18 Jan, 2024 / BY Asmin Perviz

How strong is your Design & Development relationship?

The collaboration between Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and their Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider during a Design & Development (D&D) project is not merely a transaction; it's a strategic alliance which underpins future success. 

Whether the product contains advanced microelectronics or levels of precision engineering required in large-format mechatronic assemblies, the D&D process serves as the cornerstone for unlocking the full potential of any project. But project management and processes alone don’t deliver market leading products. People do.

The art of choosing wisely

When OEMs first start searching and auditing suitable EMS providers, they tend to gravitate towards technical capabilities, past project experience, equipment portfolios, quality standards, data control packages, and manufacturing execution systems. Undoubtedly, these aspects are vital and form the backbone of any successful D&D project.

However, we would argue there is a more subtle, yet equally crucial, dimension and that’s the human element. If OEMs and EMS providers fail to build a robust bond together, engage in open dialogue, and mutually challenge each other, both commercially and technically, the project is unlikely to achieve its fullest potential. Of course, relationships take time to form and in the early days of supplier selection or the actual D&D process itself it will be hard to predict exactly how strong a bond will be formed.

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As an OEM, use your own intuition and ask yourself whether you can see yourself working with the team they plan to assign you and whether your personalities and cultures are aligned. What’s your ‘gut feel’? It’s usually a good indicator, so in between reviewing RFI data and carrying out commercial and technical background checks, try not to lose sight of the ‘softer’ elements of supplier selection.

The blueprint of success: Open communication

The journey from conception to completion during a D&D project typically follows a systematic approach within reputable EMS providers. Beginning with requirements engineering and progressing through conceptual and detailed design, the collaboration here between OEMs and EMS providers must extend beyond the technical facets. A shared vision and a commitment to open communication set the stage for success.

In the exchange of technical data, open lines of communication become the arteries through which information should flow seamlessly. It's not just about specifications and prototypes; it's about the willingness to share latest insights, discuss current challenges, and collectively map out the future together.

The foundation of a successful partnership rests on open communication. Beyond sharing ideas, it's about creating an environment where both parties feel safe to express concerns, challenge each other’s assumptions, and contribute to the collaborative process. This transparency fosters a deep understanding that goes beyond the technicalities of the project. As an OEM you might imagine it easier when your EMS provider simply follows your instructions and delivers what you asked for. In fact, isn’t that one of the reasons you explored outsourcing in the first place, to free up resources and focus on core activities like sales and marketing? Clearly, there’s a balance to be struck but great EMS providers will always challenge design conventions if they truly believe the success of the product will be better for it.

Transparency and trust: Illuminating the path forward

Transparency is the guiding light that reveals the intricacies of any D&D project. It's more than just sending progress reports back and forth by e-mail; it's about candidly discussing potential obstacles and then working together in partnership to find solutions. A transparent partnership ensures that both OEMs and EMS providers are on the same page, working in tandem toward shared goals.

Trust is the linchpin of a successful partnership. It is the confidence that each partner will bring their expertise, meet commitments, and collaborate to overcome obstacles. This foundation allows both OEMs and EMS providers to navigate the complexities of D&D projects with assurance the goal on both sides will be achieved.

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In the pursuit of excellence, OEMs and EMS providers must consider not only the technical prowess but also the softer aspects of their relationship. The partnership angle is paramount – the ability to bond, engage in open dialogue, but also challenge each other ultimately determines the success of a D&D project. When skill sets on both sides harmonise, and a collaborative approach is adopted, the design, development, and manufacturing processes unite to create the very best product possible.

At ESCATEC, some of our most successful and rewarding D&D projects have also been our most challenging. Different cultures and working practices coming together quickly, often up against incredibly demanding project timescales, can really ‘stress test’ the relationship between OEM and EMS. Passion plays a big part too. When both sides truly invest themselves in the product and believe in its purpose, an incredible level of energy and enthusiasm is generated which can become infectious and drive the project on to new levels of success.

So, how strong is your relationship right now with your EMS? How passionate and interested are they in your product? Do they believe in what you are trying to achieve, your mission and reason to exist? If the answer is anything less than unbreakable and fully committed, perhaps it’s time to look at all the other options you have in front of you?

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