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Finding a CEM Partner Aligned with Your OEM Product Mix

Posted by: AEICM Marketing
Category: Technical Posts
Finding a CEM Partner Aligned with Your OEM Product Mix

Our economic narrative the last few years has been similar in all sectors… “Do more with less”. In an environment where the competition is increasing their outsourced electronics product manufacturing, the question is whether you should follow their lead. It is tempting to jump on the bandwagon of the hot trends in your industry. However, it is far more prudent to weigh such a decision against your own long-term business strategy.

We have other posts on our blog about the process of selecting your Contract Electronics Manufacturing (CEM) partner. In this blog post, we discuss some other parameters to consider when evaluating whether your CEM partner is right for your product mix.

Managing Quality

Quality is an essential value and an operational philosophy for us at August. We appreciate it is just as important for you as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Depending on your product mix and requirements, having a CEM partner that is fully invested in their quality management system should be one of the first parameters in your evaluation process. Do they continuously work to improve their manufacturing processes?

You want to be sure the CEM partner you select has the proper certifications to build, inspect and test your product. What about non-conforming material or products, how will your CEM partner handle these? Which leads to another consideration that goes hand-in-hand with quality, documentation. Your potential CEM partner should share their documentation practices with you; what information is collected and stored and how you can access this information. The true cost of building your product considers a lifecycle approach. Validating these critical elements will offer a long-term return that goes well beyond a quoted price.

Supply Chain Management

An important determinant of quality is the way in which your CEM or Electronics Manufacturing Solutions (EMS) provider vets and manages its suppliers. It is useful to review:

  • Their supplier selection and performance monitoring processes.
  • The frequency, breadth and depth of supplier audits.
  • Procedures to ensure only approved vendors are utilized.
  • The extent of traceability.

Handling NPIs

Innovation is key to survival and growth in business. New Product Introductions (NPIs) are just one aspect of innovation. Your EMS partner will follow their existing New Product Introduction process when handling your prototype manufacturing.

You’ll need to review how they approve secondary and tertiary levels of (sub) suppliers, whether they incorporate Design for Manufacturability (DFM) analysis and process verification before continuing on with volume production.

They must have a process flow chart, perform first article inspections and have the necessary process controls in place to ensure all build related issues or concerns are reported and addressed for accurate manufacturing.

The success of an NPI depends on progressing swiftly from a proof of concept to prototyping, small volume production, and then mass production – a process that is often riddled with issues and inefficiencies. Your EMS partner must be able to support you in optimizing the time-to-market. Ensure you have a team prepared to be heavily engaged at this stage. Maximize the time and focus during the NPI stage so that your return on production is as high as possible.

In the early stages of an NPI, speed and agility are important; in the long-term you need a low unit cost to enable competitive large-volume pricing – all while maintaining a superior level of quality. The right EMS partner ensures this transition is smooth and preserves your commitment to quality.

Switching EMS providers midstream can introduce unnecessary risk and additional effort into the mix.

Process Management

A viable manufacturing partner should be transparent in their organizational structure, their systems and processes. Do they have the required contingency programs, IT systems and infrastructure to handle your build long term? All of these variables are often considered as an after-thought but they are critical to developing security of supply. Consider what your ultimate long-term objectives are and align them accordingly.

The August Partnership

At August, we understand that your product mix is determined by your business strategy. Instead of trying to force-fit this to an EMS provider, you must find an EMS provider that can handle your strategically-decided product mix. Your EMS partner must possess the right technical expertise, experience and capacity to meet your needs. More importantly, they must represent the right cultural and strategic fit for you.

If you would like to discuss any of these parameters we’re happy to help, contact us today.