Electronic Manufacturing Services 101

Your essential guide to improving product value with an EMS provider

 

Electronic manufacturing companies are essential partners when bringing your product to market. They’re your guide through the manufacturing process, and selecting the right one can guarantee a smooth journey from design to aftermarket support.

Here’s what you need to know about electronic manufacturing services (EMS) and EMS companies, to ensure you find the best partner for your needs.

 

Table of Contents

 

  1. What are electronic manufacturing services?
  2. Key services that improve your product’s value
  3. What to look for in an EMS provider
  4. Why you should work with a Design for Excellence EMS expert
  5. Protecting your Intellectual Property when working with an EMS company
  6. The future of EMS and how you can benefit

 

What are electronic manufacturing services?

 

Electronic manufacturing services (EMS) help turn your product idea into a high-quality, cost-effective, and market-ready reality. This vital part of the electronics value chain is also known as electronics contract manufacturing (ECM).

Read more about what EMS means to Asteelflash, here.

 

Key services that improve your product’s value

 

EMS companies design, manufacture, test, distribute, and provide return/repair services for electronic components and assemblies for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). They service a diverse range of industries, manufacturing products for healthcare, consumer electronics, defense, aerospace, energy management, automotive, and other sectors. For a taste of EMS services in action, find out how EMS helps bring electric vehicles to market here.

Services will vary by company but your ideal EMS provider will offer a high-quality design and development service, in addition to product manufacture. Look out for some of the following that can help you bring your product to market most efficiently:

  • Research and development (R&D). This includes electronic innovations and co-specification R&D projects.
  • Co-design. This includes collaborative design and full product development services.
  • Prototyping. Your EMS provider could help with functional mockup demonstrators and the manufacture of prototypes.
  • Manufacturing. This includes EMS supply chain solutions, lean manufacturing, and systems integration (also known as box builds). These include:
      1. Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA). Producing a PCBA involves the soldering of parts like integrated circuits, transistors, and resistors onto a bare board to facilitate the routing of power and signals between physical devices.
      2. Electromechanical assembly. This forms part of box builds — the complete assembly of your finished product, which includes your printed circuit board.
  • New Product Introduction. This includes help with industrialization, certifications, product launch, and Design for Excellence services. See Section 4 for more on Design for Excellence.
  • Smart supply chains. These provide intelligent supply chain management and automates a substantial part of the production process, saving you time and money, and guaranteeing quality.
  • Product lifecycle management. This ensures each stage of your product’s development is optimized to ensure high quality, at improved cost and time-to-market.
  • Post Production Support. This includes the repairs and warranty support, reverse logistics, service parts logistics, and fulfillment asset recovery.

 

Each of these services should form part of a coherent manufacturing process that’s optimized to deliver your product to market in the most efficient, quality-assured way possible. Choosing your EMS partner wisely can help you achieve this. Read more on the Asteelflash range of EMS services on this page.

 

What to look for in an EMS provider ?

 

What qualifies an expert EMS company from one you should stay clear of? How do you know if your shortlist of candidates can cater to your unique needs? Here are some selection criteria to help you find the right fit:

  • Do they have a global footprint? An EMS company with a global footprint will understand the full potential of your market on a worldwide scale, and how to support your expansion possibilities beyond local markets. A local presence will also allow you to communicate with a team that shares the same culture. This eases communication, and they’ll be more flexible when responding to your needs.
  • If they’re an international company, do they standardize their range of capabilities? A good EMS partner needs more than just a global presence. Each local business unit needs to work together through a Lean culture, to ensure the highest repeatability and reproducibility of any product. This means identical machines, IT systems, ERP, project management, and the like, all need to be standardized. This facilitates the seamless transfers of production from one manufacturing site to another.
  • Do they have a presence in all relevant economic sectors? It’s possible for solutions and processes developed in one sector to benefit another. For example, many technologies used in robotics were first developed for the automotive industry. An EMS supplier with a multi-sector approach will have access to the widest possible range of knowledge, and be able to apply this to your product and its manufacturing process.

If your candidates have passed this first wave of assessment criteria, there are more detailed criteria you can assess them by. These include:

  • Market knowledge. Your EMS partner is a vital part of your production cycle. To safeguard your production timelines, they need expert knowledge of the global electronics market and trends. This ensures they can offer the right solutions based on the latest technology, and avoid using problematic supplier or obsolete component parts.
  • Quality and inventory management policy. An inventory policy helps an EMS company to minimize costs while maximizing customer satisfaction. They should source components from their approved network of trusted partners, and have a strict policy and procedures to prevent possible sourcing issues. Uncover how your shortlisted providers manage their inventory, and prioritize working with a company that has a transparent, well-managed supply chain that’s optimized by mathematical models.
  • Materials requirements planning system (MRP). This allows an EMS company to establish a requirements schedule and forecasts for each product. Confirm that your intended EMS provider uses advanced manufacturing software that can integrate multi-level Bills of Materials (BOMs). Doing so guarantees they’ve taken everything into account: the current production schedule, parts to be purchased, lead times, etc. This eliminates delays before they arise.

