Growing with the Customer

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Vexos Inc. is a full service, high-mix, low- to mid-volume electronics manufacturing service (EMS) provider with a proven track record of supplying state-of-the-art engineered product solutions to a diverse group of OEMs and other product-based companies. The company prides itself in offering its customers local service, with a global footprint to accommodate any of their product/assembly needs—from PCBs and custom electro-mechanical components to EMS.

In an interview with SMT007 Magazine, Greg Hebson, global director for strategic accounts at Vexos, speaks about working closely and growing with customers, as well as ensuring total customer satisfaction.

Stephen Las Marias: Greg, what challenges are your customers facing?

Greg Hebson: One of our ongoing concerns based on the market is extended lead times for electronic components and best managing material availability as required for both our sustaining products as well as new program introductions. The more visibility that our customers can provide, all the better. Having a rolling forecast that is updated on a frequent basis provides significant value in managing the material pipeline as necessary to support the product build schedules as needed. Many of our customers currently offer this type of forecast planning horizon, which provides significant benefits for all involved. Significant focus is being provided to support our ongoing customer demand needs. We strongly encourage our customers to provide a rolling demand plan with a planning horizon of six to 12 months for our ongoing material planning. Ongoing communications is critically important to ensure that actions are being taken to support our customers production needs.

Las Marias: What are the major drivers for growth for your company?

Hebson: We look to continued growth by supporting our current customers and meeting their EMS manufacturing needs with both existing programs as well as new product initiatives. Equally important is engaging with new customers on a regular basis. Our seasoned sales team understands that the life blood of any organization is based on new program launches. We focus a significant amount of time in working with new program initiatives within the engineering groups to provide additional support and value as and when the program is being developed.

Las Marias: What trends do you see as you look out at the electronics manufacturing industry?

Hebson: Customer requirement for new product launch support and speed to market continue to dominate our discussions. This, coupled with a somewhat uncertain end-market demand, drives the need for high levels of procurement and manufacturing flexibility. Although these business pressures are not new, they continue to grow in importance as we provide service to new and existing customers. Environmental compliance and the selection of component materials, which comply with environmental requirements, are growing as a focus area as we work with OEM customers.

We continue to invest in training for our staff in these areas to remain current with environmental directives. Also, as more OEMs shift their focus from factory exit costs to total cost of ownership, we see growing opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of a global sourcing and manufacturing model. I see this as a very positive trend.

Las Marias: What percentage of your customers do you work closely with from design to assembly?

Hebson: Mostly, our model aligns well with our customer’s needs during the early design stages. Be it working on new electro-mechanical products and/or the EMS assembly requirements allows us to become involved very early in the process. We focus a considerable amount of time in designing out costs, with an eye towards design for manufacturability (DFM). During our involvement in design reviews, we’ll focus on key areas throughout the cycle and provide critical feedback to address potential issues and ensure a successful new product introduction. Design reviews can also be categorized into material (design for supply chain), test (design for testability), fabrication (design for fabrication) and assembly (design for manufacturability).

Key areas of DFM include:

  • Develop, support and release product level process flow, control plans, FMEA, Master Validation Plan and IQ/OQ/PQ in conjunction with your engineering. Design FMEA and critical part inputs drive risk assessment and development strategy.
  • Develop process and test traceability to support your reporting requirements.
  • Utilize our copy exact processes and procedures to facilitate multiple site transfer and validation as production ramp.
  • To support the product development, automatic optical inspection (AOI), 5DX, flying probe, in-circuit test (ICT), and functional system integration and test capabilities will be quoted and provided to support the product development.
  • Process engineering in conjunction with your requirements will design any necessary custom packaging and perform required testing as per ISTA requirements.

Working closely with our customers on early involvement in the design cycle can provide a product that is more cost effective, has increased manufacturability and quality, and has higher reliability and a longer overall lifecycle.

Las Marias: What is your customer satisfaction goal?

Hebson: On-time delivery at the lowest total cost of ownership. Vexos is dedicated to developing robust, integrated solutions that excel in creating customer value and satisfaction. We develop, maintain, and continually improve effective and efficient processes to ensure excellence in on-time delivery and the quality of our products and services.

Las Marias: What do you think is the most important attribute for customer service?

Hebson: Without question, trust, is the number one attribute. Our customers need to be confident that we are looking out for their better interest, all the time. We are an extension of their production organization, and they need to be 100% confident that we will do as necessary to support their needs.

Las Marias: What is the cost of not meeting your customers’ needs?

Hebson: The short answer, is you lose revenues for both your customer as well as your company, which is never a good thing for all involved. Open, honest and continued communication is key to keeping all well informed. Our company prides itself in meeting customer expectations, certainly this assumes that the customer’s expectations are realistic and achievable.

Las Marias: What is your biggest unfulfilled need from your supply base?

Hebson: In determining which suppliers are awarded business, we factor in value-added and supply chain services that distributors offer. Such services can reduce cost of ownership, improve delivery and reduce supply chain risk. Having the right number of capable distributors can help EMS providers avoid shortages, reduce cost and manage supply chain risk.

Las Marias: What is the most important feedback/metrics you want from your customers?

Hebson: Growing sales revenues. If we are growing with a customer, one can assume that we are adding value and providing our customers with a sustainable strategic advantage. Our ultimate goal is to grow with our customer, providing a win-win relationship for our collective organizations.

Las Marias: Please highlight some best practices to improve the electronics assembly process.

Hebson: We are diligent about maintaining flexible and responsive production time to meet our customers’ needs. From new product introduction (NPI) to an entire program lifecycle, Vexos’ unique and innovative hybrid manufacturing solutions create options best suited to our customers’ products’ markets and maturity level by utilizing the geographic strengths of each of our global locations to effectively support their products through their entire lifecycle.

Las Marias: How important is the technical expertise of the customer service staff?

Hebson: Having a dedicated, technical team that understands our manufacturing process is critically important. All our customers are assigned a specific Program Manager to manage the commercial and operational aspects of our business relationship. Each Program Manager resides at the manufacturing facility and oversees the entire relationship from NCI, NPI to full production. Having one point of contact is extremely important, we want to be certain that our customers has a “go to” contact for ease of communications.

Las Marias: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Hebson: One of our primary strengths is that we have the size and capabilities of a larger Tier 2 EMS provider while maintaining the flexibility and advantages of a Tier 3 manufacturer in this space. It can offer customers higher quality of services—at a comparable price point—that they would get from a large Tier 2 firm, but with the ability to support new product introductions more quickly and provide expert support with a deeper understanding of the customers’ business mindset.

What makes us different in the Tier 3 space is a strong focus on engineering expertise and supply chain, as well as a global footprint to support strategic supply chain migration of our customers as they ramp up their own production. The culmination of those three things makes us very attractive.

Las Marias: All right, thank you Greg!

Hebson: Thank you.


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