It has been widely reported that more and more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are looking to their Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) providers to help support with elements of design.
This trend seems to make a lot of sense as anything that can contribute to long term quality, reliability and deliverability has to be worthwhile, right?
By involving an EMS provider further "up-stream" in the design process it is possible to reduce your time to market, speed up the product development and NPI process and lower overall product costs.
In this blog post we take a look at three design services typically offered by EMS providers and explore how each of them could benefit the longevity of your product.
Design for procurement (DFP)
This is arguably the most critical stage but is often overlooked by OEMs.
It’s not uncommon for designers to focus their efforts on increased functionality and higher specifications when working on new product designs. It’s a competitive world out there and you need to be at the forefront of the market in order to survive - that’s a given.
However, availability of all of the materials and the current life cycle stage of critical components must be factored in to new designs to avoid supply chain problems at a later stage.
So while your design team may have their heart set on using a particular processor or memory device, if it’s due to be made obsolete within the next 12 months they may need to reconsider.
With such broad client bases spanning across multiple industries, EMS suppliers are ideally placed to provide guidance on the components specified. Those with proven supply chain capabilities will be working closely with franchised distributors and likely trading via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), enabling them to access price and availability information for you in "real time".
And due to their increased component spend, many will receive high levels of technical support to help keep them abreast of the latest product notifications such as obsolescence, Product Change Notes (PCNs) and Last Time Buys (LTBs).
But it doesn't stop there: reputable EMS suppliers should also be regularly updating their clients on advances in technology, lower cost/lead-time alternatives, as well as updates to the latest legislation that could influence design choices.
Through applying their extensive procurement knowledge, your EMS supplier could save you from making some expensive mistakes further down the line. This all contributes to avoiding redesigns and amendments after your product has been released. It also improves customer satisfaction and protects your brand's reputation.
Design for manufacture (DFM)
Design for manufacture (DFM) is the element of the design effort that focuses on enabling the product to be assembled in the most cost effective way, in a reduced lead-time while maintaining superior quality.
The cost effectiveness of manufacturing your product is central to your business’ success. Even the slightest margin reduction can have serious implications on the profitability of your venture. With their workable knowledge of processes and production, no one will have more knowledge about how a product's design can affect manufacturing efficiency than your EMS supplier.
Good EMS providers will have considerable experience in working with customers at this critical stage to help ensure that their designs are optimised for the manufacturing processes that will be used downstream and that all factors such as component specifications, dimensional tolerances and the required secondary processes are all taken into account.
For instance, they may suggest making changes to the layout of the PCB to accommodate manual "modifications" currently carried out by hand. Or perhaps a component isn’t consistently soldering correctly due to the current levels of solder resist applied by the PCB manufacture.
Clearly, each product and design will be different but a good EMS supplier will be able to work with you to suggest ways of optimising your PCB layout so that your products are easier - and faster - to assemble.
Design for test (DFT)
Design for test (DFT) focuses on ensuring that the required levels of testability features are incorporated into hardware product designs in order to make it easier to develop and apply manufacturing tests.
Test is an essential part of the manufacturing process and makes sure you - and your customers - get what you want and expect from the product. But it's not getting any easier as printed circuit board (PCB) assemblies are becoming increasingly more complex and traditional methods and systems have become more difficult to use.
Collaborating with your EMS supplier at the early stages will mean they are able to suggest ways of designing your product with adequate fault coverage and diagnostic ability in mind as a way of optimising production. They will consider a number of test solutions including In Circuit Test (ICT), flying probe test, boundary scan and functional test.
All of this contributes to improving the overall efficiency of the test process and reducing test times, and therefore overall product cost. Getting this right will have an important impact on a product’s viability throughout its lifecycle.
The decisions you make over your product’s design are arguably the most important you'll make throughout its lifecycle - the effects of which will be felt throughout the value chain.
So, if you are looking to ensure that your products are reliable and profitable and for peace of mind that when you launch your products you will be able to satisfy on-going consumer demand, it is wise to get your EMS supplier involved from the outset.
Their expertise and working knowledge of upstream processes such as DFP, DFM and DFT will pave the way for a well-designed product that will eventually reap the best rewards in return.
Image by Maurizio Pesce