10 Questions to Ask Before Selecting an Electronics Manufacturing Services Provider

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You’ve put in the legwork and dedicated your resources to designing and developing your next great electronics product—but now you need to find an electronic manufacturing service (EMS) partner to make it a reality and take it to market. When searching for an EMS partner, it’s important to ask the right questions so you can find the organization that is a good fit for your product and will be able to meet each of your unique production needs.

To help you in your process, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask each electronics manufacturer as you search for a reliable partner. Knowing what to ask ahead of time will not only safeguard that they can meet your needs, but also ensure that they can grow with you as your business expands. Be sure to keep this list handy and take comprehensive notes during your discovery process to easily compare EMS providers when it comes time to make a decision.

1. What are their customer service practices?

We’ve put customer service at the top of the list because it can easily make or break your relationship with your electronics manufacturer. Consider how you’d like to work with your manufacturing partner. Do you want to communicate with a single point of contact or work with a team? What are your expectations for communication? By asking about their customer services practices, you can determine if they will work well with you and your company.

At ACDi, each client is assigned a program manager who will walk you through each step of the process and confirm that all your needs are met. You will be able to contact them whenever you have questions and concerns. Working with a single point of contact can simplify communications.

2. Are they financially strong?

When searching for a manufacturing partner, you want to find someone who can work with you in the long-term—making it critical to establish their financial stability. After all, you’ll be relying on them for your own business’ success, so it’s critical that you feel confident investing your time and resources with them.

3. Do they have the appropriate certifications to meet your specific needs?

Depending on the requirements of your product and your intended market, you may need an EMS partner with a particular certification in order to meet industry regulations. For example, are they RoHS or REACH compliant? Industry regulations can sometimes complicate matters, but with the right partner, they can ensure your product will check all the necessary boxes. For IPC Class 2 and 3 electronics, your contract manufacturer should be ISO 9001 certified at a minimum. In addition, if you have a high reliability electronics product, AS9100D or 13485 certification may be necessary.

4. Are they adopting new technology and equipment?

Technology and IoT are quickly advancing and you want a partner who can keep up. You will surely want your new product to be manufactured using the latest technology, so be sure to ask about the kinds of equipment they use and how they adapt to meet the ever-changing industry demands. Industry 4.0 initiatives are transforming the way electronics manufacturers with connected machines and data reporting capabilities. These insights are positively contributing to quality initiatives.

5. What are their policies and processes for when something goes wrong?

Even with the best EMS provider, it’s still possible for something to go wrong. What can you expect from your EMS partner when something doesn’t go according to plan? Do they have specific policies in place for these scenarios, like return materials authorization? Do these polices meet your expectations as a company?

6. How will they protect your intellectual property?

When you hand over your product designs and sensitive business information, you want to know that your electronic manufacturing services provider will go to great lengths to protect your intellectual property. They should be able to provide a nondisclosure agreement and demonstrate their cybersecurity safeguards so that your ideas and information don’t end up in the wrong hands.

7. Can they provide references?

Any good EMS provider should be able to provide you with references so that you can explore their work and previous customer relationships. Does their past work fall in line with what you see for the future of your company?

We hope this list helps you easily compare providers during your search for a trusted partner. If you would like to learn more about ACDi, please give us a call at 301-969-4536 or visit us online!

8. How do they handle changes to the project?

It’s important to ask how changes to a project are handled, including how flexible is the team to making changes, other than material lead times how much of a delay will it cause, and if there is a change fee.

9. Have they built similar products to yours?

While it isn’t essential that the partner you choose has experience building the exact type of product that you need manufactured, but it is important that they have done similar type builds. Also, look for a partner that has a breadth of capabilities that may benefit your project. For instance, do they have an in-house PCB design team that can potentially answer questions from a fab house? Do they know how to do box builds or cables? This breadth of expertise can come in handy when troubleshooting issues or with suggesting improvements to you product.

10. What are their in-house test capabilities?

Be sure to ask your electronics manufacturer what testing capabilities they do in-house and what needs to be sent out of the factory. A solid electronics manufacturing services provider should offer in-circuit testing or Flying Probe. They should also be equipped to functionally test your product and help you develop a test for your product if necessary.

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