Sunnyvale Factory Finds a Way to Keep Running Amid Pandemic

What role does a printed circuit board manufacturer play in the coronavirus pandemic?

Turns out, a vital one.

Sierra Circuits of Sunnyvale provides printed circuit boards and other prototypes to dozens of customers. One of them being Santa Clara-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized to make a COVID-19 test that can deliver results in 45 minutes.

The Cepheid test is processed on its Gene Xpert Testing platform—one of 5,000 systems in the U.S. and 23,000 worldwide—meaning healthcare providers won’t need training to administer the diagnostic assay. All of the analysis happens on site, which is a lot quicker than sending anything to a laboratory.

“An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative—and help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on healthcare facilities that need to properly allocate their respiratory isolation resources,” David Persing, chief medical and technology officer at Cepheid, explains on the firm’s website.

Because the FDA cleared the Cepheid test, it can be used in all healthcare settings.

“It’s a huge deal to see how many customers we touch that are working on COVID-19 and have told us to stay open to do work,” Amit Bahl, the director of sales and marketing for Sierra Circuits, told San Jose Inside.

Government defense contractor Lockheed Martin and pharmaceutical and biotech company Beckman Coulter wrote official letters to federal officials identifying Sierra Circuits as essential to ensuring the safety of all in this country.

“Honestly, our manufacturing is running at a lesser degree of course, and we’re using this as a way to motivate people who are coming to the factory to move and test the product because there is so much manual labor involved in building electronics,” Bahl said. “I didn’t realize the extent of how many of our medical advice customers are using electronics to work on COVID-19 related projects. It’s pretty amazing.”


  1. > What role does a printed circuit board manufacturer play in the coronavirus pandemic?

    > Turns out, a vital one.

    The overwhelming preponderance of economic activity in a modern capitalism-based economy is purposeful, which, for all practical purposes means “vital”.

    Capitalism does not do things frivolously. Evern “commercial recreational” activities ultimately have economically advantageous “social purposes.”

    Just about everything that takes place in a capitalist economy can, at some level of examination, be classified as “vital”.

    The notion that government bureaucrats can categorized private business activities as “vital” or “not vital” is foolish.

  2. What if some of the work my business does at its facility is essential and some is non-essential?

    Businesses that include an Essential Business component at their facilities alongside non-essential components must scale down their in-person operations to the Essential Business component only. For instance, if 20% of manufacturing capacity in your business is devoted to essential products, and 80% of capacity is devoted to non-essential products, you can only operate at 20% capacity. The one exception to this rule is that retail businesses that sell a significant amount of essential products like food, personal hygiene, and consumer household products may keep their entire retail storefronts open even if some of the products they sell are non-essential.

    I bet you that Cepheid is less that 10% of Sierra’s business. And Sierra is just running business as usual, without a care in the world.

    • > I bet you that Cepheid is less that 10% of Sierra’s business.

      I bet you that you don’t know how much of Sierra’s business is vital.

      The fundamental problem is that central planning bureaucrats know very little about business operations.

      Process oriented businesses often do everything for their entire customer base at once. It’s what gives thim “economies of scale”.

      Do the central planning bureaucrats want businesses to start deciding if their customer’s businesses are vital?

      “Are you going to use that switch in a ventilator or in a titillator?”

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