Posted on 04 Jan, 2018 by Neil Sharp
Outsourcing part or all of your manufacturing to an Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) provider can be daunting. Handing over some of the control of your business can be a scary prospect. Perhaps you feel they won’t understand your products well enough, or be able to resolve issues promptly or to a satisfactory level.
When choosing an outsourcing partner you’ll want to know if they have the relevant technical capability, if they have a strong track record, are financially stable and whether they share the same beliefs about quality, processes, and attention to detail.
What you really want though, is for your EMS partner to be annoying, and ultimately boring. In this blog, we outline why.
A bit of a pain
At the start of your outsourcing journey your EMS provider will need a considerable amount of information from you. They will probably ask you lots of questions and request lots of data, they will scrutinise your product and processes, and they will want to check in with you on a regular basis.
But hang on. Didn’t you sign up to outsource your product so you didn’t have to think about manufacturing? You’re now ready to focus on designing and selling. Can’t they just get on with it?
Although you may have been manufacturing your product for years, your EMS partner hasn’t. They will be taking your product design and building it from scratch. They’ll want a Bill of Materials (BOM)detailing the parts required, a Gerber file with details for the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), and Computer Aided Design (CAD) data. Then there’s the ROHs status, and details of any additional build or quality standards. They might want detailed images of the product or even a ‘golden’ sample.
That’s a lot of information and you might not have everything immediately to hand to send over. So putting this data together probably sounds like a lot of effort on your part, right? Well, maybe. Much depends on your current systems and housekeeping but this information is key to ensuring the accuracy and quality of your product. A good EMS partner will demand this detail and whilst this might feel like they are being a bit of a pain, it’s probably more worrying if you don’t hear anything at all from them.
Throughout the NPI process, your EMS partner’s engineers will be on the lookout for any potential problems or ways to improve your product or build process to improve quality, or reduce the cost and/or lead time of future builds. They might make recommendations for changes to materials supplied, the manufacturing process, documentation, or even the product design.
Is this really necessary?
Again, we understand this can be frustrating at times - you are letting go of the manufacturing side because you want to do just that - let it go. But if the NPI process is not followed correctly, or robust enough, you could end up with extended lead times, additional manufacturing costs, or poor quality products further down the line.
A good EMS provider will also want to organise a formal business review soon after they’ve shipped the first couple of orders. These meetings are a useful way for both parties to agree which objectives have been met and which require further work/planning. The EMS provider will also want to show you progress against key performance indicators (KPIs) such as delivery performance and quality statistics. Sounds needy, but it’s important any issues are ironed out early on.
Fact is, in the early stages, your EMS partner will be in touch with you quite regularly. While this may annoyingly divert your attention from what you really want to be doing, it’s crucial for getting your provider to be what you really want, which is for them to be boring.
You want them to be boring in the sense that they just consistently deliver your products, with no effort required from you. One of the reasons you made the decision to outsource in the first place was because you wanted to free up more of your time and resources to focus on strengthening your core competencies - designing new products, and selling more goods to your customers. If your EMS partner manages your supply chain, assembly, test and logistics without any fuss or drama you can do just that.
You need to be able to rely on your EMS partner to manage the manufacturing side for you. Otherwise, what’s the point in outsourcing? You want to be free to focus on designing, selling, and adding value for your customers. The manufacturing side of your operation just needs to tick over in the background. Of course when things do just happen, as expected, on-time, without pain or heartache they start to become dull. Predictable. Boring.
So when it comes to finding the right EMS provider you have a choice. You could partner with a dull and boring one that may come across as slightly annoying and pedantic in the early stages. Or you could choose to work with someone much more dramatic, exciting, one that constantly keeps you guessing and on your toes.
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