One of the greatest benefits of outsourcing part or all of your manufacturing operation to an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider is that you have more time to focus on designing, marketing and selling your products. And the further along the outsourcing path you venture, the more you enjoy these advantages.
However, your working relationship with your EMS provider is fundamentally a partnership. Therefore, it's important to ensure that you carve out time to meet with your EMS provider on a frequent basis – even if you are feeling particularly pleased about having handed over responsibility to them!
While emails and phone calls have their place, nothing beats face-to-face communication. It's the oil that makes the engine run - without it, things can quickly grind to a halt. Meeting in person and having in place a clear structure to guide your discussions really does have a hugely positive influence on your outsourcing venture - both now and in the future.
So, let's consider in more detail why exactly you should have formal business reviews with your EMS provider.
The importance of formal business reviews
It may sound like a hyperbolic statement, but formal business reviews are an essential element of an outsourcing relationship. They make it strong and healthy - and keep it in excellent working order. Formal business reviews help you to reinforce what you expect from your relationship and allow you to seek clarification on any messages that are unclear to you in any way. They also provide the perfect forum for resolving any problems that might occur, ensuring that issues are nipped in the bud before they become more complicated. And, of course, they build up trust, which is a crucial ingredient in any long-term partnership.
With that in mind, it's a good idea to arrange your first review soon after your EMS partner has shipped your first order (either to you or directly to the end customer). This enables both parties to review the order while the details are still fresh and creates an opportunity to discuss any outstanding actions and review progress against the agreed key performance indicators (KPIs). If you're further along in the outsourcing process and haven't yet had a chance to discuss things in person, then it's advisable to get a date in the diary as soon as possible!
Rotating where the meetings are held can also be beneficial – for instance, walking your EMS partner's factory floor can help you understand their processes and procedures in greater depth. This is particularly useful where there are immediate actions that need your input - for example, documentation or test queries. Being on-site also enables you to build up relationships with other key members of their team (outside of your immediate day-to-day contact), such as engineering, test and production staff.
Here at JJS, we tend to centre a client's formal business review around a bespoke customer service report. This is a document that we prepare in advance and send to you ahead of the meeting as a means of setting the agenda. It is intended to ensure that your original outsourcing objectives are being met and any critical issues, such as the progress of a new product launch, are addressed and communicated in a timely manner.
If you're not convinced...
Your EMS partner can't force you to attend formal business reviews - and, indeed, they don't want you to feel like they're twisting your arm! But the value of these meetings cannot be overemphasised – they really do play an important role. After all, an outsourcing project is a relationship and the best relationships require hard work and commitment on both sides, to ensure longevity and growth.
However your EMS partner structures these reviews, they should in no way be a drain on your time (one to two hours should be more than enough); rather, they should help you to maximise the positive impact that outsourcing is having on your organisation. If, at any time, you feel dissatisfied with the way that your reviews are being conducted, then just be honest with your EMS partner - it may be the case that they simply need to tweak things to best suit your particular needs.
Ultimately, formal business reviews should be mutually beneficial to both you and your EMS provider. Once your outsourcing venture is firmly off the ground, they provide an invaluable touchpoint, to ensure that your partnership goes the distance and you achieve your outsourcing and wider business goals.