The Benefits of Integrating a Contract Manufacturer

The Benefits of Integrating a Contract Manufacturer

Manufacturing Technology Insights | Friday, April 14, 2023

Choosing the right electronic contract manufacturer will save time and money over the product's life.

With the right electronic contract manufacturer (ECM), you can save time and money throughout the lifecycle of your product. When you need electronic circuit design, choose an ECM that has a design team on-site. Even if you already design electronic products, you can still benefit from the experience of the contract manufacturer. Also, consider the size of the ECM's business. Additionally, consider whether the ECM's surface mount technology (SMT) capabilities and automated optical inspection (AOI) are advanced. Finally, assess if the ECM's culture aligns with yours and assess its quality system. There is value in selecting an electronic contract manufacturer that can provide end-to-end services. However, you will need both electronic design and manufacturing services if you need a design. Design houses may also pick the quickest and easiest solution instead of the most cost-effective one for you regarding part selection. Suppose a designer can choose a single part from a single supplier or multiple parts from multiple suppliers. The designer will likely choose the single sole-source component if it reduces design time. If this is the case, you might not be able to find that part the next time you need it. Since the design house has already received payment, asking for additional assistance might be difficult.

Working with more than a circuit manager: Some design houses build things that don't work. Others build things that could have been differently designed, so they're cheaper to make. Some ECMs will just build a board based on what they get from you. In other words, they might not consider design changes that could save you money. However, even if you have your own design, finding a company with in-house design capabilities is helpful. Also, you should choose a company with technical expertise. For example, the right manufacturer can offer a solution if a relay doesn't work.

The scale of ECM: Take the time to evaluate possible manufacturing partners, so it's important to do your due diligence. Although evaluating publicly-held companies is easier, you can still gain insights by doing your due diligence. If you're a low-volume buyer, you probably don't want to deal with a large, billion-dollar ECM. Larger companies typically require perfect documentation, and your submission may not meet their standards. A smaller electronic contract manufacturer can assist with fixing your documentation. They may also be more flexible with unusual or atypical projects.

Evaluating ECM:Surface mount technology (SMT) is supported by almost every electronic contract manufacturer (ECM) today. In addition to board size, determine the board's density, the pitch's fineness, and the number of parts supported by the board. It is also important to evaluate their ability to handle BGA components, as well as their ability to use the latest 3D printing techniques for prototyping. A company's production capacity for large quantities of boards and its ability to work with complex designs should also be evaluated.

Quality check: Electronic contract manufacturers generally deliver better quality and on time. Most ECMs today are at least ISO 9001:2015 certified. Consider the importance of engineering change notices (ECNs) when comparing potential manufacturers, and don't underestimate the importance of preventative maintenance (PM). Machines may fail more often than they should if an ECM doesn't have a PM database.

Choosing the right contract manager: A company's culture plays a more important role than the size of the ECM, but do not overlook its importance. When you need to communicate with your supplier on demand, look for an electronic contract manufacturer who quickly takes your calls and answers your emails. It is also important to find out about charges. Some ECMs charge you for any changes that you make during production runs. Others charge you a flat fee for changes after documentation has been created.

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