Sometimes, no matter how well you've researched and vetted your suppliers, supply chain issues rear their head. From a natural or man-made disaster that is completely out of your control to a breakdown in communication, there are many reasons why an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) might find themselves faced with a problem in their supply chain.
Whatever the reason for the disruption, one thing is certain: if you are planning to work with, or are already working with, an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider, you shouldn't hide your supply chain issues.
A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes – and any EMS supplier worth their salt will be willing and able to help you overcome any challenges that you are facing.
Common problems in the manufacturing supply chain
Natural and man-made disasters will always occur, and political and economic situations are constantly changing – however, there is one issue that is growing in significance when it comes to supply chain problems: globalisation.
Writing for Inbound Logistics, Scott Swartz says: "Globalisation is changing the way companies view and use their supply chains to compete and gain market share. Global companies are managing multiple supply chains, and they're counting on those operations to not only deliver goods on time, but to tailor and respond to divergent customer and supplier expectations regarding pricing and packages. To do that, supply chain operators need the capability to personalise offerings for multiple customer segments."
He adds: "Unfortunately, many businesses are trying to apply outmoded processes and technologies to global supply chain operations. Often, existing systems are not capable of meeting modern demands."
At the same time, technology is changing the way manufacturers operate on a fundamental level – Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing and the Internet of Things are just a few major shifts that spring to mind.
Therefore, many manufacturers find themselves ascending a steep learning curve as the industry undergoes these drastic changes at an unrelenting pace. It's not a failing if you encounter problems in your supply chain along the way. However, it is a mistake to ignore these difficulties or to sweep them under the carpet.
Lay all your cards on the table
It is important that you are honest and open about the state of your supply chain. Tell your EMS provider if everything isn't rosy – after all, they will only find out further down the line. A good EMS partner will never judge or penalise you for issues outside of your control (or within your control, for that matter); rather, they will work to help you resolve faults in your supply chain or to find suitable alternatives.
And, while you're in a candid frame of mind, it's also worth taking the time to really scrutinise the issues in your supply chain. Is there anything you should be doing that you aren't? Are there processes that you could refine to achieve better outcomes? Do you need to change certain suppliers?
Embracing and implementing change is difficult – but it is possible. Bringing your supply chain issues out into the open is the first step towards resolving them.
How your EMS provider can help you manage your supply chain
In the long run, it often makes sense to hand over complete control of your supply chain to your EMS provider. This approach delivers many benefits. It fills in any grey areas over who owns what and takes away all the overheads associated with procurement and materials handling - and, of course, it means that your EMS partner will deal with future supply chain issues, thereby taking the burden away from you. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it frees up your time, allowing you to focus solely on designing, marketing and selling your products.
However, you may not want to go down this route immediately – it requires a high degree of trust, which will naturally accumulate over time. Therefore, the logical first step is to continue using your current suppliers. In this instance, your EMS provider can still help you to successfully overcome problems, particularly if you opt to allow them to work directly with your preferred suppliers. Your EMS partner will be used to dealing with a range of suppliers and will have in place rigorous procedures, which will enable them to root out problems.
For more information on how your EMS partner can help you manage your supply chain, why not read one of our previous posts on this topic:
- Transferring your supply chain to an assembly partner: all or nothing?
- How contract electronics manufacturers evaluate material suppliers
- How EMS providers can stop material threats entering your supply chain
Supply chain issues are a fact of life. They range from annoying to catastrophic but, however awful they might be to look in the eye, they should not be avoided. Successful outsourcing relationships thrive on openness and trust, so if you are working with an EMS provider, or are on the way to doing so, don't be afraid to open up about the state of your supply chain. You can feel confident that your EMS partner will be able to help you take your supply chain from bad to good, and from good to excellent.