Five things to consider when choosing an electronics contract manufacturer

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

 

1. Quality Control – When you sign a project over to a contract manufacturer (CM), the production is somewhat out of your hands. The single most important thing to consider when choosing an electronics contract manufacturer is quality control. Look for a CM that you trust to communicate issues to you before and during the production process. This could save your company a lot of money and save you a big headache.

Ask your CM what quality control procedures they have in place. They should have the proper certifications for your specific product application and should be able to answer any questions you have about production of your product.

2. Contractor Relationship – This should tie for number one on the list because it is such a crucial factor in choosing a CM.  You should be mindful of how you click with the program managers/engineers, because if you like them, you may be working with them for a long time! Your first project with the right CM could blossom into a relationship that lasts for years.

Part of determining who you should choose as your CM is a gut reaction. If you have a bad feeling about a CM, use someone else. You should feel comfortable leaving your project in your CM’s hands.

Beyond trusting the CM, you should ask your CM who your point-of-contact will be with the company. Will you have one liaison to manage your project? Or will you be responsible for contacting different staff members within their organization? You should be comfortable communicating your company’s needs and concerns with your point-of-contact. Choose someone you and your coworkers will enjoy working with if a problem arises.

3. Capacity – Some manufacturers may simply be unable to take on high volume projects. You should choose a CM that can accommodate your specific needs. If you have a prototype, you may be better off choosing a CM that can do quick-turn, low volume products. If you have a high volume order, you may choose a CM that specializes in high volume production.

Either way, if you choose a contractor that is already operating at maximum capacity, your electronics assembly or other project could suffer during a busy production period. When you’re searching for a contract manufacturer, you should ask if that CM has room to accommodate your project. Ask what the plan of action is if they earn enough business to be operating at maximum capacity. Do they have room to grow?

4. Cost – Just as with anything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you request a quote from a company and it seems abnormally low, you should ask them the reason for the pricing.

A competitively-priced quote isn’t an indication of poor quality control. In fact, many high-quality contractors are able to offer competitive pricing. Just make sure you trust the CM you choose to do your project well and ask for an explanation of each costs when you request a quote or receive your invoice.

When beginning on your project, you should determine if price or delivery are of higher importance to you. You will find that quick-turn projects may cost more than projects with a standard lead time. You also may find that the volume of the product can affect the cost.

Do your homework when searching for a CM and choose the contractor that best fits your needs and budget.


5. Location of production – There are a number of pros and cons to consider when choosing between an American or offshore CM. This is very specific to your company’s and your project’s specific needs.

No matter what, you need to be able to communicate freely with your contract electronics manufacturer. With labor costs rising overseas, it may be more affordable to hire an American company than you think.

When you contact a potential CM ask them why you should use their company as opposed to a foreign or domestic source. They should be able to give you an answer that is specific to your project.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a CM, but if you consider each of the above tips into your decision-making, you will be able to make a more educated choice when it is time to begin production on your project.