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Early design engagement with EMS providers is crucial in product development

Published: 16 March 2018 - Sarah Mead

For years, OEMs across all sectors have traditionally used huge networks of suppliers, all specialising in different areas and working to varying timescales. Now, driven by rapidly developing technology and increasingly demanding consumers -who are used to getting products and services at an almost instant rate – these businesses are being forced to change their supply chain strategies. In turn, they are putting pressure on their suppliers and partners to design and develop products in ever-decreasing timescales, delivering both quality and cost-efficiency.

Currently, there are a number of barriers in place which prevent the most efficient relationships between OEMs and manufacturing suppliers from flourishing. EMS partners who manufacture customer’s electronic products on a subcontract basis are often presented with a fully-developed and fixed “Design Package” which defines every aspect of the build, from materials and format to test and construction.  

Once supply-chains are created and commitment is made to manufacturing processes, material stocks and supplier tooling (which can be expensive in the case of moulded enclosures and specialist metalwork), further significant design changes can be prohibitively complicated and costly. This has a long-lasting impact on the product’s entire lifecycle, which could stretch to many years or even decades. Production costs, product field performance and reliability could all be compromised, needless waste will be created and eventually, an otherwise unnecessary entire design replacement could be the only option. 

The alternative, and much more profitable and cost-efficient route to market is by establishing crucial early engagement between the teams designing and manufacturing the products and the OEMs’ design departments. Getting manufacturing suppliers involved early on in the design process allows them to fully understand the OEM business and its objectives, and apply its own expert knowledge to positively aid the product development process, identifying and eliminating potential pitfalls and delays.

In electronic manufacturing particularly, a design for manufacture (DfM) approach is essential, as complex components and processes must be handled carefully and with skill, to ensure products are both efficient and profitable. In certain sectors, such as defence, security or power for example, additional pressures exist such as hazardous or hostile environments or the need to protect national security. For medical equipment, many of the product created have life-critical uses and so it’s vitally important that they are thoroughly tested at the prototyping stage to ensure excellent performance.

By driving early stage engagement to partner customers though the latter design and product development stages, EMS providers can make sure products are created with optimal efficiency in mind. This is all delivered within timescales which do not delay the product’s time to market, occurring before the design stage closes and decisions become cemented.

By proposing sensible, practical, and often relatively minor changes to a product, this approach delivers substantial tangible benefits without disrupting or prolonging the design process or cutting corners in terms of efficiency or quality.

By John Johnston, NPI Director, Chemigraphic

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