Choosing the right EMS (Electronics Manufacturing Services) provider is a crucial decision that can make or break your project. Outsourcing electronics manufacturing to an EMS partner enables businesses to focus on their core competencies, but it requires a good partnership built on trust and compatibility. There are many EMS providers in the market with various capabilities, so selecting one that suits your requirements is critical to its success. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to choose the best EMS provider that meets your needs.
Capability is the first factor you should consider when selecting an EMS provider. Capability encompasses equipment, supply chain options and control, staff, facility/process quality certifications, ITAR and/or security clearances (if applicable), and facility location. An EMS provider should have the appropriate equipment needed to manufacture your design or product. Ensure that their equipment is well-maintained, and their staff is adequately trained to produce quality products. Also, ensure that there are manufacturing and quality controls in place to meet or exceed product design and end-use environment requirements.
Output potential is another aspect to consider when choosing an EMS provider. Make sure that their output potential matches your quantity forecast, including potential surge requirements. Every EMS has a certain volume where they function best, so ensure that your quantity forecasts hit somewhere near the middle of their capability. If your requirement is near their maximum capability, growth will be difficult. If your forecasts are near the bottom of their capability, you may be neglected and not receive optimum service. A site visit and customer references for similar sized projects are valuable indicators of their capability.
Supply chain options and control are crucial factors that need to be taken into consideration. Counterfeit components continue to be a problem, so working with qualified suppliers who can get the product you need, when you need it, at the quantity you need, and at a competitive price is vital in today’s global markets. Therefore, supply chain management is a must.
Staff considerations should match the product mix and requirements. What is the percentage of managers, engineers, and skilled labor? What staff support do you need for your project? Does the EMS staffing structure and your project staffing needs match? Do you have a need for your product to be built or inspected to a particular standard/specification? Does the EMS staff training and certification meet this requirement? Facility requirements go hand in hand with staffing, especially if you need a facility that is ITAR certified or has a secured facility rating. Do you require an EMS provider that is AS9100 registered, or is on the QML for J-STD-001/IPC-A-610?
Location can also be an important deciding factor, particularly if source inspection is a required part of your process. Being able to drop in and watch your product being produced can be reassuring, and not being nearby can add to the costs when unexpected issues arise, requiring one or more visits. Consider the total cost of trips and how it affects the overall product cost.
Price is always an important consideration, but make sure to factor in the entire cost, including travel, shipping, and returns. Don’t let a few cents off up front influence your choice of EMS provider; it could cost you time, money, and frustration moving forward. Suppliers used to producing high-quality or high-reliability products may cost a little more up front but will save you many headaches and dollars in the long run. Manufacturing quotes alone do not always represent the complete picture of investment.
Financial stability is another critical aspect to consider when choosing an EMS provider. Look at their financial data for the past three years and/or use commercial sources for evaluating a company’s creditworthiness. Their financial information must give you confidence that they will still be around when your product is delivered. EMS businesses are constantly watching cash flow, and many times it is at its worst when they are buying your inventory.
Traceability and testing are other potential requirements for your product. Traceability may or may not be important, depending on the complexity and cost of your product. If required, an EMS provider should explain the level of information they collect and store, how it can be accessed, and its security. Testing could be a simple flying probe test or more complex, requiring EMS engineers to develop and implement it. Ensure that your product is not the first for which they offer this service.
Assuming the job is turn-key, make sure the potential provider has experience and processes for identifying, purchasing, and monitoring your inventory. Understand how they do this and how your inventory