5 strategic priorities in your hunt for an EMS provider

hunt for EMS providerOutsourcing to an EMS providerfor the first time, or changing your supplier, should be the result of a strategic decision, not a knee jerk reaction. If you’re serious about finding a new, long-term partner it’s worth going through a proper selection process to identify a shortlist of ‘right fit’ suppliers to approach.  But what should your search criteria be?

Striking up a successful long-term relationship with a good EMS provider will repay all the time and resource you expend in your research and selection process.  You should see those rewards emerge in the shape of higher productivity, more speed and operational agility, as well as better quality in your end products.

When price wars come second to strategy

In the current climate, though, as some struggling EMS providers have spare capacity and are assembling aggressive deals to win new business, there may be lots of tempting offers out there for those thinking about outsourcing or switching suppliers.

But thinking about specific strategic requirements, as well as promises on price or speed of delivery, could help you avoid wasted time and expensive mistakes.

So, here are some search criteria to apply that might help you quickly compile a list of suitable candidates to approach - while ruling out suppliers who are not really a great long-term fit for you.

5 strategic search criteria to help you choose an EMS provider

What range of manufacturing services are you likely to need?

The majority of UK EMS providers can offer you Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) but do you need a higher level of manufacturing capabilities such as box build, cabinet or electro-mechanical assembly?  Could there even be an opportunity and a cost advantage in consolidating orders?  The more of your assembly, test and logistics you outsource, the more time you’ll have to focus on R&D, marketing and sales. It may make sense, then, to choose an EMS provider that can offer you an end-to-end solution and help you grow more quickly.

What sector experience do you need your partner to have?

You should seriously consider if significant industry expertise is vital to get the results you need, over and above any cost savings on offer.  What sectors do you need your supplier to have experience in? Medical, Process Control, Aerospace, Test & Measurement, Scientific Equipment, Automotive, Industrial Automation?  Do you need a supplier with specific ISO certifications before you can move forward or are some of these a ‘nice to have’?

Are you looking for an EMS provider who can offer Design for Manufacture (DfM) and Design for Test (DfT) services? 

A requirement for these specialisms will narrow down your search quite quickly.  But they may also have an impact on the timelines involved in your search, protecting the length of time it will take you to get up and running with them.

Do you need a supplier with manufacturing locations close by? 

Do you need a supplier with manufacturing locations close by? Would it help if they had production facilities in Europe to reduce time to market?  What could be the possible impact of offshoring on your business?  Would you feel you had enough control in the relationship if they were located somewhere you couldn’t visit? Are you convinced that the companies you are looking at have the right control of their supply chains to manage in an unpredictable global market?

What level of spend do you have to offer the EMS provider? 

Finding a partner comfortable and able to work with a business of your size and scale is a sensible move if you don’t want to become a ‘small fish in a big pond’.  Equally, it’s a way of ensuring you don’t end up with a partner who can’t keep up with the demands you are placing on them.  If there’s not enough value add opportunities in the project being discussed, it’s unlikely to make commercial sense for some EMS providers to work with you. For others, it may be a step too far in terms of capacity. 

Choosing an outsourcing partner is a strategic process and you should approach it with a view on winning long-term rewards rather than instant payback.  


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.