Pushed to Breaking or Pulled Towards Success: The Intangibles of Selecting the Right EMS Partner

Pushed to Breaking or Pulled Towards Success: The Intangibles of Selecting the Right EMS Partner

Not all Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) providers are created equal. For Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) selecting an EMS partner there are several factors that can overwhelm the decision-making process. Most OEMs will select their EMS partner based on tangible factors that make for easy comparisons between alternative options. Does a given EMS partner have facilities that are geographically convenient to the project? What is their quality policy? Which option minimizes cost and time to market? The importance of these factors can’t be understated, but it’s also important to consider the many intangibles that can determine whether the partnership is as productive and hassle-free as possible.

Some EMS partners seem to push their OEM customers through the electronics development and manufacturing process, challenging their customers to chart the course for the project. But an EMS partner should do more than offer supplementary capacity and staff to an OEM. Effective EMS partners help to pull their customer through the process, actively sharing the load to achieve common goals. What are the key distinctions between an EMS partner who pushes and one who pulls?

  • Meeting Requirements vs Raising the Bar
  • Identifying the Problem vs Proposing a Solution
  • Reactive Component Procurement vs Proactive Supply Chain Management
  • Rigid Bureaucracy vs Dynamic Customer Service

Meeting Requirements vs Raising the Bar

Simply meeting project requirements is the bare minimum that any EMS partner should do. But a ‘good enough’ mentality is hardly the mark of an outstanding EMS partner. EMS partners who pull the process forward see project requirements as a starting point, not the end goal. From there EMS providers and their OEM customers begin the collaborative process of identifying areas for improvement to exceed end-user expectations. Rather than settling for adequate, these active EMS partners extract opportunities to raise the bar.

This dichotomy of perspectives on project requirements is a major determinant of how users will respond to the end device. Users’ baseline expectation will be that the device performs its specified function, but cementing user loyalty depends on delivering an intuitive interface that anticipates user needs. These outstanding devices are the product of a development process that has persistently sought opportunities to exceed expectations. Some devices spark new trends, setting best practices for their competitors, while others follow suit and carve their place in the market out of the niches left behind. Partnering with an EMS partner who helps to pull the project forward towards its best outcome can be the difference between a leading-edge device and a 2nd best option.

Identifying the Problem vs Proposing a Solution

Most EMS partners are readily able to identify issues with an electronic device’s design or manufacturing processes. But simply returning to an OEM with an issue puts the onus on them to craft a solution, shifting responsibility and often stalling progress. An effective EMS partner brings a list of possible solutions to the table, helping to pull their OEMs towards a decision that keeps the project on track.

Part of the advantage of partnering with an EMS provider comes from having more sets of eyes on your device, increasing the likelihood of catching any errors early on in the development process. As any experienced OEM knows, addressing problems before production avoids costly mid-production or aftermarket rework. But it can be frustrating and disheartening for an EMS partner to simply point out issues. Going the extra mile to identify and propose solutions is what separates an average EMS provider from extraordinary EMS partners.

Reactive Component Procurement vs Proactive Supply Chain Management

Component shortages in the electronics industry are not unprecedented. In recent decades occasional shortages have had a profound, and at times prolonged impact on OEMs. Whether caused by strategic miscalculations, natural disasters, or unforeseeable socio-economic events like the recent pandemic, no company wants their product launch to be stalled by an inability to procure necessary components. But as is inevitable with a shortage, there often isn’t enough to go around.

Whether facing a severe industry-wide shortage or a minor supply chain hiccup, how your EMS partner approaches procurement can be make-or-break for keeping your project on schedule. Some EMS providers take a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to addressing these issues, viewing them as inevitabilities that must be addressed as they arise. But active EMS partners help to pull their OEMs through the process with proactive supply chain management strategies that aim to predict and preempt disruptions before they impact your bottom line.

Rigid Bureaucracy vs Dynamic Customer Service

Nobody likes to get the runaround from automated customer service bots. At times, EMS providers deploy rigid bureaucratic customer service systems that can do more to discourage customers than provide any substantive help. Quality customer service can hardly be delivered with a one-size-fits-all policy, rather it must be dynamic, adapting to the needs of customers on a case-by-case basis.

The best EMS providers will offer dynamic support that adapts to, and even predicts, their OEMs’ needs. This means more than providing a dedicated customer service contact, but proactively soliciting feedback to drive continuous improvement and truly custom-tailored support.

Reactive Component Procurement vs Proactive Supply Chain Management

Finding an EMS partner that must be pushed vs. one that will help pull an OEM along can be the difference between success and failure for OEMs. It’s often more straightforward to identify the more tangible indicators, but how can intangible aspects be verified? Most EMS providers proudly tout their exemplary customer service and willingness to ‘go above and beyond’ for their customer. But in practice these claims can, at times, fall flat. How can OEMs truly grasp the intangible elements that truly help build a valued partnership?

Cutting through the promotional language to determine whether an EMS partner can actually deliver a streamlined process requires asking the tough questions. OEMs should seek documentation of past performance, request hard data to verify professed quality processes, and press prospective EMS providers for examples that support their claims. Ultimately, the best way to come to know and trust an EMS partner is through experience. There is undeniable value in working with a known quantity, which is why so many OEMs develop close relationships with their EMS partner over time. Recommendations from trusted colleagues and past experience often serve as the best indicator for whether an EMS partner consistently rises to the challenge. When in doubt, OEMs can utilize scaling production to start with small production batches to test their EMS partner’s readiness. The best EMS partnerships are built on a foundation of trust and shared goals in achieving end-market success. These partnerships may begin because location or cost structure aligns with their OEMs’ objectives, but they thrive when these intangible processes fall perfectly into place.

Are you seeking an EMS partner who will actively guide your product development process and pull out all the stops to foster your success? Reach out to our team to discuss how we can help you realize innovation!