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Taking a new product from initial design through to final production requires care and attention at every step of the process. Thus, it's vital to entrust your new product introduction (NPI) to a contract manufacturer that has the right methodology.
A “new product” is any product or product variant that your electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider hasn’t built for you before. It may be an item that’s still at the prototype stage, an up-issue to an existing design, or a product that has already been outsourced but that you’ve chosen to transfer to a new assembly partner.
If you’ve opted to hand over this process to an EMS provider, then you must verify their NPI procedures before work begins. Every assembly partner is different and likely to have their own unique approach to how they see through the creation of new products within their own manufacturing environment. However, one of the critical elements for success is the provision of an NPI report, which will accompany the delivery of your first batch of assemblies.
An NPI report is an opportunity for your contract manufacturer to highlight any outstanding issues that will need to be addressed for future builds. And the information that your EMS partner provides can play a pivotal role in ensuring that they continue to deliver your products on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards.
So, what exactly should an NPI report look like? Here are five key components.
1. Basic Details of the Build
An NPI report should begin by providing a written record of the crucial details of the job. This will include the following:
- The product name and date of manufacture
- An overview of the product accompanied by pictures and a brief description
- A list of all the subassembly part numbers and revisions
- A compilation of the drawings, information, and data used during the build
- The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) status of the project
- A description of any applicable build or quality standards
2. How the Product Was Built
This aspect of the NPI report should describe the processes the product went through, including the equipment that was used and a description of any special tooling. While an overview may be all that’s required, your EMS partner may choose to provide more detail, which will be helpful in avoiding or resolving any future problems.
3. Internal Feedback and Observations
This element provides a candid summary of fundamental observations of each stage of the NPI process from procurement of materials to assembly, test, inspection, and packaging. Inviting internal feedback at each stage provides a valuable opportunity for everyone involved in the build to contribute their comments, suggestions, or concerns. It can also be hugely useful as a checklist to refer to if any issues arise later on.
4. Suggestions for Improvement
Wherever possible, an NPI report should describe and justify any recommendations that will improve any element of the product or processes. These might include amendments to the supply of materials or the manufacturing process, changes to documentation, or even tweaks to the product design itself.
5. What Needs to Happen Next
The final stage of the report should provide a brief summary of what action needs to be taken, who’s accountable for which tasks, and the deadline for completion. Making sure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities will be vital in eliminating errors and ensuring the success of future builds. Any product or product variant that’s being built for the first time needs to be put through a robust NPI process to ensure that future production volumes can be efficiently achieved.
Working with an EMS partner who understands the unique requirements of each key step of the NPI process will ensure a product that launches on time, stays within budget, and meets (or exceeds) your quality and service expectations.
Neil Sharp is the director of marketing for JJS Manufacturing.