Should I Involve My EMS Partner in DFM?


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As an original electronics manufacturer (OEM), you'll be focused on getting products ready for sale on time, with no errors, so you can move onto the next project. By outsourcing your manufacturing to an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider, you're effectively speeding up the process so you can do just that.

And increasingly, OEMs are seeking the support of EMS providers with more than just manufacturing, but with design elements too. One of the main design services EMS providers will be likely to offer is design for manufacture (DFM).

With DFM, your EMS partner will take your design and suggest small tweaks here and there to make production more efficient. The focus is on ensuring your product is assembled in the most cost-effective way, in a shorter time frame, while maintaining superior quality. For example, by reducing part production costs, or minimizing the complexity of manufacturing operations.

Just the definition makes it sound good, right? But you've been manufacturing your product for years with no major problems, so is it really necessary to make changes? And aside from being the ones who will manufacture your product, why should your EMS partner be involved?

In this article, we highlight why engaging your EMS partner in DFM is worthwhile, and will be valuable in securing the longevity of your product.

Fresh Eyes See New Opportunities

When you hand over your manufacturing to your EMS provider, it’s likely the first time an outsider has looked at your design to see if it's optimized for manufacturing as well as it can be. And as experts, with experience across multiple market sectors and product types, your EMS provider will be ideally placed to offer guidance in how to better optimize your design.

They will have the appropriate resources and technical capability to suggest modifications. As they work across a wide range of products, they will be able to bring new ideas to the table and spot opportunities you may not have considered.

Your EMS partner will actively seek ways to standardize materials and components, minimize part counts, design for efficient assembly, simplify and reduce the number of manufacturing operations, and create modular assemblies. For example, they might suggest making changes to the layout of a PCB to accommodate manual ‘modifications’ currently carried out by hand. And they’ll be able to work with their PCB supplier to help optimize the panel design.

Driving Profitability

The cost effectiveness of manufacturing your product is central to your business' success. And your design decisions will determine the manufacturing costs; from cost of materials, to processing, and assembly. Even the slightest margin reduction can have serious implications on the profitability of your product. No one will be more aware of this than your EMS partner. They will take into account factors such as component specifications, dimensional tolerances and required secondary processes to ensure production is as cost effective as possible.

Reducing Lead Times

Long lead times result in reduced profits. It’s therefore important to minimize any potential problems which may result in excessive lead times or delayed product delivery. A good EMS partner will be able to suggest modifications to stamp out these problems. For example, they might suggest ways of optimizing your PCB layout so that your products are easier and faster to assemble. Or an alternative component which is available in a reduce lead-time through distribution.

Enhancing Product Quality and Reliability

DFM is all about being able to make a product month in, month out, that meets customer requirements. Your EMS partner will have had to solve many technical challenges and build issues over the years. They will therefore have lots of experience in identifying ways to improve the quality and reliability of a product. For example, by reducing the number of parts to reduce the chance of failure, or by implementing a highly automated approach to enhance quality at each stage of production.

Each product and design will be different, but a good EMS partner will be able to work with you to suggest ways of optimizing your design so that production is more efficient. Their experience, knowledge and expertise means they will be well-placed to make suggestions that you may not have previously considered. Ultimately, they want the same things as you do – for your product to be reliable, profitable, and of the highest quality – so it's a good idea to be open to any suggestions they have.

This article originally appeared on the JJS Manufacturing blog, which can be found here.

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