How to build up trust in a manufacturing outsourcing relationship


Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has since been refreshed and republished.

"Trust is like blood pressure. It's silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly."

Frank Sonnenberg, Thought Leader

From the romantic variety to the most formal, trust is the bedrock of all successful relationships.

Why should an outsourcing relationship be any different?

When you, as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), entrust part or all of your manufacturing operation to an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider, you want to know that this fundamental aspect of your business is in safe and capable hands.

But clearly, it takes time to establish trust. So, how can you build this up into a strong and permanent structure?

Communicate clearly

Ask yourself, what do you want from the outsourcing relationship?

This may seem like an obvious question, but it can be easy to lose sight of your long-term business objectives when you're caught up in day-to-day operations. From the outset, you should seek to ensure that you and your EMS partner are on the same page; that you both understand exactly what it is you want to achieve. Establish clear goals and define how you will measure your progress towards these.

Additionally, make sure that you know exactly how much responsibility you are handing over and where the buck stops, so-to-speak. Is your EMS provider simply in charge of assembling your box build product, for example, or are they also responsible for testing and shipping your product?

Maintaining a good relationship relies on strong communication. So take the time to catch-up with your partner regularly, including face-to-face meetings. This approach will ensure that you remain on track and provide the opportunity to work through any issues that might arise.

Let your partner take the lead

While it's vital to work closely with your EMS provider, there also comes a point when you simply have to step back and let them do what they do best. Furthermore, you may find that conceding more accountability to your partner brings added benefits.

For instance, it often makes more sense for your partner to choose suppliers on your behalf - after all, it's counterproductive to have two separate supply chains. The best EMS providers will have a valuable list of contacts at their disposal and will be able to identify the best suppliers for your needs. Additionally, they will be able to demonstrate that they vet these suppliers on a regular basis, using objective measures, related to quality, delivery, cost, and other factors.

You might also find that your EMS partner can provide invaluable advice in areas such as product development, test solutions and global operational processes. Their knowledge and experience can help you to develop your business in new directions, which you may not previously have considered. 

Let go of your fear

The thing with building up trust is that you first have to make yourself vulnerable; you have to give your chosen EMS supplier a chance to prove that they are trustworthy. This can feel a bit daunting, but if you've taken the time to research and assess your partner before signing on the dotted line, then you should feel confident in taking this step.

If you're still unsure, ask yourself: do you have any outstanding questions about your EMS provider's competencies or processes? Have you visited their shop floor, to see their operation in action and to speak to the people on the front line? Have you met all members of the senior management team? Have you spoken to some of your EMS supplier's current customers?

If the answer to these questions is yes – and you are pleased by what you've discovered, then there's little reason to be fearful.

Trust underpins a successful manufacturing outsourcing relationship – without it, nothing can be achieved. While trust grows organically over time, it requires a leap of faith to kick-start this process. However, if you have selected a partner based on thorough research, carried out all the appropriate checks, and asked all the right questions, then you have cultivated the soil for trust to grow and thrive. By nurturing your relationship, having confidence in your EMS partner's capabilities and expertise, you'll reap the benefits of your outsourcing venture. 

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Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.