The ideal EMS provider should offer efficient PCB board design, streamlined production processes, and reduced overall costs. Select a provider correctly and a partnership can form that will help facilitate long-term growth for your company. Make the wrong choice and you can suffer significant loss of capital, loss of customer trust, or worse – put your company out of business.

With so many potential EMS providers, how do you know you are choosing the right one for you? Many drive this decision based on cost. Unit cost is an important factor however should not be the only item considered. When selecting an electronic manufacturing service provider, ask these six questions to gain a better understanding of the contract manufacturing company and to qualify them as a trusted manufacturing partner:

  1. Are finances stable?

    You are trusting the future of your business to your contract manufacturing company. No matter how technically competent, service oriented, or competitive on price they may be, if there is any financial instability then you are putting your company at risk. A good EMS provider can support heavy capital investment and has a healthy surplus of cash. Products often require their electronic components be purchased well in advance of receiving customer payments – can the EMS provider cover these costs? If a contract manufacturer is not financially healthy, they will have a hard time securing components. This can cause a delay with shipping your product and put your product development behind schedule.

  2. How open and transparent is communication?

    Building electronics is an incredibly complex process. Can your potential EMS provider explain their company structure in detail? Will they allow you to visit the production facility at any time? Are they willing to discuss issues before they arise? Open communication and honest discussion are mandatory for a relationship to work. Your contract manufacturer should feel more like a partner than just a supplier. If your contract manufacturer will be helping in the design and other details of your product, you'll want to feel fully comfortable discussing with them upfront about who owns the intellectual property rights.

  3. What kind of certifications are in place?

    Does the contract manufacturer have the appropriate certifications required to build your product? Each industry has specific certification requirements such as ISO9001 and ISO13485 quality management certifications or RoHS compliance. It is prudent to discuss all requirements in advance to make sure your EMS provider is compliant to complete your product build.

  4. How is information managed?

    Electronic manufacturing requires accurate and quick management of large data sets. Components are constantly changing revisions and going end of life (EOL). Sub-supplier delivery dates regularly change. Does your EMS provider know they are building with the correct revision of the component you have specified? How are engineering changes managed when new revisions of your product are released? Is the production schedule based on changing component delivery dates? If your EMS provider does not have a robust ERP system, it can be difficult to keep all this information organized. Make sure your EMS provider has a clear system to control their information internally and to you, the customer.

  5. Is the equipment up to date?

    The world of electronics is rapidly changing. Components are getting smaller allowing for closer placement on a PCB. Multilayer boards with increased complexity are becoming the norm. Wireless and IoT components are prevalent. Has the contract manufacturer’s equipment grown with the industry? Without the appropriate tools for the job, building your product may be impossible.

  6. What kind of customer base is there?

    You will also want to consider your position in relation to the EMS providers size and existing customer base. Will they be able to handle your product’s requirements if there is significant volume? If your production demand is low, will you still receive considerable attention and service? Striking a balance between a contract manufacturer that is sophisticated enough to handle your design while still being a motivated partner is a fine balance.

6 key questions to ask when qualifying an EMS provider

When qualifying an electronic manufacturing service provider (also known as a contract manufacturer), there are many different aspects to consider. Select the right EMS partner and your product will be in good hands – choose the wrong one and it could cost you big time. Use these 6 questions as a starting point:

  • Is the contract manufacturer financially stable?
  • How transparent is communication between the EMS provider and the customer?
  • What certifications does the contract manufacturer hold?
  • What is the EMS provider’s system for storing product information and schedules?
  • Does the EMS provider have updated manufacturing equipment?
  • Will the contract manufacturer be able to handle your large or small demand?

Finding the answers to these questions will help qualify your contract electronics manufacturer. With the right information, you will be able to select a trustworthy EMS partner to build your product.

Date first published: 14 Jul 2017