Having been involved in previous projects which required working with manufacturers, as well as being interested in taking my designs from concept to manufacture I jumped at the chance to be involved with a project selecting a manufacturer for a client. A couple of months ago I, as part of a team, visited a number of contract electronics manufacturers (CEM) in Asia. This trip convinced me that the most important part of selecting a CEM is the first face to face meeting and factory visit.
We started the project by building a long list of CEMs which was gradually reduced as the level of information about them increased. Information from their web site initially, then emails and calls to finally a more formal and detailed quote. At the time the level of detail in the quotes impressed me, from general site information to detailed description about the manufacturing of this new product. And at that point seeing the differences between the CEMs was difficult with no obvious front runners. But then it was time for the site visits and it was then that I learned some of the key factors that you can only discover during a visit and may determine whether there is going to be a second visit.
The most obvious requirement is the CEM’s capability and free capacity to build your new product. All the presentations in the world do not match standing on the factory floor and simply looking to get a feel of the things that are happening around you. Are the electronics and mechanics currently being built to a similar volume and complexity to yours? Is the site too busy to handle your product and is there room for your volumes to increase if needed?
Without the right knowledge the next criteria is difficult to access but management of the production floor is without doubt a key point to cover. How are parts and finished products handled? How robust is the tracking of items on the production line? Are workers following electrostatic precautions? These are less obvious questions but are critical to ensure the production of your product runs smoothly, without delays and with a low number of faulty items.
Important for both parties is the mutual level of interest in the product. A high level of interest from the CEM gives confidence that they are driven to ensure a quick product launch and are determined to push through any issues. Equally they need to see that this product is important to you and that this is a serious opportunity for them. From what I saw the level of interest from the CEM increased during the visit. Just you taking the time to visit them and them taking the time to receive you shows how seriously the project is being taken.
The final thing which turned out to be the largest differentiator is the level of thought that the CEM’s team put into planning for introducing the product. Their understanding of the requirements and complexities of the product and the level of detail in their suggestions are key factors that build confidence in their ability to overcome problems and ultimately deliver your product.
Cambridge Consultants has a range of skills and experience which can be deployed to meet your needs in transferring new products to high volume manufacture and enable you to achieve a fast and successful product launch.