 

Read more on how an EMS company facilitates your supply chain on the Asteelflash blog. Discover more about an EMS company’s manufacturing process in our latest e-book. Click the button below and download the Asteelflash guide to PCBA manufacturing. It’s a step-by-step introduction to how you’ll partner to bring a PCB from design to aftermarket, and what you need to look for in an EMS partner to ensure they can meet your specific needs.

 Download the Guide

 

Why you should work with a Design for Excellence EMS expert ?

 

Design for Excellence (DfX) is your safeguard against product and process inefficiency. This product engineering methodology is a systematic approach to product design and manufacturing that helps you achieve your target objectives. Whether improving product cost, quality, or time-to-market, applying a DfX mindset to your product’s design and manufacture can help you meet them all. It’s a series of methods, guidelines, standards, and checks applied at various levels of your product’s life cycle to ensure issues are flagged and resolved before production begins.

Partnering with an EMS company that specializes in DfX can have the following impact on EMS processes (PCBA manufacture, for example):

  • Optimized lead times on sourcing of individual components
  • Minimized production delays
  • Improved coverage, reliability and final yield
  • Reduced field failures
  • Improved time to market
  • Optimized assembly time
  • Reduced error rate
  • Improved assembly time
  • Reduced labor content

 

Working with an EMS partner that specializes in DfX will increase the value of your product by finding the balance between optimal performance and minimized cost. Find out more about Design for Excellence and what it means for EMS and PCBA.

 

Protecting your Intellectual Property when working with an EMS company

 

While bringing your product to market, you may rely on several third-party service providers. At each step, you’ll be asked to share your concept, and this leaves it vulnerable to exploitation. Intellectual property theft is a threat in any working relationship, and it’s important to be protected against it.

Your EMS service provider will be a key part of your product’s realization, as they can be involved in every step of the way. Before you engage anyone, find out how they plan to protect your intellectual property rights, while working with you to improve your concept for optimal ROI and maximum impact. Be sure they’re dedicated to protecting your ideas and data from day one.

Read more about Asteelflash’s approach to protecting your intellectual property with electronic manufacturing services.

The future of EMS and how you can benefit

 

Like any field, EMS is changing rapidly. So, how can you benefit from these changes and remain ahead of the technological curve? Being able to do so relies on your choice of EMS provider. Paying attention to key developments in the field can also help you identify EMS companies that also have their finger on the pulse.

The introduction of smart factories and other developments linked to the fourth industrial revolution has had a huge impact on electronic manufacturing services. Smart factories allow EMS processes to be applied to new fields, making it possible to manufacture entirely new kinds of products, such as connected devices and smart homes. They also demand EMS companies build and operate factories to new specifications. Read more on how Smart Factories affect electronic manufacturing services here, and learn how you can identify whether your EMS provider is making the most of the technological revolution, so you can too.

Machine-to-machine communication is the hallmark of the fourth industrial age. Your EMS provider should be at the forefront of the design and manufacture innovations this enables. An EMS company that embraces the full capabilities of Industry 4.0 will usually display the following traits:

    • Automation. The automation of EMS and PCB assembly processes is critical if your EMS partner wants to remain competitive and offer the most efficient production processes.
    • Artificial Intelligence. This could mean the inclusion of AI printed circuit board designs or added AI aspects in PCBs. AI systems might also feature in their supply chain — combining big data and machine learning for optimized processes.
    • Cloud computing. Having a cloud strategy in line with your product lifecycle management is a critical part of your relationship with an EMS company. They should have relevant tools that help you store the right documentation, securely, to ensure a robust manufacturing process.
    • 3D Printing. A key aspect of Industry 4.0, 3D printing makes PCB prototyping easy to produce and significantly reduces manufacturing time.
    • Internet of Things (IoT) platforms. A company can use IoT platforms to create new business models. Partnering with an EMS provider that uses IoT will help you stay ahead of the technology curve.
    • Big data analysis and algorithms. Big data analysis increases your product’s market relevance, placing EMS companies with this ability a cut above the rest. Precise analysis of user behavior empowers businesses to better anticipate their needs.
      • Securing infrastructures. Data protection is integral to business in the fourth industrial age. It directly relates to how well an EMS company partner can protect your intellectual property. A data and IP security strategy must be a part of any reputable electronics manufacturing process.

 

  • Learn more about how an EMS company can capitalize on the advantages of Industry 4.0, here.EMS companies help anticipate the needs and demands of your market. To better vet their ability to help you do so, it pays to understand their approach to manufacturing. Contact Asteelflash for details on their processes and services, or to get a taste of what it’s like to partner with them in their guide to their PCBA manufacturing process.

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