Top 10 Critical Questions to Ask When Choosing a Contract Manufacturer for Electro-Mechanical Assemblies

One of the most important decisions in your product’s success is choosing whom to trust to manufacture your product’s components. When choosing a contract manufacturer for electro-mechanical assemblies, you should these 10 important questions.

Choosing a contract manufacturer to manufacture your complex assemblies is one of the most important decisions in your product’s success. A contract manufacturer does so much more than merely make your company’s assemblies. They employ highly skilled subject matter experts who can make suggestions for adapting your assemblies to keep them in line with the latest technology and they become integral stakeholders in your supply chain’s success. Since their success is intertwined with the success of your product, the incentive can create robust and unique relationships between supplier and manufacturer.

Contract Manufacturers significantly impact a products’:

  • Inventory Levels 
  • Ability to Meet Demand 
  • Competitive Innovation 
  • Product Pricing 
  • Profitability of Company
  • Ability to Customize Designs 
  • Ability to Meet Changing Demand 
  • Component Testing and Quality Control 

There are many manufacturers to choose from for complex electromechanical assemblies, wire harnesses, and custom overmolded cable assemblies. It can feel overwhelming to parse through each potential partner’s RFQs and have internal discussions to vet the accuracy of their claims. This process can seem especially daunting when companies are dealing with tight deadlines.

Many companies quickly rush through their selection process for a contract manufacturer in order to meet deadlines and spend their time on other valuable company priorities. The most common mistake is selecting manufacturers based on price alone.

Although the cost savings will be nice in the short term, an increase in demand can significantly impact quality and decrease innovation. Cheaper contract manufacturers typically fail to provide integrated customizations or factor in supply chain disruptions. This failure tends to leave your product by the wayside and can provide a great opportunity for competitors to provide a better, more customized product that could potentially encroach on your demand.

There’s always a benefit to working with veteran contract manufacturers. With their tried and true process for selecting manufacturers, you can feel assured that your project will be completed as intended.

By partnering with experienced companies, you’ll ensure the long-term success of your inventory and supply chain as well as gain in innovation, customization, and quality of your product.

Questions To Ask Yourself

1. What are the specifications you need for the component?

For every project, you must examine what specifications your component must have in order to meet your quality and performance metrics. When answering this question make a list of functional requirements and the respective specs. Try to be as concrete as possible in your description of what you need. This avoids lengthy conversations on ideas and specs that are unclear. Outline the answer to this question clearly enough so that you can tell the contract manufacturer exactly what you're looking for.

2. What is your timeline?

As you outline your product's needs, be sure to evaluate your timeline. Determine exactly when you’ll require the component. The more complicated the product, the more detailed your timeline must be.

This means that your timeline should consider room for negotiations with vendors and long lead time items. If you have a period of time in which your company can receive the component you will be able to negotiate with vendors who can deliver in that time period. This also offers a quick and easy way to vet potential vendors who cannot meet your time specifications.

3. What is more important right now- volume or quality?

It’s important to remember that manufacturers are either:

  • Small Scale (“Garage Shop”): Smaller operations that can build items quickly and inexpensively. They may not house the latest tools and equipment, a strong technical team nor provide as robust of a quality control process.
  • Large Scale: Can handle huge volumes of assembly for mass production. Offers little flexibility for quick changes in design. May be located offshore and require longer lead times.
  • Mid Sale: Offer speed and flexibility as well as advanced services. Can build smaller runs of advanced technology. Can quickly adapt to different builds. Often located locally.

It’s therefore important to determine which is more important to your team - volume or quality - and choose a type of supplier that can manage your demand.

4. What are we forecasting for product demand?

Inventory is especially important to manage as too little can lead to lost sales and too much wastes precious resources. The goal when approaching contract manufacturers is to determine who can get you the right component at the right time and place.

In order to determine adequate inventory levels, you must forecast demand accurately before starting conversations with contract manufacturers. If you work for a large enterprise you may rely on computer systems to create forecasts.

