Quality, consistency and delivery: why do OEMs struggle to achieve it?

Whatever your product or products, as an OEM you will be focused on three criteria: quality, consistency and delivery (QCD).

Your reputation is dependent on you upholding these three pillars. Day in, day out you want to be able to manufacture excellent products that meet your customers’ requirements in the timescales they have specified.

However, in reality, fulfilling these criteria isn’t always straightforward. There are a number of reasons for this situation. Perhaps you face pressures to meet growing demand as your company grows; the time required to develop a new product is shrinking; or you are forced to spend more time focusing on your core competencies to drive productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, there a number of top-level challenges facing OEMs across the board, which have an impact on QCD. Some of these are likely to be out of your control, adding to the difficulties you face.

In this blog post, we will look in detail at the various obstacles OEMs must overcome if they are to manufacture the high-quality products their customers expect.

The Project Management Triangle

Also known as Triple Constraint or the Iron Triangle, the Project Management Triangle is a model that highlights the limitations of a project – regardless of the industry it exists in. These limitations are: scope (quality), time and cost. Often companies only manage to optimise on two of these and fail to address all three simultaneously.

So, for example, an OEM might aim to deliver a product in a shorter window, but the cost is likely to go up as a result. Similarly, if they lower the cost base of a product, the quality could end up being reduced as well.

Therefore, OEMs always have to think about how they are applying their resources to ensure that they uphold each side of the triangle.

But these types of decisions can't be made in isolation. There are a number of broader challenges facing OEMs that must also be taken into account. 

Supply chain

OEMs need a robust and reliable supply chain, in order to consistently get their products out the door. However, there are a number of factors that can affect various links in the chain, including:

  • Global shifts in demand patterns
  • A changing competitive landscape
  • Natural disasters due to environmental change
  • Regional legislation
  • Political unrest
  • Industrial action

In some instances, there will be little you can do to avoid these scenarios - for example, an international shortage of a particular material. But one of the best ways to safeguard yourself against unexpected circumstances is to adopt at least a “dual sourcing” approach. That way, you aren’t dependent on one supplier if disaster strikes.

Processes and procedures

It’s been said time and time again - from start to finish, each aspect of your manufacturing needs to be carefully regulated and monitored. OEMs that fail to implement adequate controls are likely to experience problems somewhere along the line.

For example, let’s say you produce a complex box build product, incorporating several PCBAs. Upon completion, it is discovered that there is a problem with the product. But there is missing documentation and, therefore, it’s nigh-on-impossible to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Trying to identify the source of the issue is likely to expend precious time and resources and the fallout could have a negative impact on your reputation - and even the future of your business.

Staff and equipment

What is any business without its staff? People are the beating heart of your organisation. And, of course, the equipment they operate is equally vital.

It’s not always easy to find staff that are experienced, skilled and fit in with your company’s culture. So it’s a good idea for OEMs to review their recruitment process and identify any holes or areas for improvement.

And once the right staff have been found, it’s important that they stay! Think about your own business for a second. Do you have an inclusive culture that makes every member of the team feel valued? Make sure your employees know what you expect from them, but also nurture each individual and encourage them to reach their full potential.

Unpredictable demand and forecasting

Forecasting peaks and troughs in consumer demand can be a source of worry and making the wrong prediction can result in an OEM having either too much or too little stock to fulfil all their orders.

Whether you need to increase production to meet certain seasonal increases in demand, or you want to include a number of product variations to meet specific geographical or market segments, responsiveness and flexibility when it comes to volume availability are fundamental in order to maintain your profit margins - and achieve QCD.

Industry standards

IPC, the Association Connecting Electronics Industries, sets the industry-agreed standards for the electronics manufacturing industry, which are recognised and respected across the globe and “help you assure superior quality, reliability and consistency in the electronic assemblies that go into your product”. IPC-A-610, or Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies, is the most widely used IPC standard.

OEMs must also meet certain legal requirements. There are a number of EU directives that govern the manufacturing and engineering sector.

There’s no denying it - consistently delivering high-quality products that are delivered on time and to your customers’ requirements is no easy task. Often, it can be tempting to try and find a way of avoiding facing these challenges head-on. 

But it’s never a good idea to take shortcuts. Even if you’ve got away with taking one in the past, that's no guarantee it will be available again. For example, you might have manufactured a whole range of products without properly monitoring your processes - and encountered no problems. However, if an issue were to occur, it could place a debilitating cost burden on your business.

So what should OEMs do to combat these challenges? In fact, it is possible to keep all three pillars standing - and, therefore, achieve QCD. Download our eBook below to find out more.

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