Taking a new product design from conception to reality is a hugely exciting prospect for any Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), whether you're planning to bring a brand new prototype to market, to up-issue an existing design or to transfer your outsourcing requirements to a new assembly partner.
In today's increasingly competitive manufacturing environment it's crucial that you are able to produce high quality new products that can be delivered on time, at the volumes required and at the right cost. And the key to ensuring a smooth transition from the initial design through to final manufacture is the implementation of a New Product Introduction (NPI) process.
If your Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider gets each stage of the NPI process right, then you could be on track to boost sales, encourage company growth and achieve lucrative market share. But if you fail to complete your project on time, within budget or to the required standard then it could be a completely different story.
Critical to the success of your NPI process will be the rigorous behind-the-scenes preparation work that your EMS partner puts into action before the build of your product even gets underway.
In this blog post we explore the vital importance of preparation for NPI, and what you can (and should) expect of your EMS provider throughout this essential stage.
Of course, no two EMS partners are the same. Each will have their own unique assembly equipment, build documents, internal procedures and staffing capabilities. And each is likely to have their own approach as to how they manage the process of NPI within their manufacturing environment.
What's crucial though is that your EMS partner provides you with complete transparency as to how they manage each stage of this complex process and that they can clearly demonstrate the quality controls that they have in place.
Preparing for the Build
A huge amount of detailed behind-the-scenes work needs to take place before your NPI build can even begin. Your EMS will kick off the process by quoting the product, loading the Bill of Materials (BoM) onto their system and acknowledging the order. They'll then move on to procuring the materials, taking delivery, inspecting them and assigning them to a unique works order.
Your EMS provider's engineering team, meanwhile, will be responsible for checking the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) panelisation, setting up the programmes for pick and place and Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) machines and for creating custom-built packs for the production teams to work to.
All the materials for the job will then need to be prepared for assembly - from baking bare boards to draw out moisture, to cropping component legs for through-hole placement (PTH) and the loading of pick and place feeders with surface mount reeled devices.
Your EMS partner will ideally capture all of these tasks in a 'tollgate' process which will culminate in a pre-build review meeting controlled by their engineering team. It's vital that everything is in place before the build begins. So, as an example, the logistics team shouldn't be in a position to release any material out to the production team until engineering gives the final approval.
Your EMS partner may also insist on creating a small batch first before they even consider moving on to 'production' volumes. Testing your NPI build in small batches can be invaluable in ensuring that any errors in the build information or the build process are identified and nipped in the bud to avoid any time-consuming and costly rework further down the line.
While the NPI process is a necessarily complex one, many of the tasks and procedures that your EMS partner will carry out may not always be so obvious to you as the OEM. And to some extent of course, they probably don't need to be.
After all, what's most important to you as the customer, is that your products turn up on time, in budget and in full working order.
Ultimately though, the quality and robustness of the NPI process that your EMS provider has in place, will be a critical contributor to your success,from the initial pre-planning stages right through to the final delivery of your new product.