These forecasts will serve as an invaluable blueprint for contract manufacturers developing their RFQs.

When you read through RFQs be sure to note:

  • Volume Price Breaks 
  • Shipping Costs 
  • Minimum Purchase Quantities 
  • Economic Lot Sizes
  • LTAs

These factors will allow you to determine the level of risk you are establishing with each manufacturer when determining the level of resources needed.

Questions To Ask Your Contract Manufacturers

5. Can we come on-site to evaluate your manufacturing facility?

When vetting manufacturers, it's important to check the equipment that will be used. A tour of the facility should be required before signing any contracts. This ensures tools are up to date and compliant with industry standards. If you work with a company using older equipment your components may be limited.

As well, when on-site, have the team walk you through the manufacturing process. Be sure production has a clear and comprehensive workflow.

Once a contract is signed, it’s important to discuss any engineering changes face-to-face with the CMs in their facilities and confirm that the first article is done correctly.

6. What industry expertise and training should your manufacturer have?

As a baseline, make sure your contract manufacturer has strong industry experience for the product you are developing. At a minimum, your chosen manufacturer must have engineering experience with the following:

  • Component Viability 
  • Electrical Performance 
  • Manufacturability 
  • Testability 
  • Production Trends 
  • Regulations 
  • Proper Certifications

Working with an industry expert ensures your product design conforms according to your drawing specifications and requirements. You’ll be presented with a wide range of ideas when reiterating your product. Without this expertise, you’ll lack this knowledge.

It’s also important that your manufacturer has the skills and knowledge to understand your supply chain thoroughly.

7. What are your company’s long-term goals?

Your electro-mechanical contract manufacturer should also align with the long-term vision and goals of your company. Why is this important? The company will need to keep up with your ever-changing needs in a changing market. In order to ensure adequate delivery schedules are hit and resources will be provided, make sure the manufacturer believes in the impact of the overall product and its potential for success. This will allow you to avoid costly delays and pitfalls. Plus, make sure your contract manufacturer has the ability to scale with you by making sure they can handle the quantities and capabilities you not only need now but also as your demand grows.

8. How will the Contract Manufacturer Handle Product Changes?

As technology changes rapidly, your component specifications will also likely change in real-time. Be sure to thoroughly understand how potential manufacturers would handle product variations as well as the processes they have put in place to do so.

9. What is your deployment plan?

The thoroughness and professionalism of the manufacturer’s plan reflect the quality and efficiency of their operations.

Expert planning is required of any potential manufacturer. Make sure the proposed deployment plan offered by the manufacturer is customized to your company’s needs. All plans should include:

  • Concept Development 
  • Engineering Design 
  • Prototype Build
  • Device Testing 
  • Design for Volume Manufacturing

Question To Ask Former or Current Clients

10. How does the manufacturer handle design changes, timelines or supply chains?

Any manufacturer being considered should provide a high level of flexibility. This means the company should be ready to alter the manufacturing process based on design changes as the product develops. Your own ability to accommodate different products, customers, and timelines relies on your manufacturer’s flexibility.

Selecting a Contract Manufacturer

Finding an ideal manufacturing partner is critical to your product’s success. By using these ten questions, you can navigate conversations with potential manufacturing partners and easily, and comprehensively, determine the best fit.

For companies looking for specialization in complex electromechanical assemblies, wire harnesses, and custom overmolded cable assemblies look to ISC. ISC offers the best-in-class manufacturing services with the highest quality fit for even the harshest environments.

With current and past customers such as Anduril, Coherent, Safran, Tesla, Google, Philips Medical, and more, ISC has experience in a number of diversified industries. Their experience includes working in aerospace, defense, and medical industries that specialize in low to medium volumes. With all molding and tooling done in-house, ISC is vertically integrated to shorten the lead-time and cost for overmolded assemblies. Contact ISC today.

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