The Role of an Account Manager Within an EMS Provider


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The account management role can mean very different things across industries and electronics manufacturing is no different. When you start digging deeper into the internal structures of electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers, you will find their definition of what an "account manager" does is different to their competition.

At any given time, an account manager could be working on a new quote, resolving issues on products going through production, and discussing shipping requirements for products built and awaiting dispatch. It is a truly varied role and one that demands a blend of skills, including sales, customer service, supply chain management, project management and technical expertise.

So, how do you start to compare EMS providers when it comes to their account management team? Does it really matter what role they play? And how crucial do you believe they are in helping you achieve your outsourcing objectives?

To help you decide, we look in-depth at some of the common activities an account manager typically carries out on your behalf when you decide to partner with an EMS provider.

Before we get into the post, it is worth mentioning that some EMS companies use different terminology and may refer to this position as a project manager, customer service relationship manager or even program manager. It is also worth noting that not all EMS companies will have the resources available to assign dedicated account managers. Depending on the size and structure of the business, you could find yourself dealing with someone in a production or operations role. While this approach offers some benefits – i.e. a direct link straight to the shop floor (useful for build updates) – you often find you have multiple contacts to deal with, which can, at times, lead to miscommunication occurring and things getting missed.

So, what does an account manager do?

Well, put simply, they are responsible for managing every facet of your account – from quote preparation right through to shipping and invoicing. Of course, they will need to be supported by other departments but they are ultimately responsible for servicing your account and making sure all of your outsourcing objectives are achieved. A vital piece of the outsourcing puzzle, I'm sure you would agree?

Let's take a closer look at some of the day-to-day activities you can expect an account manager within an EMS provider to carry out.

Quote preparation

A large proportion of their time will be spent quoting new business. As your single point of contact, they will collate the relevant build information you send across and be expected to file this securely. They will then load your bill of materials (BOM) onto their system and create any new material part numbers that are not already stored in their database. Once the BOM is complete they will liaise with their procurement teams to obtain any material costings they need and also their engineering department for labor timings.

On receipt of this information, they will then carefully craft a quotation based on your original requirements and confirm back to you (as a minimum) the price and lead-time for the product or system. Depending on the nature of your inquiry, the account manager may also need to communicate other factors to you – for example, associated material minimum order quantities (MOQs), tooling costs, technical queries, or any assumptions they have made during the quote process.

The quote process (and, therefore, the time it takes to respond) varies significantly from one EMS provider to another. Some will prepare "rough" or budgetary figures using little more than a spreadsheet. MOQs and assumptions may be omitted from the quote until a firm order is placed as it could be argued they are subject to change and too much detail at this stage. This approach allows those EMS suppliers to respond quickly with a price but any extra work in terms of BOM creation and part number verification is likely to take place after an order is placed. The downside of this approach is that if there is extra work required it can start eating into the quoted lead-times. In turn, those EMS providers begin to put additional pressure on their supply chain and production teams to catch up lost time. Providing this doesn't affect deliveries, I guess you could argue it isn't much of a problem?

Alternatively, some EMS companies will spend time upfront ensuring the materials and BOM are coded correctly on their main business system and all other details (MOQs, lead-times, alternative devices, gaps in data etc.) are captured within the quote. Although this can take a little longer, it does mean that when an order is received minimal work is required before the materials are ordered and works orders are created and scheduled into production. It also means that all potential issues are highlighted to you upfront rather than slowly creeping out of the woodwork a few weeks after you place your order.  

Order loading

On receipt of your purchase order, the account manager will verify that what they have received matches what they originally quoted you. This process is known as "contract review" and requires the account manager to check:

  • The price on your order matches the price they quoted.
  • The delivery date you have requested matches the lead-time quoted.
  • The revision level of the part you have ordered matches the revision level they quoted.
  • Any additional costs (MOQs, tooling etc.) have been covered.

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