Critical Criteria for Selecting Contract Manufacturing Partners

Selecting the best contract manufacturer (CM) for your project can be a daunting task. They need to meet the requirements of the design team, the procurement team and the engineering staff. In this white paper, we review the most important criteria for finding a contract manufacturer that will support your company’s goals.

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908-233-0101 • Critical Criteria for Selecting Contract Manufacturing Partners 908-233-0101 • Critical Criteria for Selecting Contract Manufacturing Partners Not all contract manufacturers are created equal, so it’s important to have criteria in place when evaluating these vendors. Search Results Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) need to understand the fundamental differences between contract manufacturers. The more you know, the better chance you have at cultivating long-term relationships with a manufacturing partner. For companies seeking stability in their supply chains these relationships are mission critical. To help you in this process, we’ve created this guide to the most important criteria for choosing a contract manufacturer. They include: 1 Project management proficiency 2 Engineering expertise 3 Prototyping capability 4 Quality control systems 5 Supply chain and inventory management 908-233-0101 • Project management proficiency If you were going to explore the wilderness, you’d take a Swiss Army knife instead of a screwdriver. A screwdriver is a useful tool, but there are times when it helps to have something that has more than one function. That’s how you should think about the project team at the contract manufacturer you choose. It needs to be multi-functional. A good project team will have a project manager, account manager, engineers, and quality assurance professionals. This team should be aligned to communicate and coordinate with your staff. A multifunctional team structure adds value by preventing your project from going down the wrong path. Your contract manufacturing partner should collaborate with you at every stage of a project. There’s less chance for specification drift, production delays or logistical issues. Communication is key to successful projects of any kind. Your contract manufacturer should be responsive and upfront. Knowing where you may be encountering production or supply change issues as early as possible, mitigates the impact they have on project deliverables. Make sure you have a team with whom communication is easy. Teams accustomed to using cloud-based technology to share designs, drawings, and other details can also be helpful. Collaborative software solutions help to streamline access to the latest project information. A centralized repository with shared editing capabilities also reduces the likelihood of versioning issues. How will our project be supported? What is the composition of the project team? How will we be advised of the status of our project? How frequently? 908-233-0101 • Engineering Expertise Contract Manufacturers may offer varying levels of engineering expertise. Depending on your product, you should look for vendors who offer technical support that can add strategic value to your project. In today’s fast-paced world of product introduction, it pays to find a contract manufacturer with a deep bench of engineering skills. This expertise may include mechanical, electrical, and software engineering capabilities, with a broad range of project exposure. Validation of new releases and testing during production cycles is critical to the success of your product. A strong engineering team will have the ability to design testing protocols as well as the testing equipment fixtures required to meet the protocol standards. Contract manufacturers with strong engineering teams can provide a greater strategic advantage in product design, or design implementation. Engineers who are regularly exposed to the manufacturing environment are aligned with customer goals of manufacturability and quality at reasonable cost. 908-233-0101 • Prototyping Capability To get the best possible manufacturing outcome, you need to have a well-developed design in place. Prototyping is necessary for concept testing and validation, and design refinements before manufacturing. It is of great value for your contract manufacturer to be involved in the prototype process and ideally have the inhouse prototyping capabilities.. This process will quickly identify any downstream issues. By having the manufacturing team involved in your prototype process you bring more knowledge to bear on the released production runs, making them as successful as they can be. Quality Control Systems Quality control shouldn’t be an isolated activity at the end of the manufacturing cycle; it should be ingrained into every stage of the process from design through packaging and distribution. Your contract manufacturing partners should have a team of quality control specialists to monitor and maintain quality production. Workflows that facilitate a constant feedback loop between quality personnel and production are critical. And don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s certifications and accreditations. While ISO 9001:2008 registration might seem like par for the course, earning and maintaining that registration shows a manufacturer’s commitment to total quality management. There are factors beyond ISO compliance that your CM should be set up to handle, here are a few: • Familiarity with external regulatory compliance related to your product. • Securing approval for changes not covered by the product specification - subcontracting, alternate components, etc. • Performance tracking and open visibility of the metrics. • Regular top level quality assessment meetings. 908-233-0101 • Supply chain and inventory management The contract manufacturer you choose should be one that has embraced vendor managed inventory (VMI) solutions as a true value add for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). In practice VMI is a family of inventory management models allowing the customer and supplier to design a system that stabilizes the timing of purchase orders and production. VMI typically involves sharing of demand, current inventory levels, and production schedules to achieve the above goal. . As the business writer Robert Moskowitz observed, VMI takes a broader view than traditional supply chain management, “recognizing that your inventory system extends all the way into your supplier’s operations.” VMI also offers a number of other benefits: • Additional flexibility. If you have customers with irregular ordering patterns, VMI can help you deal with so-called “lumpy” demand. • You’ll lose fewer sales. A product that is out stock is one that can’t be sold. • Simplicity = Efficiency. If your company needs a variety of inventory components, tracking all of those pieces could be a full-time commitment. But with VMI, that job becomes your vendor’s responsibility. • By having your CM manage your inventory, you free up working capital for your organization. 908-233-0101 • About the author Mars International is a U.S. based contract manufacturer with a multi-functional approach to project management. Our client support teams include project and account managers, quality personnel and engineers. Mars International is ISO 9001: 2008 Certified with quality control professionals both on and off-shore. Our services include design, engineering, prototyping, SMT board assembly, and vendor managed inventory. We have spent more than 50 years building a reputation as a pioneer and global leader in the onshore and offshore manufacturing of electrical and mechanical assemblies and finished goods. 908-233-0101 • If you have further questions, please feel free to call us at: 908-233-0101 or visit