When you decide to outsource your manufacturing operation to an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider, you not only have to choose the right partner – you also have to select your in-house outsourcing project team.
Before you sign on the dotted line with an EMS supplier, you will need to bring together a group of experts to oversee your venture from the outset. This team should combine a range of roles and attendant skills, and be tasked with working towards the directives set out by your board.
With so many important decisions to make, it's easy to feel overwhelmed at times. But with the right people in situ, you will be perfectly placed to achieve success. So how should you go about assembling your outsourcing project team?
Creating the perfect team
Your team should have as wide a range of skills as possible – ideally, it ought to include representatives from engineering, quality, manufacturing and procurement, as well as R&D and finance. It also makes sense to have a representative from HR available to provide professional advice – for instance, if your outsourcing strategy should result in changes to workers' roles or possible staff redundancies.
It is important to assign a project leader with executive support at the highest level. Typically, this role will be filled by your procurement manager, supported, perhaps, by a senior engineer. The engineer will be responsible for checking your chosen EMS supplier's technical credentials.
As the project shifts from the search and selection of an EMS partner to the transfer of production, you may find that it demands different key skills from its leader. Therefore, it's well worth investing time to make sure you choose the right person to lead and deliver your project.
Who not to choose
As you are appointing employees to your team, it's crucial to remember that not everyone will be happy about the decision to outsource – for example, personnel in the department directly affected (and their line manager) are unlikely to share the same zeal for the project as you and the senior management team. Therefore, they are probably not the best people to have on your outsourcing project team.
Assigning inappropriate team members is a great way to ensure your project doesn't get off to a healthy start and those all-important early relationships fail to form. It has also been known to result in the EMS provider being assigned impossible-to-meet performance goals!
Getting things going
Once you've defined your team, it may be advisable to ask members to sign an internal non-disclosure agreement (NDA), particularly if the project you have in mind is commercially sensitive or specific confidentiality is required.
At this stage, it's also recommended that you create a project plan to ensure all pre-contract tasks (and timescales) are documented, so that progress can be reviewed against them. It's best practice to make sure any project plan you create remains specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART). Your project leader should take control of creating this plan and implementing the resulting actions.
OEMs are often tempted to start selecting potential EMS candidates straightaway. But, at this point, restraint is needed. It is critically important that the team first determines its objectives. Naturally, this will vary from one company to another. Whether you are looking to outsource a single product or your entire manufacturing operation (from procurement through to shipment), it's important to remain clear on your objectives.
You also need to make sure that everyone involved in the plan agrees from the start on what "success" will look like at the end. Your objectives should be clearly established and communicated at the beginning, to ensure expectations are managed. Of course, these may well evolve with your outsourcing project, so it's vital to regularly review your progress and ensure that everyone is on the same page. As the saying goes, communication is key.
Choosing your outsourcing project team is an important step in your outsourcing journey. With the right people at the helm, you are far more likely to achieve your organisation's goals. With your team in place, you can make a final decision on your EMS partner and set the wheels of your project in motion.