Choosing the right CEM

In this article, SMS Electronics sales and marketing director, Chris Hunt guides electronics companies through the process of choosing the right manufacturing partner The UK electronics marketplace is rapidly changing, with companies facing many challenges to stay ahead in their chosen fields. Many new companies have, from the start, decided to concentrate on design, product development and marketing, preferring to subcontract other requirements. Many established companies are also reviewing their business, looking at their core competence and moving to a subcontract approach.

SMS Electronics has always provided a range of services and support, adding its experience regarding aspects such as design for manufacture, design for test, material selection/sourcing and fast machine built prototypes.

Prototypes are an area where early involvement can make a real difference in a products time-to-market. In the past, many design engineers opted to source boards and components and attempt to hand-build prototypes. At best, this approach requires valuable engineering resource, only to find the prototype does not function. Then, even more resource is wasted ascertaining if the fault relates to the basic design or hand built assembly. It is more cost effective to build the first prototypes in a fast machine build environment. The designer gets their prototype quickly, with the components placed correctly, allowing them to concentrate on the products performance.

Placement capabilities

Production equipment is expensive but SMS Electronics has continued to invest to ensure its placement capabilities remain state of the art. When choosing an EMS provider it is important to ensure that even if the technology on offer is not needed now, the customer knows the supplier is prepared for future requirements. Capacity is also of concern. However, with modern production lines capable of placing up to two million components per day, it should not be a concern if the customer chooses wisely.

Many companies now require a higher level of service where they expect to place orders for full product build and leave the rest to the subcontractor. The right EMS provider will offer a full product build service, from a PCB in a simple case, to full multi-PCB systems housed in any enclosure and configured to customer requirements. Those requirements can include loading custom software, product ID and different front panel/case logos. The product is shipped to the customers specification which could be reusable packaging or final product packaging complete with instruction books, warranty cards and software. Dispatch can be direct to the end user or a distributor channel.

Companies should also consider the final piece of the jigsaw: customer support services including warranty returns and ongoing service/repair requirements. There might also be a requirement for product refurbishment to cover service return replacement units or for second user equipment. Last but not least, product disposal must be inline with recent WEEE legislation. The provider that built the product is probably best placed to support it as it will know the product well and have the right skill sets in place.

SMS has through recent business acquisitions increased its capabilities and capacity to support these activities. SMS Product Services is located adjacent to SMS Electronics current facility in its 40,000ft2 building.

Perhaps its time for more companies to consider switching to an experienced full service EMS provider.