For technology companies and engineers developing electronic hardware products, finding a competent and capable electronics manufacturing partner is key to success. An experienced contract manufacturer provides vital capabilities to take a product from concept to mass production.
While offshoring to Asia can provide cost advantages, locating an electronics production partner domestically brings many benefits. A regional electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider enables better communication, rapid prototyping, supply chain security and process agility crucial during new product introduction (NPI).
In this comprehensive guide, we provide tips for identifying competent electronic contract manufacturers located close to you so you can find the ideal regional partner to build your hardware products.
Overview of Contract Manufacturers
Let’s first briefly understand electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies and what they offer:
Electronic Manufacturing Services
EMS companies provide a range of manufacturing services to produce electronic products for technology companies and OEMs. This frees up brands to focus on design, marketing and innovation while leveraging the EMS expertise in manufacturing.
Quick-turn prototyping services help test form, fit and function and validate the product design before release.
EMS companies manage the complex task of procuring components, PCBs, enclosures and other inputs required for production based on demand forecasts.
Dedicated production lines for SMT assembly, machining, system integration, testing and inspection to assemble products at quality and efficiency.
Assistance with order fulfillment, repairs, service, warehousing, inventory management and even end-of-life management of the product.
An EMS with broad capabilities can provide complete product realization services from design through ongoing production and support.
Benefits of a Regional EMS Partner
Here are some key advantages of locating an electronics contract manufacturer regionally:
Ability to visit the facility for design reviews, collaborate face-to-face during NPI and get quick issue resolution.
Convenient logistics enables fast prototype tweaks, engineering change orders and design adjustments.
Supply Chain Security
Oversight over raw materials sourcing, avoidance of counterfeit components, protection of IP.
Lower inventory requirements with ability for quick order turnaround and on-time delivery.
Easier technical support, repair, calibration and maintenance of equipment locally.
For startups and smaller companies, an EMS partner in the region simplifies logistics and provides proximity advantages that bigger offshore players lack.
How to Select an EMS Partner
The key considerations when evaluating and selecting an EMS partner include:
Evaluate their production capabilities against your product needs – complexity of PCBs, metalwork, precision, automation etc. Look for relevant industry experience.
Review their quality certifications like ISO-9001, IATF 16949 etc. along with process controls, inspection methods, traceability, defect reduction and corrective action approach.
Assess their ability to support low volume pilot runs through ramp up to higher volume production to meet growth. Look for flexible production methods.
Understand their pricing models – labor rates, overhead markups, minimum order quantities so you can model total cost implications.
Review their engineering change order process, design version control methods, release documentation to ascertain agility.
Supply Chain Capability
Evaluate their component sourcing abilities, procurement systems, inventory management and warehousing capacity to secure production inputs.
Interact with their sales engineering team to assess technical expertise, responsiveness and understanding of your requirements to find the ideal partner.
With these parameters in mind, let’s look at a systematic approach to locate the right regional electronics manufacturing services provider for your needs.
Steps to Find an EMS Partner Near You
Follow these steps to identify and assess electronics manufacturing providers close to your location:
1. Determine Key Requirements
Start by making a list of your key needs for electronics production:
- Volume range
- Design complexity (PCB, enclosure, precision mechanics etc.)
- Compliance needs – ITAR, FDA, automotive etc.
- Key production processes – SMT, coating, machining etc.
- Supply chain management needs
- Certifications required
- Technical support needs
This helps narrow your search criteria.
2. Search Geographic Region
Leverage industry directories and resources like Thomasnet to find EMS companies located within a target region near you. Scan local listings and business directories. Search for manufacturers matching required capabilities.
Focus the outreach to EMS providers within approximately 100 miles for proximity benefits. Expand the search area if needed for additional matches.
3. Research Company Websites
Visit the websites of each prospective EMS firm identified to gain insights into their capabilities. Look for:
- Manufacturing services – PCB assembly, test, coating, machining etc.
- Quality certifications – ISO, IATF, ITAR, FDA
- Equipment list – SMT lines, testers, selective soldering etc.
