10 Things to Look for When Selecting an Electronics Contract Manufacturing Partner

Not sure where to begin when it comes to choosing a partner for your custom electronics contract manufacturing needs? Are you wondering if you should just keep everything in-house? Whether your team is looking for manufacturing support on a new project or if you’re weighing the benefits of bringing a partner on to supplement your in-house team to alleviate project backlogs and gaps, there are a number of considerations when finding the right fit for your needs.

Your questions are valid, so we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common areas in which all companies consistently focused on when it came to PCB assembly, wire harness assembly, custom cable assembly, and other electronics manufacturing needs.

What are the top things to consider when vetting a manufacturing partner? Here’s our top list:


1. Proximity

Most companies who are starting a project with a new company want a contract manufacturing firm that is close enough to drive to. While it’s not an absolute requirement with all the technology and supply chain resources available today, it can be very important for site surveys and material shortages. You want to have the ability to react quickly, and regional companies provide you with a little more agility when delivery time is a major factor.


2. Type and Age of Equipment

Contract manufacturers sell time. You want a company that has the ability to run a job using the latest and greatest technology to ensure quality and efficiency. Pick-and-place machines, reflow ovens, and wave soldering equipment are just a few staples. Make sure you’re prepared with the right questions to understand if the company has advanced capabilities. What specialized machines do they have, and are they well maintained? Do they make capital equipment investments for continual improvement? Is the technology old or outdated?


3. Certification of Operators

Request information about the PCB Assembly and other specialized operators at the company. Are they certified in the latest standards that are mandated by your company and/or product? If not, how far away are they from attaining the proper credentials? Are they willing to complete the needed requirements? An ideal company will work with you to find the best fit operators who can not only accept new projects but also troubleshoot and find the optimal way to bring the project to completion.


4. Quality Standards

These should be the minimum standard that a company has established for its business, so various industries require that their companies and/or subcontractors hold the same standards. Is the contract manufacturer certified in all of the necessary standards? If the company is willing to obtain the proper standard for your company, are you willing to invest a minimum amount of business with that manufacturer? When you’re deciding on a partnership with an electronics contract manufacturer, it’s important to establish a level of trust so that you can determine the future of your working relationship.


5. Supply Chain

Is the contract manufacturer able to turn a job at your specified quantity in a reasonable amount of time? Is the job too big for them to handle?  Do they ship off-shore for large jobs or do they have a robust supply chain available in a timely manner? Are all of the parts in stock or readily available? All of these areas make up a large portion of your experience as a customer, so be sure to understand all the nuances of their quality assurance and ability to be flexible throughout the duration of your projects.


6. ESD Control

With today’s ICs, it’s very important to protect your products.  Electrostatic discharge (ESD) in contract manufacturing is imperative to understand and take seriously within any project. Make sure that the company you choose to partner with knows proper protocols for control and mitigation of ESD to ensure the safety and longevity of your projects.


7. In-house Purchasing/TurnKey

Does the manufacturer have a purchasing department that can source your materials? Do they have partnerships with vendors to help drive down the price? Do they have the knowledge to locate and obtain possible substitutions in the case of obsolescence? Are they capable of turning your drawings into fruition with little to no involvement from your company? The more seamless processes like these are with a partner, the easier it is to get an on-time delivery or your finalized project.


8. Price

Is the company’s labor rate commensurate with the industry? What is included in the price?  Are they a lot higher/lower than other companies, and why? Make sure that you have an apples-to-apples comparison, as the bottom line price may not include some integral pieces that you will need to understand the total cost. Trying to decide between building or buying? Check out our FREE tool the Build or Buy Calculator to see if you’re getting the best price for your assembly.


9. Training

Does the company value continuing education when it comes to its staff? Are their skills monitored and measured? Are trainers brought in to enhance the staff’s skill set? How often is this done? Understanding the importance of training and continual improvement internally will help you to realize if they are all up to par when it comes to your next innovative project. You might need PCB assembly now, but keep in mind your long-term needs, because you will want a partner who is capable of scaling with you.


10. Expertise

Does the contract electronics manufacturer have a body of work and a reputation that speaks for itself? They should be able to answer your questions and provide examples with confidence due to their experience and expertise in the area. What was the longest-running contract that they have had?  Which client have they had the longest?  What was the most complicated project issue that they have faced while in business?

These questions will put you on the right path to selecting a quality partner for your contract manufacturing needs. Are there any others that you can think of? Share them with us! 

With over 35 years of experience in electronics contract manufacturing, we have partnered with countless companies to deliver custom solutions, and we’d love to hear from you!