because they already know the solution. Conversely an in house person might have
to start from scratch. One last thing to keep in mind, it is not just how much it will cost, it is also
about how much it is worth when you are done. Having at least some of the work done by a team based group
like PARA with years of experience in many different diverse industries, makes it more likely that the
product being designed will be more competitive in the market.
Q: What do I need to get a PCBA design started with PARA.
A: Minimum requirement is a description of the function of the board assembly. Your
costs and the time to complete the work are reduced in direct proportion to the amount of information you can
supply. In the most cost effective scenario, you provide schematics, parts lists and guidelines, physical size
of the PCBA and the locations of major components [when their placement is restricted]. Anything you provide
will reduce our time and your overall cost. For instance, if you supply the parts list in electronic format,
it reduces our data entry labor required to input the listing.
Q: We have an assembly that we’ve been producing but the documentation is missing and
the vendor has gone out of business. Is there any way to continue the production of the product?
A: A common issue today in the electronics industry is a company with a successful product
in the market that is no longer producible. This might be due to the design vendor going out of business or critical
materials becoming obsolete or unavailable. In most cases, minimal information and a sample of an operational product
is all that is required to regenerate design elements and the production documents. Once the design is verified the
product can be manufactured in volume with the changes required to replace obsolete materials.
Q: We’ve generated our own designs and have a PCBA layout. Where do we go from here?
A: The best practice is to generate schematics using a schematic capture program such as OrCad or
E-Cad then provide the design files to us. We compile the PCBA, generate the layout and the required Gerber files for
PCBA production. We can also produce the PCB boards for you. Once the layout is complete and approved, we can supply
pricing for unpopulated boards, or complete assemblies. The next best thing is supply us with a hand generated schematic
that is clear enough for us to generate the electronic design file. The latter requires a more work on our part and
additional cost but generally is not a show stopper.
Q: What documentation do I receive when we contract for a PCBA design and layout?
A: The amount of documentation depends on what you specify and the conditions under which the
design is accomplished. Usually, you receive a schematic (either in printed or electronic format, or both), PDF files of
the board silkscreen, the Gerber files for fabricating the PCB and BOM. The format of the BOM depends on what you request.
At a minimum, we provide a CAD generated BOM that lists the parts as used in the design. The client provides material
information, such as manufacturer, part numbers, etc. We then generate an electronic format of the BOM that includes
additional materials and information we generate during the design process.
Q: Can PARA produce the PCBA’s they design?
A: Yes, PARA can produce the boards we design. We do not fabricate the unpopulated PCB boards
at our facility. We maintain working agreements with PCB vendors worldwide in order to provide the best competitive pricing.
The benefit is lower cost to you, single source project procurement and superior engineering support regarding any design
deficiencies. We can also populate boards. Our assembly capability extends from a single prototype to the production of
tens of thousands of boards.
Q: How long will it take to get PARA up to speed?
A: It depends. First, using a research and development firm like PARA should not be a decision made at
the last minute. PARA should be part of your overall development strategy. Although we often meet some of our best clients after
they’ve tried everything else as a last resort, it is not the way we prefer to continue our relationship. Our associates are
regarded as employees of our clients. In a normal scenario our associates come up to speed at the same pace as everyone on the
project team. We are often we are called in to save a project; in these cases time is required to get up to speed. With your
guidance, in most cases this time is usually less than two weeks.
Q: What kind of control do we have over the design process? How do I make sure you are producing the board that I want?
A: There is a structured set of approvals required on your part at important milestones in the design
process. This ensures that we do nothing that is not agreeable with you. First is approval at the schematic level. We submit
preliminary schematics for your approval. We make any changes you request and resubmit the design. Only after you are satisfied
with the schematic shall we continue. The next approval occurs with a preliminary PCBA layout. The preliminary layout depicts
all components in their desired locations, and the location of any mechanical parts, such as connectors and controls. This
preliminary board layout is developed until it is approved. Upon approval of the preliminary layout, final board routing is
performed. This is again subject to the approval process prior to finalizing the design. Once approved, we prepare the design
and make any adjustments we think are necessary. Then we generate the electronic production files. The entire package is sent
to you via email, or to a selected board house for fabrication. In some cases, as with industrial or consumer products, countries
regulatory requirements may affect the overall PCB design process. Our associates possess the expertise in this area to provide
designs that pass required electrical performance characteristics.
Q: What kind of production do you offer?
A: We offer both short run and high volume production in surface mount technology, through hole
technology or a combination of both. We also offer prototyping services prior to production to ensure your design is
producible and that the production programming and tooling are acceptable.
Q: We have a list of approved vendors that my company uses. How can I take advantage of these approvals and work with PARA?
A: We routinely work with our clients approved vendors. You specify the vendors we use for procurement
of PCBs, mechanical parts, subassemblies, or electronic components. The approved list may include your company. Some of our clients
are set up as both a customer and a vendor. We purchase materials that they manufacture or have in inventory. Our arrangements include
both net 30 day terms and credit applied to invoices at our clients discretion.
Q: Do we risk losing confidential information when I use an outside development firm like PARA?
A: No. If you are concerned about losing your trade secrets to your competition, then using an outside
product development company is safer than building a large in house group. Your employees are easy targets for the competition
to find and lure away. Likewise, employees who are disgruntled are first going to look for a job with your competitors. At PARA
we work behind the scenes. In the development company relationship it is most difficult for competitors to determine who actually
has what information. The people who work with PARA are no more likely to seek employment at your competitor than any other company.
PARA always executes a confidentiality agreement before starting any job. We can also be retained not to perform any work for direct
Q: Who owns the intellectual property generated in a development project?
A: Our default terms include the assignment of all intellectual property rights to the client.
We consider anything we design, develop or manufacture for you as proprietary to your company. When requested we can
arrange other relationships where we cost-share in the development or production ramp-up costs and we retain some
ownership in the product. We can also develop a product specified by you entirely at our expense and supply it as
a commercial product for you to sell. After an analysis of the market, the overall product cost, along with the
product's merits, PARA will determine if we can offer a cost-share package.
Q: Our project is country restricted. Can PARA conform to DOD design and procurement guidelines.
A: Yes. PARA maintains associate relationships with DOD approved vendors. We can discuss in
confidentiality your project requirements and provide superior talent inside the target country.
Q: Can we schedule deliveries or do I have to order everything at one time?
A: We can schedule deliveries or ship at one time. The cost of money tied up in inventory is
reflected in the delivered price for scheduled deliveries. In the long term, it is more cost effective to schedule
deliveries rather than build several times at lower volumes.
Q: What are your payment terms?
A: Our standard is net 30 invoicing for large established companies with good credit ratings.
Other payment terms available are; COD, deposit account, or prepay depending upon our exposure, the dollar amount of the
contract and the type of work involved. Once established as a PARA customer with a good track record, terms are net 30 to
net 90 days, depending on current market condition and your needs.
Q: What happens after the project is over? Who will support the product?
A: PARA maintains a secure document control system. We maintain and securely store the drawings,
notes, production samples and CAD files. In many cases, we keep customers documentation under our document control permanently.
We are here for the long term supporting you long after the project is over.