- Case studies with similar products/industries
- Company credentials, history, clients
- Location of facilities
This provides greater visibility into their competencies and production floor resources.
4. Review Prospects
Based on the website research, make a shortlist of the most promising EMS companies that seem to match your requirements. Eliminate ones that lack needed competencies or certifications.
5. Request Quotes
Reach out to the shortlisted manufacturers via contact forms or sales inquiries on their sites. Provide technical details on your product and request for quotations.
6. Engage Further
Follow up a quoting request with a phone call or engineering meeting to ask additional questions. Get clarification on their capabilities and expertise. Share more product specifics and get their feedback.
7. Visit Facilities
For the final contenders, schedule visits to their production facilities to inspect firsthand manufacturing processes, equipment, technologies, expertise and culture. Meet cross-functional teams beyond sales to assess fit.
8. Make Final Decision
With quotes in hand, technical criteria matched and site visits conducted, you can make a confident EMS selection matching budget, capabilities, proximity and program needs.
This structured selection process helps identify the ideal regional electronics manufacturing partner aligned to your new product introduction and ongoing production requirements.
Leveraging EMS Industry Associations
Industry associations and networks are useful resources to locate contract manufacturers in specific regions:
IPC is a major trade association serving the global electronics manufacturing industry. They maintain a database of thousands of PCB and electronics assembly service providers globally searchable by location and capabilities.
EMSNOW maintains a comprehensive directory of electronics manufacturing services companies worldwide. Users can find profiles of manufacturers filtered by location and capabilities.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers provide guidance to connect local manufacturers. They assist companies in identifying regional producers aligned to needs.
Supplyframe offers a robust database of electronics companies searchable by manufacturing capabilities, certifications, location and other attributes.
Thomasnet provides an industrial directory to find manufacturers near you. You can use filters to identify local providers of services like PCB fabrication, machining, injection molding etc.
Leveraging such manufacturing associations and directories helps find pre-screened matches much faster when looking for an EMS provider in your region.
Questions to Ask Prospective EMS Partners
Here are some key questions to ask when engaging with potential EMS partners during the selection process:
- What are your capabilities in technologies like HDI PCBs, laser direct imaging, RF boards etc?
- Do you deploy automation on the factory floor? What kinds?
- How do you support DFx and design optimization for manufacturability?
- What are your quality certifications? What quality processes and metrics do you utilize?
- How do you ensure process repeatability and consistency?
- How is yield monitored and maximized?
- What electrical, functional and environmental stress tests can you conduct?
- Do you offer flying probe or ICT fixture testing? What AOI methods?
- How is counterfeit avoidance ensured in components sourcing?
- What inventory management systems do you employ? Can you ship finished goods to downstream partners?
- How flexible is your supply chain for engineering changes and volatility?
- Who are your other customers in our industry? Can we visit a facility?
- How will you support our NPI process and ramp to volume production?
- What compliance regulations is your facility aligned to?
Such dialog helps thoroughly evaluate EMS providers before engagement.
Finding the right electronics manufacturing partner nearby with the technical expertise, quality focus and collaboration ability enables smooth new product introduction and production ramp up. With the tips above, technology companies can identify and select a competent regional EMS provider that aligns with their strategic and logistics needs providing proximity benefits. This in turn facilitates bringing innovative connected products to market faster.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does an EMS compare to an ODM?
ODMs design products themselves which they then manufacture. EMS providers only manufacture products for other brands based on their designs.
What production volumes do EMS support?
Starting from prototypes to millions of units annually. Look for flexible lines that can scale across low, medium and high volumes.
What is meant by an EMS company with a full suite of services?
It provides most production capabilities in-house spanning PCB fabrication, machining, plastics molding, system integration, testing, software loading etc.
Should I select a local EMS or one further away?
Evaluate tradeoffs carefully. A truly local EMS allows site visits and agile collaboration but may lack scale or specialized processes.
How can I assess technical expertise of an EMS firm?
Review specific case studies, visit their facility to view processes up close, speak with engineering teams and request customer referrals.