Any plan to outsource your assembly operation to a contract electronics manufacturer needs a serious consideration. But once a decision is made, a comprehensive strategy has to be put into place before the actual physical turn-over of the operations is conducted. One good move you should look into is to ascertain that the CEM has an IPC certification at hand.
Printed circuit board assembly is a process that can be done effectively by a party other than the main manufacturer itself. It has been tested many times and proven to work, but despite its seemingly simple and strategically cost efficient look, it can get the original equipment manufacturer into a lot of potential issues.
Here are some factors you might want to consider if you transfer printed circuit board assembly to a contract electronics manufacturer:
1. Skills and Expertise
Arguably, the elements that are necessary in the assembly and testing of your product are in your own people. A skilled and reliable workforce is one of the greatest strengths you have as a manufacturer. But having decided to transfer the assembly process to a second party, you have to pass these resources to a new supplier. If necessary, you may even require your provider to have its employees go through an IPC soldering training and certification process. This will ensure they are able to meet your company’s quality standards.
Even though you re quite certain that your assembly process is documented and guided by build instructions and assembly diagrams, you will be surprised to learn that your staff involved in building the products are able to devise some steps to improve or shorten the documented process. This acquired knowledge, though learned from experience, can be a key element in achieving product quality and meeting production deadlines. You need to have this evaluated and incorporated into the manufacturing documentation of your EMS provider.
2. Plant and Equipment
Once the transfer is in place, you will be faced with another issue as you will have to decide whether your existing plant and equipment should be retained, sold or transferred to your new contract electronics manufacturer. Again, this needs a careful evaluation because you have to consider the possibility of selling your existing equipment if your CEM can provide one for itself.
Another angle that you need to look into before awarding the contract to another party is to go to the equipment manufacturer to see if they are interested in taking back their own product. Many equipment manufacturers are willing to buy back their own equipment because it creates an opportunity for them to overhaul it and offer it for sale. This allows them to get a new maintenance contract and a corresponding warranty agreement.
If you are not keen on transferring an entire process altogether, retaining the equipment would sound prudent until such time you become confident that a complete transfer is necessary.
In the absence of a careful plan, existing material stock can have a serious effect in the new outsourced process. While a process transfer is beneficial in terms of a reduced need for raw materials, improper planning can result in your warehouse having lots of materials that are redundant with your CEM’s stocks.
One way to avoid this problem is to discuss the matter with your contract electronics manufacturer. A lot of them would welcome a transfer of key items provided they are stored in accordance with manufacturer specifications and sold at neutral cost.
Transferring an assembly process to a CEM is a cost-effective strategy. But before making the final decision, you must ascertain that the most important aspects are given due consideration to avoid issues that can affect quality.
Lori Palermo is a corporate consultant who is experienced in the areas of fund administration, corporate solutions, human resources, technology and small business. He likes to share his knowledge about business and human interests. .