As restrictions for on-site visits and meetings slowly returns to normal, ACDi welcomes customers and prospects to visit our manufacturing facilities to see how we build electronics products from printed circuit board layout through the manufacturing process—and meet the people that make it happen. With that in mind, here are some touch points for assessing your electronics manufacturer during a site visit.
Let’s make a basic assumption that the supplier is third-party certified for a quality management system, such as ISO 9001:2015. With that assumption, your visit just got a lot easier. The ISO certification provides an assurance that the manufacturer has a demonstrated ability to consistently provide products and services that meet a set of standards and requirements. It also asserts an effort to enhance customer satisfaction with the system’s documented processes for conformity to customer and statutory/regulatory requirements.
So what would be the benefit of an onsite visit to your electronics contract manufacturer provide? Following are some of the opportunities:
- Evaluate the on-time delivery and quality of the product they will be producing for you
- Get a flavor for the culture of the company and how well it aligns with your company values
- Bring a list of things that are important to you to know about the CM and what you want to see during your visit—let your contract manufacturer know ahead of time so they can prepare
- Evaluate if the company is clean and organized
- Communicate who you want access to as your product is being built (typical preference is a single point of contact with access to the team as required)
- Discuss how changes to your product would be implemented
- As appropriate, discuss future products and get any ideas to reduce cost and increase quality
Following are suggestion of some items to pay attention to while you are there. Be sure to focus on the ones important to you and add any that may not be here.
Is the facility secure with someone to greet you and announce your arrival? Were you welcomed warmly as a valued customer? What impression did you get about the employees’ appearances and demeanor?
Look around at the overall facility cleanliness, layout and lighting. The manner in which a manufacturer takes care of their facilities is an indicator of their attention to detail and quality control. A clean, orderly manufacturing floor correlates an appreciation for the environment of not only the employees, but for visitors as well. Does the floor flow with production, or do workers travel back and forth from area to area which does not contribute to efficient operations? Ask how the stockroom is organized and how any special parts are marked, such as RoHS compliant material. Is the manufacturing facility well lit—which contributes to the overall environment for works, as well as safety.
Manufacturing work instructions are an important part of any electronics manufacturing services production line. As product flows through production, every hand that touches it needs documented instructions for each step of the process. Check out a sample of the manufacturing work instructions during a site visit.
Machinery and Tools
During the site visit, take note of the condition of the machinery and other tools on the floor. Ask about machine calibration frequency (which may be documented in the ISO management system). Take the time while there to view the machinery that is used to manufacture your specific electronics assembly, including testing equipment, such as flying probe. This will also provide insight into what processes are automated versus manual.
International Traffic in Arms (ITAR)
If your product is ITAR controlled, does the contract manufacturer have an ITAR registration from the U.S. Department of State? How do they control access to your product and documentation? What do they do to confirm only US residents have access to any ITAR material?
Before allowing visitors on the manufacturing floor, they should be given heel straps and/or an ESD smock. If the facility is certified to the ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 standard, for instance, the visitor will be required to verify that the heel straps are functioning properly with an ESD check and log of the pass/fail results.
Once you place an order, have the contract manufacturer walk you through their process for ordering components, ensuring they are genuine, and tracking what parts go on which printed circuit board. How are evolving lead times managed?
This is a good opportunity to evaluate the manufacturer’s environmental test capabilities. Do they do thermal shock testing, leak testing or vibration testing in-house or with an external partner.
Many electronics products require various specific certifications, including FCC, UL, CE, RoHS, etc. Does the contract manufacturer have the qualifications and certifications necessary to build your product?
Even after a site visit and tour, it may be worth walking through specifically how your product will be made, from the quoting stage to final delivery. This could include meeting the team that will be working on your product, understanding lead times and expectations, shipping and anything else important to your company needs.
ACDi welcomes customers and prospects to visit our facilities and meet the team. Feel free to reach out to your project manager, account manager or contact us to schedule a tour.