Electronics Manufacturing Services firms are often thought of as only “build-to-print” shops. That is the client must provide the EMS firm ALL the necessary information required to build a job. While that is still the business model for many EMS-client relationships, there are other EMS services available that may be of great benefit to the client.
Many EMS firms today offer a wide variety of engineering services – DFM, DFT, DFA, PCB Layout, Schematic Updates – but some go even further up the development cycle and support electronic product development. And here is where the client can really gain value from their EMS partner.
For starters, EMS firms are hard wired for manufacturing. They look, talk and walk like manufacturers, and that means they view all aspects of the development cycle through a ‘manufacturer’s lens’. Sometimes, annoyingly so. Of course they care if the product works, but they also understand first hand things like budget, schedule and what will and won’t work in production.
Versatility is another reason your EMS partner may be a good choice for product development. EMS firms generally service a wide variety of markets and see the spectrum of design technologies and complexities. And, EMS firms likely have a teaming partner or two they can lean on for any expertise that is not in-house.
In fact, your EMS supplier will likely outsource some of the actual hardware and / or software development to stand-alone engineering houses. Do not be alarmed by this! Think of it like raw PCBs in the EMS business model. It would be hard to argue board fabrication is not an integral piece of the manufacturing process, and most EMS companies outsource the PCB fabrication to the experts. Outsourcing allows EMS firms to utilize different experts for different needs, from complex & high-end to simple & low-cost solutions. It’s the same idea for electronic product development.
OK. I just told you EMS firms can be a good choice for electronic product development projects, but they outsource the development. Why wouldn’t a client simply hire the engineering house and the EMS firm on their own? Ever hear the words “it’s a design issue” from your manufacturing team? How about “it’s a manufacturing issue” from your engineers? Then emails, drawings and the evil-eyes start flying across the state (or the country).
Here’s the key – when the EMS firm is the Prime on both the development and the manufacturing effort, a large part of the ‘design vs. manufacturing’ arguments disappear. Your EMS provider assigns a Program Manager who is tasked with keeping all outsourcing partners, internal teams and, yes, even the client straight. It’s this guy’s job to do things like tell the electrical lead he can’t spec in an $8 relay with a $6 budget. Or, to inform the client, who has flipped between Desert Tan and Coyote Brown for the 8th time, to make a decision or face delays.
So, it’s not that all the pain associated with electronic development and new product introduction programs go away – make no mistake this is a challenging process. But it’s possible that your EMS partner can make the process easier, at least, for you.